Victor Frankenstein – a gothic protagonist
Describe three key moments for Victor Frankenstein in the text. Explain why these moments were crucial to the development of his character. Support each moment with a quotation from the text.
Throughout the early stages of the novel, we are introduced to the idea of
Victor Frankenstein developing an obsession with the sciences, specifically in regards to the jurisdiction of life and death. Victor spends a considerable amount of time away from family and friends at university studying and consulting the professors there, eventually deciding to put his knowledge to use to create life. The first and one of the most significant defining moments of the story is when Victors creation, the Creature, wakes up and Victor is horrified with what he has done.
“How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavored to form?”
This moment in the text is important because not only is it the introduction of the main antagonist in the story, that being the creature, but it is also a turning point for Victor. Up until the creation of the Creature, Victor was eager to learn and understand the ‘secrets of Heaven and Earth’ devoting all of his time and efforts into his study of the sciences. Upon the creation of the Creature, Victor is disgusted at what he has created. At this point he no longer cares about the sciences and instead ends up living in great fear of the Creature for a significant period of time.
“I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body. For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardor that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.”
Later in the text, several months after the creation of the Creature Victor receives a letter from his father informing him that his younger brother, has been murdered. Shocked, Victor returns to Geneva and goes to the site of his brother’s death, only to discover the Creature lurking in the foliage near the site. Despite this revelation, Victor’s family place the blame on Juliette, a member of Victors family, based on a single piece of inconclusive evidence, sentencing her to death. Despite knowing that he was responsible for the deaths of his younger brother and Juliette through the creation of the Creature, Victor chooses not to tell anyone about his creation for fear of the ridicule he will receive as a result.
“But I paused when I reflected on the story that I had to tell. A being whom I myself had formed, and endued with life, had met me at midnight among the precipices of an inaccessible mountain. … I well knew that if any other had communicated such a relation to me, I should have looked upon it as the ravings of insanity.”
“These reflections determined me, and I resolved to remain silent.”
This moment in the story is important and key in the development of Victors character because we are introduced to the idea that he is a coward for fear of being ridiculed for his creation of the Creature, despite there being people lives at stake.
Toward the end of the text, the Creature tries to talk Victor into creating another being like himself so that he doesn’t feel so alone, claiming that he and this new female creature will leave humanity alone, living their lives in isolation. After consideration, Victor agrees to the Creatures proposition and goes to make a new female creature for fear of the Creature wreaking more havoc through his attachments to humans and his desire for love and care.
“…feelings of revenge and hatred filled my bosom, and I did not strive to control them; but allowing myself to be borne away by the stream.”
After months of procrastination, Victor is on the brink of finishing the creation of his new Creature. While finishing it’s construction in his isolated laboratory, Victor spies the Creature watching him. Seeing the Creature with a wide grin on his face staring at him intently, overcome with the guilt of the death of his family and the idea of another horrible Creature being brought into the world, Victor quickly begins to tear the new, unborn Creature to pieces on the table to the horror of the Creature looking at him through the window of his shack.
“As I looked on him, his countenance expressed the utmost extent of malice and treachery. I thought with a sensation of madness on my promise of creating another like to him, and trembling with passion, tore to pieces the thing on which I was engaged.”
This is an important moment for Victor as it marks another significant turning point in Victors standpoint and feelings toward the Creature. Victor, fueled by his emotions and realizing he’s in a place of power he tears the unborn Creature apart. This is a direct contrast to his previously cowardly actions when it came to facing the Creature.
A God complex
A distressing event in their earlier life
A flaw in their moral compass
A moment of recognition or revelation
Explain what is meant by each of the statements above and identify how Victor Frankenstein displays these common traits. Use quotations from the text to support your answers.
A god complex is a state of mind that an individual can possess, believing themselves to be of a superior authority and state of being than other ‘ordinary’ people. In Victor Frankenstein’s case, he displays a god complex mindset throughout a significant part of the early stage of the story. From first discovering the texts written on alchemy by Cornelius Agrippa, moving into discussions with university lecturers about the science of life and death, Victor’s interest in life and death soon begins to manifest into the idea that he is superior than the people around him.
