Characterization in a Classic Novel
Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein is the story of a scientist, Victor Frankenstein, and his quest to create life from death. Frankenstein’s experiment goes dreadfully wrong and he is forced to flee from the monster he created. Throughout this novel, Frankenstein is characterized by his extreme intelligence, skepticism and withdrawn behavior, and remorse.
In the beginning of this novel, it is clearly stated that Victor has a love for knowledge. “It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn; and whether it was the outward nature and the mysterious soul of man that occupies me, still my inquiries were directed to the metaphysical, or in its highest sense, that physical secrets of the world,” (37). Victor is educated but self-taught in his favorite subjects. He begins reading books dealing only with science and describes himself as, “always having been imbued with a fervent longing to penetrate the secrets of nature,” (39). When Victor is old enough, he attends college in Ingolstadt. At Ingolstadt, Victor becomes interested in chemistry and the human body. Frankenstein decides to create a human being in hopes that he will be able to restore life to the dead.
It is apparent that Victor dislikes groups of people. During his childhood, he has one friend who remains close to him throughout his life. Instead of talking to his friend or family when he is troubled, Victor seeks refuge in nature. After Victor begins school, he does not return home for years. He does not tell his family or friend about his experiment and keeps this a secret even to his grave. Victor becomes aware of how withdrawn he has become and sees an, ” insurmountable barrier placed between me and my fellow men,” (151). He works on his creation day and night and is so anxious that even he, ” grew alarmed at the wreck that I perceived that I had become,” (55).
As soon as Frankenstein’s monster comes to life, ” horror and disgust filled his heart,” (56). After running from the monster for years, Frankenstein realizes that his monster has been killing people close to him. Frankenstein immediately takes the blame for the deaths and will do anything to stop the monster’s actions. Victor reluctantly agrees to make a female companion for his monster. He begins to create another monster but destroys her because he can not bear the thought of, “setting loose upon the earth a demon whose delight is in death and wretchedness,” (160). Victor chases the monster for years in hopes that he will end the monster’s life in retribution for killing his loved ones. He never catches the monster and the rest of Victor’s life is lived with overwhelming feelings of remorse. It was his creation that killed his brother, best friend, wife, and lead to the death of his father.
Victor’s characteristics are vital to this novel. It is because of Victor Frankenstein’s intelligence, skepticism, and remorse that his actions throughout Frankenstein are believable. His desires to learn and create are the basis for his actions throughout the novel. If Victor had not realized that his creation was evil and the cause of the terrible events happening to him, then he never would have devoted his life to finding the monster and ending its life.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. New York: Signet Classic.1983.