“’This trait of kindness moved me sensibly. I had been accustomed, during the night, to steal a part of their store for my own consumption; but when I found that in doing this I inflicted pain on the cottagers, I abstained, and satisfied myself with berries, nuts, and roots, which I gathered from a neighbouring wood.
‘I discovered also another means through which I was enabled to assist their labours. I found that the youth spent a great part of each day in collecting wood for the family fire; and, during the night, I often took his tools, the use of which I quickly discovered, and brought home firing sufficient for the consumption of several days,”
Frankenstein’s monster speaks these words while he is observing the cottagers and discovers that the source of much of their discontent is their poverty. By changing his actions due to other people’s feelings, the monster is displaying sympathy. The sympathy that the monster is displaying aligns with Edmund Burke’s definition of sympathy. Burke describes sympathy as “a sort of substitution, by which we are put into the place of another man,” which is essentially the same idea as the modern day concept of “putting oneself in another’s shoes”.
The mere action of changing his ways serves as only one of the ways in which the monster displays sympathy. In addition, the verbs that the monster uses show a strong parallel to Edmund Burke’s theory. For example, the monster states that he is “moved” by the kindness he sees. This idea of movement directly mirrors Burke’s theory that sympathy involves moving oneself into another’s place emotionally. The monster also expresses his desire to “assist” the cottagers. Assistance is a word that implies sympathy. In order to desire to assist someone you must have sympathy for that person.
A tension exists between what the monster desires to do when solely thinking about himself and what he wants to do with the feelings of the cottagers in mind. However, this tension is resolved as his sympathy for the cottagers outweighs his own personal desires. While this particular passage does not display ambiguity, I believe that there is ambiguity in the creature’s overall intentions with regards to human beings. While he means well in this particular passage, he is responsible for the deaths of multiple other people in other instances of the novel. This creates a conflict in terms of his character.