Beauty has always been associated to goodness. Just think about it, whenever we feel the attractive power of somebody’s beauty, we instinctively believe him/her upright, trustworthy, generous and therefore superior. This is because we naturally put to use the paradigms we have been taught when we were children, through fairy tales for instance. The word fairy, in fact, comes from fair, that is righteous, virtuous, but also beautiful, light, blonde, hence the equation : beauty = good. All the heroes and heroines of fairy tales have more or less the same features, and story after story it was very simple to spot the deserving good one to love and stand with.
Yet, religion warns us against the deception of beauty. Ezekiel 28 reminds us that Satan, the fallen angel, was once the “anointed cherub“, that is the most beautiful and wisest creature God had ever created and “perfect in beauty“, the highest being created. But “Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.” (Ezekiel 28:17). Satan fell because his beauty had made him proud. He desired to be God, not to be a servant of God, that’s why he was cast out of heaven. Therefore Satan is perfect in beauty on the outside, yet ugly and grotesque on the inside.
In Mary Shelley‘s Frankenstein, the monstrous being forged by Victor Frankenstein is exactly the opposite example. The more our modern Prometheus despises his creature’s ugliness on the outside, calling him “monstrous image“, “detested form“,”abhorred monster“, ” wretch devil” etc. the more we see the beauty of his inside and we cannot but sympathize with him.”All men hate the wretched; how, then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things” he says to Victor. His monstrosity has isolated him from the other human beings who despise him. He is alone and he can only seek for the compassion and help of his creator, but when Victor, rather, threats to kill him, he imparts him a moral lesson remarking: “How dare you sport thus with life?” reminding him that he is not God and that he is acting against the laws of nature. However, differently from Satan, he is determined to respect who gave him life, despite his immense physical strength: “Remember, thou hast made me more powerful than thyself; my height is superior to thine, my joints more supple. But I will not be tempted to set myself in opposition to thee. I am thy creature, and I will be even mild and docile to my natural lord and king if thou wilt also perform thy part, the which thou owest me. Oh, Frankenstein, be not equitable to every other and trample upon me alone, to whom thy justice, and even thy clemency and affection, is most due. Remember that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed”. Victor is the responsible for his loneliness and unhappiness and as he is his creature ( as he repeats twice), something must be done. The deep human understanding of this character can be found in these simple words that sound like a desperate plea :”I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend”. Certainly the creature is talking for himself, but that statement seems to have a more universal meaning: is it so then? We were born good, but unhappiness, prejudice, fear, rejection turn us into monsters and evil creatures? Theologian Vito Mancuso maintains that man naturally tends towards the good – the monster himself is attracted by the goodness of the family who lives near his hut – this is what will save us in the eternal battle of good versus evil. Maybe it will, but not so soon I guess.