In the novel, Frankenstein or the Modern Day Prometheus by Mary Shelley, she describes a series of psychological events, these events match the order of the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs shows the order or progression of human needs. Abraham Maslow proposed that healthy human beings have a certain number of needs, and that these needs are arranged in a certain order, with some needs (such as physiological and safety needs) being more basic and important at first than others (such as social needs).
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is often presented as a five-level pyramid, with higher needs coming into focus only once the lower, more basic needs are met. Shelley shows us each of the different parts that make up the hierarchy as well as the problems/consequences that may arise if one need is unable to be attained and/or maintained. This essay will compare the Maslow Hierarchy with the psychological/mental growth of the creature.
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Abraham Maslow categorized the needs as deficiency needs and growth needs. Maslow called the bottom four levels of the pyramid deficiency needs’ because a person does not feel anything if they are met, but becomes anxious if they are not. Physiological needs such as eating, drinking, and sleeping are deficiency needs, as are safety needs, social needs such as friendship, and ego needs such as self-esteem and recognition.
In contrast, Maslow called the fifth level of the pyramid a growth need’ because it enables a person to ?self-actualize’ or reach their fullest potential as a human being. Once a person has met their deficiency needs they can turn their attention to self-actualization. Maslow claimed that without being able to meet all four deficiency needs, they would not be able to progress into the growth needs. In Frankenstein, the protagonist, Viktor Frankenstein, creates an ugly human-like creature in a bizarre science experiment. Viktor is frightened by his hideous creation and leaves the creature to survive on his own.
Mary Shelley shows us the psychological development of the creature and how certain events and interactions affect the creature. Once the creature becomes aware of himself, the physiological needs of food and water become apparent. I felt tormented by hunger and thirst. This roused me from my nearly dormant state, and I ate some berries which I found hanging on the trees or lying on the ground. I slaked my thirst at the brook; and then lying down, was overcome by sleep (Shelley, 105). The creature’s first need was hunger and thirst, just like how in Maslow’s hierarchy the first need is food and water. Before the creature worries about possible danger or about other people, the creature realizes that he must find something to sustain itself.
With the first need met, the creature can focus on the next need. According to Maslow, the second need is security, so now that the first need was met the creature is able to explore and search for shelter. At length I perceived a small hut finding the door open I entered. An old man sat in it and perceiving me, shrieked loudly, and quitting the hut, ran across the fields but I was enchanted by the appearance of the hut: here the snow and rain could not penetrate (Shelley, 108). The creature found his second need, security/safety. Even though the man was scared off, the creature did not care; he proceeded to eat the food found there and fall asleep. Maslow states that in order to get to the next step or next need, the previous must be achieved first before continuing.
The creature had not yet achieved safety and shelter, so the third need of love and belongingness was not a concern for the creature yet. The creature was only focused on attaining the current need which was shelter. This accounts for the reason why the creature was not bothered by the interaction with the man. There is a long period of time before the creature achieves these two fundamental needs. However, he acknowledges his need for human affection.
He realizes how important it is to him and that he cannot fail in attaining it. While living in a small shed outside of a family’s home, he says, I asked, it is true, for greater treasures that a little food or rest: I required kindness and sympathy (Shelley, 134). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs matches with the growth of the creature. Now that he has both food and safety he can now focus on the psychological need to be loved; to receive kindness and sympathy. However, the creature was a stranger to any sort of affection, except for the single blind old man he befriended at one point, he had no family or friends.
The creature begins to start having these thoughts and feelings when he views the family in the cottage next to his own refuge. He tries to explain the feelings,I felt sensations of a peculiar and overpowering nature: they were a mixture of pain and pleasure, such as I had never before experienced, either from hunger or cold, warmth or good; and I withdrew from the window unable to bear these emotions (Shelley 100). The monster has begun to feel the need for love, affection and belongingness”a stage he will never move past. This is devastating to his development and to his psyche as he can only achieve the most basic needs, while still understanding he should have more in his life. It is this deficiency that leads to the monster’s demoralization. Society failed to provide the monster with any sense of affection or belonging, the monster learned only to hate.
The monster pleas, Shall I not then hate them who abhor me? I will keep no terms with my enemies. I am miserable, and they shall share my wretchedness (Shelley 94). The effects of never achieving love, affection and belongingness ruin the monster’s esteem. The monster explains despairingly, I was, besides, endued with a figure hideously deformed and loathsome; I was not even of the same nature as man . . . . I cannot describe to you the agony that these reflections inflicted upon me: I tried to dispel them, but sorrow only increased with knowledge (Shelley 109). The monster hoped his compassionate personality would make up for his deformity, but none gave him the chance.
While there are many times the monster is rejected in Frankenstein, the stressor that leads to the beginning of his wretchedness is the rejection by the family he had come to love so much. The monster had plans to confront the blind father in hopes of being loved for his benevolence rather than hated for his visage. The monster admits, I required kindness and sympathy; but I did not believe myself utterly unworthy of it (Shelley 118). The monster finally works up the courage to carry out his plan; it is foiled, however, when the children come home and the monster is beaten by the son for whom he so cared.
The final stressor that leads the monster to kill is the rejection by man even after he saves one’s loved one. When the monster comes across a young girl drowning, he saves her and attempts to revive her. But the man responsible for her beholds the scene and, assuming the worst, fires his weapon at the monster. The monster responds with rage, The feelings of kindness and gentleness, which I had entertained but a few moments before, gave place to hellish rage and gnashing teeth.
Inflamed by pain, I vowed eternal hatred and vengeance to all mankind (Shelley 125-126). Still, though, the monster attempted once more to make friendly with man and he approached a little boy. The boy insults the monster repeatedly and it is only after discovering the boy’s relation to Frankenstein that the monster becomes murderous. After he kills the boy he describes the feeling, I gazed on my victim, and my heart swelled with exultation and hellish triumph: clapping my hands, I exclaimed, ?I, too, can create desolation’ (Shelley 127). He can create desolation because he has been taught nothing else”not by his creator, and especially not by society as a whole.
The only thing the monster asked of his creator was for a companion in his isolation from mankind. Frankenstein agrees but soon goes back on his word leaving the monster once again devastated. Frankenstein narrates, The wretch saw me destroy the creature whose future existence he depended for happiness, and, with a howl of devilish despair and revenge, withdrew (Shelley 145). From this point, the monster goes on a killing spree, determined to devastate Frankenstein.
The two are in a power struggle fueled by misery and grief. In the end, Frankenstein’s health declines and he dies. It is then that the monster explains his deep regret for his actions and his mere existence, No sympathy may I ever find. When I first sought it, it was the love of virtue, the feelings of happiness and affection . . . that I wished to be participated. . . . that happiness and affection are turned into bitter and loathing despair. . . . I am content to suffer alone (Shelley 187).
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