“Frankenstein’s Monster was vegetarian.”

“Frankenstein’s Monster was vegetarian… Frankenstein was indebted to the vegetarian climate of its day…In its associations of feminism, Romantic radicalism, and vegetarianism, Mary Shelley’s book bears the vegetarian word.

For a work that has received and unusual amount of critical attention over the past twenty years, in which almost every aspect of the novel has been closely scrutinized, it is remarkable that the Creature’s vegetarianism has remained outside the sphere of commentary…

The Creature includes animals within its moral codes, but is thwarted and deeply frustrated when seeking to be included within the moral codes of humanity. It learns that regardless of its own inclusive moral standards, the human circle is drawn in such a way that both it and the other animals are excluded from it.


Literary critics identify in Frankenstein a distillation of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s life and learning, an interweaving of biography and bibliography. Through her father, William Goodwin, Mary Shelley met many notable vegetarians, such as John Frank Newton, author of The Return to Nature; or, A Defense of the Vegetable Regimen, Joseph Ritson, his publisher Sir Richard Phillips, and, of course, Percy Shelley, who had authored A Vindication of Natural Diet and the visionary and vegetarian Queen Mab.

Romantic radicalism provided the context for the vegetarianism to which Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was exposed while growing up.

They argued that once meat eating had redefined humanity’s moral relationship with animals, the floodgates of immorality were opened, and what resulted was the immoral, degenerate world which they and their contemporaries lived.

The ideas to which Mary Shelley and the Romantic vegetarians gravitate tantalizingly overlap: each rewrote the myths of the Fall (especially Genesis 3) and the myth of Prometheus. Each ponders the nature of evil and visions of utopia. In the Creature’s narrative, Mary Shelley allies herself with Romantic vegetarians who uncoded all tales of the primeval fall with the interpretation that they were implicitly about the introduction of meat eating. She precisely situates the vegetarian position concerning these two myths in the Creatures’s narrative. The two preeminent myths that frame her Frankenstein, the myth of Prometheus and the story of Adam and Eve, had both been assimilated into the Romantic vegetarian position and interpreted from a vegetarian viewpoint by Joseph Ritson, John Frank Newton, and Percy Shelley.

Both Mary Shelley and the Romantic vegetarians weave another myth of the Fall into their writings: the myth of Prometheus who stole fire, was chained to Mount Caucasus, and faced the daily agony of having his liver devoured by a vulture, only to have it grow back each night. Besides the standard Romantic view of Prometheus as a rebel against tyranny, Mary Shelley knew of an additional interpretation of the myth. For Romantic vegetarians, the story of Prometheus’s discovery of fire is the story of the inception of meat eating. They accepted Pliny’s claim in Natural History that ‘Prometheus first taught the use of animal food…’ Without cooking, meat would not be palatable. According to them, cooking also masks the horrors of a corpse and makes meat eating psychologically and aesthetically acceptable. Percy Shelley provides the Romantic vegetarian interpretation of this myth: ‘Prometheus (who represents the human race) effected some great change in the condition of his nature, and applied fire to culinary purposes; thus inventing an expedient for screening from his disgust the horrors of the shambles. From this moment his vitals were devoured from the vulture of disease.’

That Victor goes to slaughterhouses not only incorporates into the novel the anathema with which vegetarians beheld it, but suggestively implies the Creature is herbivorous. Since it is only herbivorous animals who are consumed by humans, the remnants gathered by Victor from the slaughterhouse would have been parts from herbivorous bodies.”

-Carol Adams, The Sexual Politics of Meat

Add an annotation:

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.