“One man’s life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of knowledge which I sought…”
“It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn…”
These quotes show how Victor, meddling with life and death, believes his research is bringing him closer to becoming all famous and powerful through the ability to control life and death.
A distressing event earlier in life
A distressing event earlier in life usually refers to an event, most likely in a persons childhood, that was distressing or traumatizing in a way that shapes the way a person acts or behaves or alters their motives and decision making later in life. In Victor Frankenstein’s case, during his childhood, his mother passed away due to scarlet fever. He had a significant attachment to his parents in his childhood as they were very caring and kind towards all of their children. Victor’s obsession with the ability to control life and death later in life may have been a result of his mothers death and an inability to let go and move on from her passing, despite it not necessarily being stated in the text.
A flaw in a persons moral compass
A moral compass is defined as a person’s ability to decide what is wrong and right in regards to consequences that could affect other people as individuals, a society, or the world as a whole. In Victor Frankenstein’s case, his moral compass is clouded by his obsession with the sciences and life and death in his pursuit of knowledge. In this state, Victor decides to create a Creature that is eight feet tall with disgusting facial features and a perfect body, not thinking about the potential outcome this could have for himself or the people around him after creating a monster with an unknown moral compass and potentially skewed ideas about the human race.
A moment of recognition or revelation
A moment or recognition or revelation for a person is usually a point in which a person rethinks a situation or idea, looking at it from a different point of view or mindset. Usually people are scared of things they don’t understand. In Victor’s case, when he created the Creature, he was immediately filled with regret as he was scared of it, unable to understand what he’d created. Toward the end of the story, Victor has a moment of revelation when he tears the second Creature apart, realizing he’s in a position of power over the Creature and using that to his advantage.
The Creature – a gothic antagonist
Explain how the creature learns about the world around him in the text. Support your answer with quotations from the text.
Upon it’s creation, the Creature exhibits a limited understanding of human concepts like language, expressing itself through grunts and actions rather than talking or using any form of articulate speech.
“His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks. He might have spoken, but I did not hear…”
The Creature is then sent to fend for itself as Victor is too disgusted and horrified by it to have any sympathy or care for it. Because of it’s limited understanding of the world around it throughout the initial stages of the story, the Creature must learn and adapt in order to survive. The first example of the Creature learning about it’s environment is when it finds a fire left by some beggars and proceeds to stick it’s hand into the embers. After being burnt by the coals the Creature cries out and removes it’s hand from the fire. “…I thrust my hand into the live embers, but quickly drew it out again with a cry of pain. How strange, I thought, that the same cause should produce such opposite effects!”
The Creature then proceeds to examine the fire and discovers it’s composed of wood. He then experiments through trial and error with different branches and foliage until he finds dry enough wood that he can burn and uses that to rekindle the fire. This shows us how the Creature acts similarly to a child, fueled by curiosity, experimenting with and observing the world in order to learn about and understand it’s fundamentals.
Describe the reaction that people often have to the Creature. How does this reaction seem unfair? Do the Creature’s intentions deserve the response he gets from people?
Throughout the story, the Creature comes across human being multiple times, only to be rejected or turned away, sometimes violently., despite it’s intentions being entirely compassionate and caring towards them. I believe that this reaction is understandable from the point of view of a human as people tend to fear things that they don’t understand and the Creature, being eight foot tall with disturbing facial features, is something they would most likely had never come across before. I do think that in regards to the Creature that the reaction it gets from people is unfair. It has been brought into a world with no harmful or destructive intent and simply wants to learn and understand the world around it, as well as feel the kind of compassion and love it shows for the people it comes across. The Creature doesn’t deserve the negative response it usually gets from people.
Describe three moments for the Creature that shape him into the vengeful monster he becomes. Explain how these moments would cause an individual to lose hope in humanity and turn against them. Use quotations from the text to support your answer.`
Throughout the text, the Creature has multiple defining moments which shape it into the vengeful creature it becomes toward the end of the story. The first of these moments is when Victor leaves the Creature right after it is brought to life. After creating the Creature, Victor is so disgusted and horrified by its appearance that he leaves it on its own in his laboratory, abandoning it. This leads to the Creature trying to find it’s own way in the world among people in human society. However, its attempts to interact with people always lead to rejection.
