Character Analysis of Victor Frankenstein in Frankenstein

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Character Analysis of Victor Frankenstein
Frankenstein by Mary Shelly

Characteristics of Victor Frankenstein in Detail : The creator of the monster, Victor spends most of the novel trying to defeat the monster. Victor is the oldest son of Alphonse and Caroline Beaufort Frankenstein. Victor by birth is a Genevese, and his family is one of the most distinguished of that republic. During the first years of their marriage, the Frankensteins travelled constantly, for the sake of Caroline’s fragile health. They divided their time among Germany, Italy, and France; their first child, Victor, was born in Naples, Italy. Victor was adored by his parents, and he adored them in turn; his childhood, from the very first, was wholly idyllic. Until he was five, Victor was an only child, and both he and his parents felt the absence of other children strongly :

Caroline Frankenstein one day discovered an angelic girl-child, with fair skin and golden hair, living with a penniless Italian family. As the girl was an orphan, the Frankensteins determined to raise the child as their own. The child, whose name was Elizabeth Lavenza, became Victor’s sister and his constant companion, as well as the object of his unquestioning worship. For him, she is his most beautiful, most valuable possession. Victor’s Passionate Desire To Learn The Secrets Of Heaven And Earth.

Though Victor says that there can be no happier childhood than his, he confesses that he had a violent temper as a child. His temper was not directed at other people, however: it manifested itself as a passionate desire to learn the secrets of heaven and earth :

It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn; and whether it was the outward substance of things or the inner spirit of nature and the mysterious soul of man that occupied me, still my inquiries were directed to the metaphysical, or in its highest sense, the physical secrets of the world. His friend Clerval, by contrast, was fascinated by questions of morality, heroism, and virtue. At Geneva, Elizabeth’s “saintly soul” serves to soothe and temper Victor’s burning passion for study. Without her, his interest in his work might have developed an obsessional quality. Victor’s Fascination For Agrippa, Paracelsus And Albert Magnus.

At the age of thirteen, he becomes fascinated with the work of Cornelius Agrippa. His father tells him that the book is pure trash; Victor does not heed him, however, since his father does not explain why the book is trash. The system of “science” that Agrippa propounds has long since been proven false; Victor, unaware of this, avidly reads all of Agrippa’s works, as well as those of his contemporaries, Paracelsus and Albertus Magnus. Victor shares their desire to penetrate the secrets of nature, to search for the philosopher’s stone and the elixir of life. The quest for the latter becomes his obsession. Though he acknowledges that such a discovery would bring one great wealth, what Victor really longs for is glory. Victor’s Eagerness To Communicate, Or Even Raise The Dead.

Victor is also preoccupied with the question of how one might communicate with, or even raise, the dead. He finds no answer in the works of his Roman idols, and becomes entirely disillusioned with them when he witnesses a lightning storm. Since the Romans have no satisfactory explanation for this phenomenon, Victor renounces them entirely and devotes himself (at least for the time being) to the study of mathematics. Destiny, however, will return him to the problems of natural philosophy. Victor At The University Of Ingolstadt , When he is seventeen, Victor’s family decides to send him to the University of Ingolstadt, so that he might become worldlier. The first person he encounters at Ingolstadt is Krempe, a professor of natural philosophy. This meeting is described as the work of an evil influence- the “Angel of Destruction.” At first, Victor is indifferent to the idea of returning to science: he has developed a deep contempt for natural philosophy and its uses. This changes, however, when Victor attends a lecture given by a professor named Waldman. Victor is completely enraptured by the ideas of Waldman, who believes that scientists can perform miracles, acquire unlimited powers, and “mock the invisible world with its own shadows.”

Victor decides to return to the study of natural philosophy at once; he visits Professor Waldman the following day to tell him that he has found a disciple in Victor Frankenstein. Waldman makes Victor his cherished protégé, and does a great deal to accelerate the course of his education. Natural philosophy and chemistry become Victor’s sole occupations. Laboratory work particularly fascinates him, and he soon finds himself secluded there for days at a time. Victor’s great skill and unusual ardour impress his professors and classmates alike. Two years pass in this manner; the lure of scientific pursuit is so great that Victor does not once visit his family at Geneva.

