Mary Shelley’s classic novel Essay
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The second narrator we come to is Victor, who is also the central character in the novel. To begin with, Victor is adored by almost everyone: his parents; his siblings; the servants (Justine) and his teachers. For example, he makes this quote about his parents: “I was their plaything, their idol, and something better-their child… ” Even Walton describes him, as a “Celestial Spirit” who has “never-failing power of judgement” it is obvious that he is loved. The reader knows that this particular quote is only half true, as Victor has made some very poor judgements in the past.
The reader can interpret this to achieve and open minded view of Victor and shows the imperfections and limitations of Walton. For example he must have very poor judgement to be able to describe Victor thus. The reader feels ambivalent to Victor. He is portrayed as a typical Byronic hero, a tragic, brooding hero whose personality traits make him great and powerful but also lead to his destruction. Walton describes his as ” a noble creature in his better days, being even now in wreck so attractive and amiable”.
He has a “thirst for knowledge” with a child’s blindness”-a dangerous combination. This is also a trait, which we see in Walton. Whilst he is buried in his work he neglects everything else, leading him to become isolated. Victor is partially aware of his faults or else unable to admit them. His ambition and passion for glory seem to be his own worst enemies. This idea is re-enforced by the quote “when younger, I believed myself destined for some great enterprise… ” he then goes on to describe his passion whilst creating the monster and his “senseless curiosity.
” However, he still blames others for his downfall. He like Walton sees himself as a victim, the implication being that he swears to “pursue the demon, which caused this misery”. This he says without realising it was him who caused the monster to act as such. He seems to feel that fate was inevitable but he hypocritically believes Walton can change his by warning him against ambition. Although he blames the monster for his downfall, Victor alternately blames himself for the deaths of William and Justine.
He also seems to believe in destiny and divine judgement, yet has no guilt over grave robbing to create his monster and believes him destined for happiness even though he has sinned. This leads us to believe that Victor is full of self-contradiction. Our feelings alter towards Victor throughout the novel. From chapter five onwards we see him as a lonely spirit, plagued by sorrow and remorse. This creates pity and in keeping the monster a secret, tension. Yet, when we meet the monster, we realise that Victor has not faced up to his responsibilities and we dislike and feel critical of him.
Towards the end of the novel we dislike and pity both of them. Victor is portrayed as a typical Byronic hero right until his death. His tragic demise is very Romantic, the quote “I have myself been blasted in these hopes, yet another may succeed” as he parts from the world implies that he has the Romantic hope that some may succeed in ambition where he has failed. He cannot abandon his noble character, even in the face of death. Towards the middle of the novel, the monster relates his story and becomes the third narrator.
Constructed from parts of corpses, Victor achieves the impossible by bringing him to life. Victor describes his appearance as such: “his yellow skin scarcely covered the muscles and arteries beneath; his lustrous black hair; teeth of pearly whiteness; watery eyes; shrivelled complexion; and straight black lips. ” This description of his gruesome appearance fills the reader with both disgust and pity. His physical strength is greatly enhanced, subsequently making him invulnerable to anything but a violent death.
This is how he is able to survive the dreadful conditions of the North Pole. Fitting in with his monstrous appearance, Shelley uses satanic imagery to depict the creature’s emotions, for instance, he says, “I bore a hell within me. ” Victor also calls him “demon” and “devil” at various points in the novel. This emotive language describing the monster implies that he is an evil and demonic character who deserves to be hunted and feared. He seems to enjoy the murders of William and Justine, as if it justifies in some way, Victor’s neglect and hatred of him.
He is only satisfied when he reduces Victor to complete despair, the same level as himself. Evidence of this is when Frankenstein has sworn to hunt the monster, he quotes “I am satisfied: miserable wretch! You have determined to live and I am satisfied. ” His merciless killing of Clerval is the consequence of Victor’s destruction of his half finished female companion. He seeks to destroy Victor emotionally and mentally, rather than physically at first. This massacre of Frankenstein’s family and his fury are the result of the creature’s loneliness and rejection.
He begins life as an innocent creature; a theory held by many philosophers at the time the novel was written, including Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He influenced the young Mary Shelley in his novel Emile. His natural attraction to humans and child-like wonder at the world around him excites our attention and evokes sympathy as we realise he is just like an innocent child struggling through the world alone. This great appreciation of nature, society and literature is evidence that the Romantic Movement influenced Shelley’s writing too.
We see goodness in him when he collects wood for the DeLacey’s and saves a girl from drowning. The DeLacy family call him the “good spirit”, a total contrast from the imagery Shelley first describes him with. Our sympathy is again evoked with his desire for friendship and the prejudice he suffers from. The barrier between the monster and humans is ugliness, and the way in which Shelley writes reminds the reader of how cruel we ourselves are and makes us feel guilty.
In being blind, DeLacy can accept him for who he is, but when this dream is shattered; Victor is his only hope at fulfilling his demand for a companion, subsequently providing justice, which Victor denies. The way he is mistreated turns him from an innocent creature into a vindictive, bloodthirsty monster. The three narrators are described by each other in great detail to help us understand more clearly their personalities and their characters. As the novel deals with some rather fantastical, disturbing ideas, it is understandably difficult to comprehend.
However, the use of three narrators helps the reader to understand the complex ideas and breaks the novel down into sections which helps us to appreciate the complicated time and structure. It also shows us a more open-minded view of the characters. We see things from one perspective that we would not see from another, and therefore are able to independently have an opinion of the characters. Although I found the language and structure of the novel hard to comprehend, I did enjoy reading the novel and it has influenced the way in which I view the world, and brought awareness against ambition and isolation.