Nietzsche’s On The Genealogy of Morals was an appropriate read after discussing the central issues in Frankenstein. At the basis of what we define as monstrous, lies the issue of what we define as good and bad. Nietzsche’s ideas on the origin of good and bad are really relevant to our formation of a definition because he deals with the idea of perspective, which is crucial. For Nietzsche, “good” is a construct of the noble, the rich or those with the most power in society. Their perception of good is an inward looking one. They look to themselves as models for what is right and good. They seek out what is wrong or bad in order to reaffirm their own goodness. Therefore what is bad is only what contrasts them.
This aspect of the first essay is what most stood out to me because it relates to Frankenstein in its emphasis on the superficiality of the creation of monsters. Society labels Frankenstein as a monster on the superficial basis of his appearance. Society looked to themselves and saw their physical appearance as normal or “good”, and after constant reaffirmation, the idea that anything that looks too far from their norms is bad became ingrained. The second part to Nietzsche’s argument is that, those who have been labeled as “bad” attempt to rid themselves of the oppression. Resentment arises as a reaction to the external environment according to Nietzsche. Unlike the formation of what is defined as “good”, resentment is an outward looking emotion, which rejects what is around it. In terms of Frankenstein, the monster’s actions are reflective of this kind of mentality. Faced with a society that rejects him, Frankenstein’s monster grows resentful and retaliates. Ultimately, his actions only lead to further marginalization. For Nietzsche, both these mentalities are dangerous as they are they basis from which prejudice grows. It becomes commonplace in society to think certain people are good or bad based on predetermined characteristics that may not necessarily have any bearing on the individuals morality.
Overall, I thought these essays raised interesting points and made me think about how things come to be defined as good or bad. As the course goes it’s becoming clear that “good” and “bad” are just social constructions. While this leads me in the direction that all monsters are simply misunderstood, it also makes me wonder what society would look like if we were looser with definitions of good and bad. Having black and white definitions of good and evil generates monsters where they may not have existed otherwise, but it also simplifies things when it comes to issues of crime and punishment.