Victor’s Consuming Interest In The Structure Of The Human Frame Victor develops a consuming interest in the structure of the human frame he longs to determine what animates it, what constitutes the “principle of life.” Seized by a “supernatural enthusiasm,” he begins to explore life by studying its inevitable counterpart : death. He rapidly verses himself in the rudiments of anatomy, and begins pillaging graveyards for specimens to use in his dissections. Victor discovers the secret of how to generate life through a sudden epiphany. Victor’s Creation Of A Horrible Monster Instead Of A Beautiful Man.

On a chill night of November, Victor finally brings his creation to life. Upon the opening of the creature’s “dull yellow eye,” Victor feels violently ill, as though he has witnessed a great catastrophe. Though he had selected the creature’s parts because he considered them beautiful, the finished man is hideous: he has thin black lips, inhuman eyes, and a sallow skin through which one can see the pulsing work of his muscles, arteries, and veins :

How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.

Suggested Reading :

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as a Gothic Novel

The beauty of Frankenstein’s dream disappears, and the reality with which he is confronted fills him with horror and disgust. He rushes from the room and returns to his bedchamber. He cannot sleep, plagued as he is by a dream in which he embraces and kisses Elizabeth, only to have her turn to his mother’s corpse in his arms. Victor awakens late at night to find the creature at his bedside, gazing at him with a fond smile. Though the monster endeavours to speak to him, he leaps out of bed and rushes off into the night. He frantically paces the courtyard for the remainder of the night, and determines to take a restless walk the moment that morning comes :

“I started from my sleep with horror; a cold dew covered my forehead, my teeth chattered, and every limb became convulsed; when, by the dim and yellow light of the moon, as it forced its way through the window shutters, I beheld the wretch-the miserable monster whom I had created. He held up the curtain of the bed; and his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me. His jaws opened, and he muttered come inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks. He might have spoken, but I did not hear; one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain me, but I escaped and rushed downstairs. I took refuge in the courtyard belonging to the house which I inhabited. where I remained during the rest of the night, walking up and down in the greatest agitation, listening attentively, catching and fearing each sound as if it were to announce the approach of the demoniacal corpse to which I had so miserably given life.”

While walking in town, Frankenstein sees his dear friend Henry Clerval alight from a carriage; overjoyed, he immediately forgets his own misfortunes. Clerval’s father has at last permitted him to study at Ingolstadt; the two old friends shall therefore be permanently reunited. Henry tells Victor that his family is wracked with worry since they hear from him so rarely. He exclaims over Frankenstein’s unhealthy appearance; Victor, however, refuses to discuss the details of his project.

Victor searches his rooms to make certain that the monster is indeed gone. The next morning, Henry finds him consumed with a hysterical fever. Victor remains bedridden for several months, under the assiduous care of Henry, who determines to conceal the magnitude of Victor’s illness from his family. Once Victor can talk coherently, Henry requests that he write a letter, in his own handwriting, to his family at Geneva. There is a letter from Elizabeth that awaits his attention. He leaves the university and returns home to his family, only to find tragedy there. Convinced his youngest brother William’s murderer is his creation, he sets off to find the creature.

Victor feels guilt-ridden when innocent Justine is sent to the gallows as the murderess of Willliam. Though he knows that the monster he has created is the real murderer of his brother, he feels tongue tied as no one will believe him if he says the truth. He vows to chase the monster and take vengeance on it for the murder of his brother William and the unjust death of Justine. When Victor claims the mountain Montanvert in the beautiful valley of Cahamounix, he meets the monster. Victor rains curses upon him and threatens to kill him But the creature remains unmoved. He says that he is the most wretched and despised of all living things, and accuses his creator of a gross disregard for the sanctity of life: how else could Victor propose to murder a creature which owes its existence to him? The monster asks Frankenstein to alleviate his misery, and threatens to “glut the maw of death… with the blood of [Victor’s] remaining friends” if he does not comply with his wishes :

“How dare you sport thus with life? Do your duty towards me, and I will do mine towards you and the rest of mankind. If you will comply with my conditions, I will leave them and you at peace; but if you refuse, I will glut the maw of death, until it be satiated with the blood of your remaining friends.”

