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Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature

Poor, Helpless, Miserable Wretch

A powerfully built, angry looking man is sitting on the floor, arms folded and knees are drawn up close, his head is turned to the left; his wrists and ankles are in irons which are chained to the wall. Madness, or A Man Bound with Chains. Artist unknown. Photographic reproduction from an illustration from Sir Charles Bell (1774-1842), Essays on the Anatomy of Expression in Painting, 1806. National Library of Medicine Collection.
Madness, or A Man Bound with Chains. Artist unknown. Photographic reproduction from an illustration from Sir Charles Bell (1774-1842), Essays on the Anatomy of Expression in Painting, 1806. National Library of Medicine Collection

But where were my friends and relations? No father had watched my infant days, no mother had blessed me with smiles and caresses; or if they had, all my past life was now a blot, a blind vacancy in which I distinguished nothing. From my earliest remembrance I had been as I then was in height and proportion. I had never yet seen a being resembling me. . . . What was I?

The Monster
Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, 1818

Mary Shelley gave her monster feelings and intelligence. Fatherless and motherless, the monster struggles to find his place in human society, struggles with the most fundamental questions of identity and personal history. Alone, he learns to speak, to read, and to ponder "his accursed origins." All the while, he suffers from the loneliness of never seeing anyone resembling himself.