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Andrew’s Formal Blog Post on the Similarities between Oscar Wilde’s “Birthday of the Infanta” and Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”

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While reading Oscar Wilde’s Birthday of the Infanta, I could not help but see similarities between the Dwarf and Frankenstein’s monster and how they perceive themselves. Both characters are raised with the constructs of beauty and normality in society, so when they see themselves for the first time, both are horrified. Neither is able to find the acceptance that they seek, nor charity or pity from fellow man.

When the dwarf first sees his reflection in a mirror, he does not realize that he is seeing himself. Instead, he sees “a monster, the most grotesque monster he had ever beheld. Not properly shaped, as all other.”(Wilde 261). When the Dwarf finally realizes he is viewing his own reflection, he falls to the ground and says that “…it was he who was misshapen and hunchbacked, foul to look at and grotesque. He himself was the monster.”(262). His appearance dashes his hopes of the Infanta loving him, and he dies.

In Frankenstein, the Monster states “when I looked around I saw and heard of none like me. Was I, then, a monster, a blot upon the earth, from which all men fled and whom all men disowned?” (Shelley, Ch 13). Notice that the Monster and the Dwarf both instantly realize their bodies are formed differently than “normal” and both instantly call themselves monsters and see that they are Other. Frankenstein’s Monster, when realizing his reflection was true, he felt the “…bitterest sensations of despondence and mortification.” (Shelley, Ch 13). Both the Monster and the Dwarf realize the gravity that their appearance has had and will have on their lives, but while the Monster enacts bloody vengeance against his creator, the Dwarf dies of a broken heart.

What I found interesting was that though both were “monsters,” but because the dwarf was infantilized, but not so cute as Tiny Tim, he was seen as an object of play and laughter, dancing for the Infanta’s party, while Frankenstein’s Monster, because he was so tall and threatening, was instantly demonized. The characters are symbols of disability and their own reactions to themselves, because they have been raised with the societal construct of “normality,” show the reactions society has towards them. Though the birds and lizards do not mind the Dwarf, both of the “monsters” are unable to find real acceptance in society and their authors provide little hope for them to adapt. The characters are unable to even have compassion for themselves.  There is no charity, no pity, nor turkey dinner.

Written by aallingh

September 29th, 2010 at 11:07 am