Monsters. We grew up watching the movies, reading the ghost stories and even writing about them. The monsters in our bed, in our closets. The monsters everywhere and all around us.
“Evil isn’t born, it’s made.” I think the evil queen said this during an episode of “Once Upon a Time” when she was trying to convince the Wicked Witch that she could change her life. There is truth to this, in fact, it’s one of the biggest truths I carry with me wherever I go: That we all have the potential to seek greatness, and grasp a more mature, well-rounded part of ourselves from within our hearts.
What is a monster? When you think of them, do you think of the cartoons you sometimes watch with your little cousin, tiny monsters running across the screen, so ugly that they’re kind of adorable? Or do you think of “The Exorcist,” “Silence of The Lambs” and “It,” something so horrifying, you sleep with the door cracked open? A threat, real or fictional, that causes you to leave a spill of light from your closet just so you don’t drive yourself crazy staring at the darkness?
It’s open to interpretation, but throughout the course of my life, I’ve come to realize that the most terrifying monsters aren’t the ones that have fangs, clown makeup, chain saws and look like crazy maniacs from the underworld...they could very well just be everyday people sitting right next to you. Why do people suddenly become unable to interact with others? Why are there bullies? Here’s the secret I have to tell you guys. We are each born with a monster inside of us.
What’s life all about? Deciding how you want to live, but most importantly, deciding which part of yourself you want to use in order to live. Do we become monsters or the best versions of ourselves? One of the most extraordinary examples of how a monster can potentially be unleashed is presented, metaphorically, through Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein novel.
Mary Shelly was one of the bravest women of her time, simply because she had the courage to do what was considered one of the most hostile acts imaginable, especially for women in that particular generation- she took what she was feeling and transformed it into a masterpiece. Mary Shelly wrote “Frankenstein” when she was only 18-years-old. It came out of a ghost story competition, and she got the iconic idea through a dream she had had. Shelley wrote the book shortly after losing her daughter, Clara. Shadowed by tragedy, she heroically exposed the remaining bits of her dignity to the world and by doing so, created the genre that would change the future of history and film forever. What's more, Shelley wrote the novel during a time where literature was dominated by men. She was restricted, but she persevered in order to tell this important tale. In many ways, she is one of the reasons I am able to write today. She is my personal definition of a hero.
Shelley created a story that contains the dark truths of humanity. Before I start to babble about her extraordinary technique and the magic that is sewn within the text, let me tell you the first thing I learned after reading this potent work of art: Indifference and cowardice are both the same as surrender. It takes courage to allow yourself to see corruption that has interloped into our environment, to acknowledge it, and it requires an even larger, an enormous amount of bravery, a rare fearlessness that we don’t always encounter. In the Frankenstein novel, the Creation is hated from the moment he first opens his eyes and is shivering within the gloom of his Creator’s bedroom, who insisted that he is the opposite of “Adam,” that he hadn’t envisioned such “revolt” when he had ventured through the graveyard, collecting body parts in order to create him. The poor Creation.
This is an exaggerated example of bad parenting, I mean, imagine growing with no guidance. Becoming completely and utterly abused, neglected and alienated. According to psychology, many serial killers were neglected, abused and experienced a variety of traumas. A lot of them were also socially alienated. Just like the Creation in Frankenstein. Before he transformed into a monster, the Creation had the ability to participate in society, he had even saved a girl from drowning in a river. I mean come on, if that’s not heroism, then what is? He was rejected by Victor, his “father,” and society because of his looks.
Evil isn’t born, it’s made. The creation never had a chance of being good, or being able to use the better part of himself, because the tiny, limited world in which he had struggled thrive in convinced him that he didn’t have one. I mean, in Chapter 12 of the novel, the creature stalks a family and listens to their dialogue, their emotions, because he is desperate for any type of interaction. Devoid of love, how was the creature supposed to love?
The creation never had a chance of controlling the monster inside of himself, and allowed it, the darkness, to overpower him. By the end of the novel, he had turned into a maniac, and I believe Shelley is proving several points. If they aren’t raised properly, with support, love, guidance and meticulous, strategic care, they are at risk of severe trauma.
We must embrace one another and celebrate the different and unique, rather than fear it and show indifference. Be welcoming rather than hostile. Don’t exclude, but include. Like the Evil Queen said, evil isn’t born, it’s made. We control our darkness, and we manipulate our thoughts. But most of all, according to Marry Shelley, we bring out the best in others and in ourselves. People are a lot stronger than they care to admit.
Eventually, we will wake up with enough maturity and wisdom to be able to love every single part of ourselves, even the parts that we hate. The only way to be able to control the monster inside of you is to become friends with it and use it only for good, healthy intentions. The parts that we cannot stand, our flaws when mixed together, whether you believe it or not, create our unique, individual monsters. Hopefully, you’ll realize that in order to be able to function, you need both the good and the bad, the ugly, all of it.
And unlike villains, and evil forces, that are eventually defeated, this version of yourself, where there is nothing but confidence and love, the version of yourself where you comprehend every single side, will be indestructible.
Illustration by Penny Dasi