Frankenstein's Monster: What Does It Mean To Be a Person?

Lars Wagoner's picture

I sat down at the roots of a tree to draw what seemed to be a Marguerite, a delicate white flower. I was surrounded by trees and mountain tops as I doodled away with my pencil in my well-loved notebook. As is typical with dreams, I never once questioned how these things came into my possession, or even how I had arrived at such a magical place. As dusk approached, I decided to wander further into the forest, until coming across one of the most unsightly creatures I had ever seen. 

Scenes from Frankenstein's Monster: What Does It Mean To Be a Person?

Time seemed to stop as the monster and I stood motionless, analyzing each other. Its massive figure and clumsy proportions led me to believe it was a severely disfigured human being, but something about the uncomprehending look in his eyes convinced me otherwise. I could tell he was more scared of me than I was of him, and my expression softened. I guess body language is universal among all animals, because he immediately relaxed as well. Having never been in such a perplexing situation before, I struggled to come up with a way to proceed. After a brief internal debate, I settled on a simple “Hello?”

The creature recognized my attempt at communication, and responded in what I believed to be muddled French–not exactly an ideal situation, considering my basic knowledge of the language– but at least communication was possible. 

As with most dreams, time wasn’t linear, and the next thing I remember, I was sitting in a makeshift abode, chatting in broken French with what I learned was a successful attempt at reanimating dead tissue. I was talking with a lab-made humanoid being. The monster was telling me about where we were, and based off his elementary knowledge of geography, I deduced we were in the Alps, not too far from Switzerland, and not as far from civilization as I had initially thought. 

We conversed for hours and hours, both parties intensely curious about the other. He did most of the talking, and after catching me up on his origins, he shared his obsessive analysis of a nearby family of farmers. He confessed that he had been studying their language, customs, and interactions for months on end, hoping to one day participate in their small social circle. It was interesting hearing an outsider’s views on basic human actions like eating, sleeping, and working. Things that I had never even considered a privilege, like giving a hug, seemed like the apex of life achievement to this interesting creature. I could sense his deep and intense desire to be a part of our society.

We continued chatting, and little by little, the monster’s insecurities revealed themselves. After having been violently kicked out of a small village, he deeply feared rejection from the farmers. He was painfully aware of his disgusting physical appearance, and desperately hoped that these nearby human beings could be compassionate enough to see through his outward ugliness into his soft, innocent heart. 

He suggested we get some firewood, so we headed out to scavenge the forest. At this point, my troubles with French seemed to disappear. I’m uncertain as to whether or not we spoke so long that I found a decent rhythm, or if my subconscious simply allowed this plot hole to sneak in. Whichever the case, I didn’t notice in the moment.

Scenes from Frankenstein's Monster: What Does It Mean To Be a Person?

As we made our way through the woods, he filled me in on the local flora and fauna, claiming acorns to be his go-to meal. I told him about deserts, beaches, and cities. He was fascinated by the diversity of terrestrial landscapes, and even more enthused about humans and their peculiar creations, primarily wondering about why someone would want to cook bread twice. I guess toast isn’t as commonplace as I thought.

The more I got to know this creature, the more I saw his true personality come through. Not once did I ever think about how I got myself into such a situation, living in a French mountain range with a mysterious being, but I found myself thinking about what this creature was. Surely if I could see his personality and complex thoughts, he was more than just a beast. He taught himself how to talk and read through books, and to perform tasks by watching others, but he wasn’t a human being. What does it mean to be a person? For this unfortunate monster, it was to be a part of society, placing the utmost importance on being accepted. But was that an accurate definition? Should he, as a non-human creature, be allowed to play a role in our society? I most certainly wasn’t against it, but would everyone else be as accepting? Did he even consider the answers to these questions? I felt a pang of guilt and sadness when I noticed I wasn’t too optimistic about his future.

A difficult concept to explain to this poor monster was inequality. He assumed that all humans were accepted, and he aspired to reach that level of acceptance, but I didn’t see it feasible, because some human beings are rejected from our society. How could the human race embrace a foreign creature when it can’t fully embrace itself? It’s quite funny how I pondered questions like these, yet didn’t bother remembering the last meal I had. I couldn’t ever recall for how long we spoke; it could have been a couple of hours or a couple of days. I unsuccessfully tried to estimate how long our conversation had been going on as the sky gently lightened.

Scenes from Frankenstein's Monster: What Does It Mean To Be a Person?

The sun began to rise, and as the birds chirped, I wondered if they viewed humans with such rose-tinted glasses as my new friend. The sweet songs turned into screeches, and the screeches into my morning alarm. I stumbled out of bed to turn off the hellish sound. For the first few moments of consciousness, the memories of the monster lingered in my mind. Would he be accepted by the farmers? Was being a part of a society the only purpose we had as humans? The questions I asked myself in my dream slowly faded from my mind as I realized I had overslept and was running late for school.


Lars Wagoner was born in the United States but moved to Spain 8 years ago. Since then he has traveled the world, documenting his experiences, thoughts and anything else he found interesting along the way. He is heading off to Amsterdam to study Mathematics and is looking forward to travelling even more and experiencing life to the fullest. He enjoys losing to good chess players and reading second hand books on the beach. You can find him online at:

All photos courtesy and copyright Lars Wagoner