Contents Index

the wretched

"Wretch" is the first term Victor applies to his Creature (1.4.1), as well as his appellation for him at his reappearance two paragraphs before (2.2.3). It is apt that the creature thus picks up this resonant word and by shifting its form alters its meaning. For her debut as a novelist Mary Shelley adopts a daring and difficult but brilliantly successful strategy, keeping the Creature out of sight for most of Volume 1 while Victor heaps terms of abuse on his felt presence and renders him for the reader the monster he is wont to call him. The urbane calm of the Creature's opening statement, "I expected this reception," is a startling reminder of just how much Victor, in his narration of his story, has skewed the perspective on its events. In effect, the Creature takes the opportunity of his finally being heard to rename, to reconceptualize, himself. And the reader is left hanging in doubt -- perhaps, even distrust -- about rendering a verdict from having listened only to one side of the case.