The monster further accuses Victor for having neglected his duties towards him, his creation. He ought to have been happy and comfortable like Adam but Victor’s neglect of him has made him a fallen angel like Satan :

“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.”

The monster eloquently argues that he is intrinsically good, full of love and humanity; only the greatness of his suffering has driven him to commit acts of evil. Though he is surrounded by examples of human happiness, he finds himself excluded, through no fault of his own, irrevocably excluded from such bliss. He implores Frankenstein to listen to his story; only then should he decide whether or not to relieve the creature of his agony :

“Believe me, Frankenstein, I was benevolent; my soul glowed with love and humanity; but am I not alone, miserably alone? You, my creator, abhor me; what hope can I gather from your fellow creatures, who owe me nothing? They spurn and hate me. The desert mountains and dreary glaciers are my refuge. I have wandered here many days; the caves of ice, which I only do not fear, are a dwelling to me, and the only one which man does not grudge. These bleak skies I hail, for they are kinder to me than your fellow beings. If the multitude of mankind knew of my existence, they would do as you do, and arm themselves for my destruction. Shall I not then hate them who abhor me? I will keep no terms with my enemies. I am miserable, and they shall share my wretchedness. … You accuse me of murder, and yet you would, with a satisfied conscience, destroy your own creature. Oh, praise the eternal justice of man! Yet I ask you not to spare me; listen to me, and then, if you can, and if you will, destroy the work of your hands.”

But Victor dismisses the monster with vows of vengeance. The monster again comes back to Victor after some time and asks him to create a female companion for him who should be of the same species as he so that she will not hate or detest him like other human beings who are horrified by his disgusting looks. Victor also agrees to the monster’s request and makes secret efforts to animate a female monster. But in the last moment when he is about charge it with life, he thinks of the possible damage that the monster and his female companion may cause by raising wicked and horrible monsters like him and posing a great thereat to humanity. So he tears the part of the female monster into pieces as the monster is watching him through the window of his room. “The wretch saw me destroy the creature on whose future existence he depended for happiness, and with a howl of devilish despair and revenge, withdrew.”

Several hours later, the creature visits Victor while he is sitting in his laboratory lost in dreary contemplation. The creature reproaches him with having broken his promise, and asks if all his hardship and suffering has been for naught. When Frankenstein vows never to create another being like him, the creature calls him his “slave” and reminds him: “You are my creator, but I am your master.” Seeing that Frankenstein will not be moved by threats, the creature swears that he will have his revenge upon his creator; he leaves him with a chilling promise: “I will be with you on your wedding- night.”

The monster targets Victor’s friend Clerval and murders him. Victor is arrested for the crime but he is later on released by the magistrate. Victor is shocked beyond expression. He rushes back to Geneva. He confesses to his father that he is responsible for all the deaths of William, Justine and Clerval and falls severely ill. On his recovery, his father presses on him to marry Elizabeth. Victor is afraid that the monster may wreck his marriage. On the day of marriage, he thinks that the monster will target him only. But the monster strangles Elizabeth to death depriving Victor of his bride as he had deprived him of his female companion. The cup of Victor’s sorrow is full. He chases the monster across the icy glaciers. He is rescues by the crew of Walton. He narrates his story to Walton and dies of exhaustion. The monster his master and tells Walton that he is his last victim. He bids a last farewell to his maker and proceeds to die by lighting its own funeral pyre: “Farewell! I leave you, and in you the last of humankind whom these eyes will ever behold. Farewell, Frankenstein! If thou wert yet alive and yet in my life than in my destruction. But it was not so; thou didst seek my extinction, that I might not cause greater wretchedness; and if yet, in some mode unknown to me, thou hadst not ceased to think and feel, thou wouldst not desire against me a vengeance greater than that which I feel. Blasted as thou wert, my agony was still superior to thine, for the bitter sting of remorse will not cease to rankle in my wounds until death shall close them forever.” Victor’s Self-centredness And His Narcissism.