“…I entered, but I had hardly placed my foot within the door before the children shrieked, and one of the women fainted. The whole village was roused; some fled, some attacked me, until, grievously bruised by stones and many other kinds of missile weapons, I escaped to the open country and fearfully took refuge in a low hovel…”
If Victor had stayed and taught the Creature the ways of humanity and the workings of our society, then introducing the Creature to the outside world, maybe the Creature would have a better understanding of why the people rejected it and would have been able to cope with those ideas instead of being confused and fearful, eventually leading to his vengeful nature later in the story. As Master Yoda once said, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
The second defining moment in the Creatures journey is when he is rejected by the cottagers he has been observing. After his rejection at the village, the Creature continues on walking, trying to find some form of shelter. He comes across a low hovel next to a small cottage in which an old blind man and his son and daughter live. After observing these people for a long period of time and becoming somewhat attached to them, the Creature attempts to talk to the blind father believing that he will not judge him based on his appearance and will be able to convince the other three cottagers that he is in fact gentle and harmless, contrary to his appearance. However their interaction is interrupted when Safie and the son and daughter return to the cottage, seeing the monster and chasing it away.
“Agatha fainted, and Safie, unable to attend to her friend, rushed out of the cottage.”
“…overcome by pain and anguish, I quitted the cottage, and in the general tumult escaped unperceived to my hovel.”
This is a defining moment in the Creatures development because, unlike any of the other humans it had come across before, the Creature had developed an attachment and an understanding toward the cottagers and believed that it could convince them to see past its horrific appearance. It realizes after being chased away that anyone it comes across will always judge it based on it’s appearance instead of giving it the chance to convince them of it’s gentle and kind nature.
The third defining moment in the Creatures story is when it goes to save a young girl from drowning in a river. Upon being rejected by the cottagers, the Creature moves on, heading southwest to try and reach Geneva. After days of traveling by night for fear of being spotted, it comes to the bank of a fast flowing river and, upon hearing voices, hides himself in the forest next to the water. It sees a small girl running along the precarious bank on the edge of the water. Losing her footing she slips in and the Creature jumps into the water in attempts to save her. It drags her out of the water and attempts to bring her back to life when it is approached by the girls guardian. Upon seeing the Creature the man takes the girl from it’s arms and runs into the forest. Deciding to follow them, the Creature is shot and wounded by the man.
“I rushed from my hiding-place and with extreme labour, from the force of the current, saved her and dragged her to shore.”
“…he darted towards me, and tearing the girl from my arms, hastened towards the deeper parts of the wood. I followed speedily, I hardly knew why; but when the man saw me draw near, he aimed a gun, which he carried, at my body and fired.”
To the Creature, this is a defining moment because it now believes that no matter how benevolent and gentle and kind it comes across as, it will always be rejected, even after saving the life of a child.
“This was then the reward of my benevolence! I had saved a human being from destruction, and as a recompense I now writhed under the miserable pain of a wound which shattered the flesh and bone.”
This results in the Creature becoming vengeful and developing a hatred towards Victor Frankenstein with his sole intention being to make Victor’s life completely miserable, similar to it’s own.
Robert Walton is a character introduced to us in the early stages of, ‘Frankenstein,’ through a series of letters. From these letters we get an understanding that Robert Walton is an ambitious scientist and pioneer, set on sailing to new and previously undiscovered lands in the name of science and his own fame and fortune. He possesses an attitude similar to that of Victor Frankenstein, having devoted all of his time and efforts into his ideas and daydreams and his pursuit of these discoveries despite the potential risks.
“Inspirited by this wind of promise, my daydreams become more fervent and vivid.”
“One man’s life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which I sought…
Robert Walton’s purpose in the story is to put Victor Frankenstein’s character and situation into perspective. Robert has a similar mindset to Victor in the sense that he is incredibly ambitious and will do mostly anything to achieve his goals, as well as being in a situation like that of Victor during the start of the book. This helps us get a better understanding of Victor Frankenstein’s journey as a whole.
Henry Clerval is in