“A central concern of Frankenstein is the scientist’s shirking of says responsibility for the creature he has created.” Shelley underscores the self- centeredness of those who have power like Victor Frankenstein,” Bennett. “He’s narcissistic; he’s really hungry for self-aggrandizement.” In one incident, the housekeeper Justine is hanged after being convinced by a priest that she has murdered her young charge, William. Victor Frankenstein knows that his creature has committed the act, yet for reasons of self- preservation he remains silent and allows Justine to be put to death.

It is the monster, not the remorseless scientist, who experiences series of personal transformations. Initially the monster seeks out human companionship and love, and turns to murder only after being abandoned by his creator. According to Bennett, the monster’s journey reflects Shelley’s thoughts on human nature. “She believed that people were inherently good, but that corrupt social systems corrupt people,” she explains.”

Victor is the Modern Prometheus. Prometheus, in some versions of Greek mythology, was the Titan who created mankind. Prometheus was also the bringer of fire who took fire from heaven and gave it to man. Zeus eternally punished Prometheus by fixing him to a rock where each day a predatory bird came to devour his liver, only for the liver to return again on the next day; ready for the bird to come again. The Titan in the Greek mythology of Prometheus parallels Victor Frankenstein. Victor’s work by creating man by new means reflects the same innovative work of the Titan in creating humans. Victor, in a way, stole the secret of creation from God just as the Titan stole fire from heaven to give to the man. Both the Titan and Victor get punished for their actions. Victor is reprimanded by suffering the loss of those close to him and having the dread of himself getting killed by his creation.

While Victor is successful in animating the gigantic human frame, he is horrified to look at the monster he has created; the result is disastrous. As irony would have it, Victor becomes a victim of his own creation that hounds him at every step. Even though Victor abandons his own creation, the creation does not abandon him.

In Victor’s discarding his own creation, there is a double edged critique of William Godwin’s concept of Utopia, where children would be produced by what he calls social engineering and rules out the need of sexual intercourse between man and woman as well as Mary Shelley’s criticism of parental neglect [Godwin’s neglect of Mary is on record]. When the creature stretches its hands towards his creator, the scene is full of pathos. Mary Shelley is appearing to be parodying the world-famous fresco on the Sistine Chapel executed by Michelangelo.

Victor is a modern scientist unleashed upon an unsuspecting society. Not fully aware of the consequences of his creating a new race of humans, he spends his entire life trying to destroy the same creation. Victor is also the unbridled ego who must satisfy his urge to know all and use that learning to create a new race of man. His excesses ultimately destroy him. Victor represents the id, the part of the psyche that is governed by the instinctive impulses of sex or aggression.

Like the monster he has created, Victor is an isolated individual. His alienation from society is self-imposed. While the monster companionship and affection, he is denied and despised, Victor rejects the family and friends who love him. He feels that this is essential to pursue his quest of the secret of life. There are many suggestions in the text, however, that Victor is rebelling against all human ties, against normal human relationships that bind one to family and community, against filial and sexual love, against all relationships that might interfere with the pursuit of self elevation.

Victor is presented to us as the Promethean rebel, the seeker of knowledge, and this in itself, may be laudable. His sin seems to be an attempt to usurp the role of God in creating life and his refusal to take responsibility for what he creates. If he suffers, he suffers for his daring and trespass. He does not, of course, suffer at the hands of a divine being like Zeus. He suffers because his experiment to create an ideal man goes haywires tragically. It catapults his mind inexorably into misery, remorse, agony and anguish, so much so that the only way out of the “mess” he has created is to rush out the workshop of his filthy creation.

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