This is a course blog for the members of EH236 at the University of South Alabama, Spring 2006.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Victor's Character

In order to appreciate the story told by Victor Frankenstein in the novel Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, it is first important to understand the character of Victor. It is hard to accept how any person could create such a being considering the consequences that could arise from such an experiment. The origins of the creature created by Victor Frankenstein stemmed from the self-interest of Victor Frankenstein. It was a very rare occasion that he thought of the feelings of others or the consequences to others of his actions. From the first time he left Geneva bound for Ingolstadt until just before his death, his thoughts were primarily focused on his feelings and thoughts.
This selfishness is first portrayed following the death of his mother and on his departure for Ingolstadt. From the moment he separated from his family, his thoughts immediately left them and reverted to his own thoughts and feelings. He did not think of the sorrow and pain of his family left behind, but only of his own future endeavors.
We quickly see this selfish side of Victor build as he begins his activities at his new school. His first interaction with a professor was disagreeable to him simply because the professor did not share his opinion of the authors that Victor had previously read. On the other hand, when Victor first listened to M. Waldman, he heard some of the same appreciation held by him for those early works. Having found someone who appreciated some of the same knowledge that Victor had already studied, he respected the man. Victor explained that this meeting “decided my future destiny”.
We see this selfishness build as we learn more about the character, Victor Frankenstein. As he began to consider the possibility of creating his creature, he thought of admiration that he should receive for having created life. He thought “a new species would bless me as its creator and source. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely.” It never seemed to occur to him the consequences that could befall on so many other people due to his creating a new species. He seemed to think only of himself during this time, not only did he not consider the cost, but he also seemed to neglect everything else in his life during the time of his creation. He explained that “the same feelings which made me neglect the scenes around me caused me also to forget those friends who were so many miles absent”. This selfishness continues to build as we learn more and more about Victor. Upon completion of the creature, he immediately deserts it without thinking of the consequences to humanity or the creature itself. He had no knowledge of the demeanor of the creature, if it would be a murderous being or if it would be childlike, full of innocence with no way of knowing how to take care of itself. These thoughts never entered Victor’s mind. His only thought was of himself and getting away from the creature.
Once the knowledge of the creature begins to come to Victor, he still does not think of the consequences to others for his creation, instead he thinks solely of himself. After the death of his brother, he goes home to be with family, to help to console them. As soon as he realized that his creation was the cause of the death, he again began to dwell on his own feelings. While he briefly thought that this may not be the creatures first murder, his primary thought was that it would destroy all that was dear to him. The cause of his pain seems to stem more from his own regrets rather than the actual death of his own brother. In reflecting on the death of Justine and William, Victor stated “instead of the serenity of conscience, which allowed me to look back upon the past with self-satisfaction… I was seized by remorse and the sense of guilt. His pain was for himself, not those around him nor those who lost their lives.
Following the death of William, Victor again faced his creation. This is one of the few times in the novel in which he showed any amount of unselfishness. He stated “ I ought to render him happy before I complained of his wickedness”. The being then told his story of how he had spent his days since his creation, finally demanding that Victor create a mate for him in the manner he had made his first creation. Victor’s first thought was that such a beast could not be unleashed on the world, but in time he was persuaded to give the beast some form of happiness. This idea, along with the thought that by granting the creature’s request he could possibly relieve the world of any future cruelty at the hands of the beast, persuaded him to oblige the request.
The time spent in reflection by Victor was a very unselfish time for him. He thought often of the consequences of creating another monster and finally determined that he could not do such a thing for the sake of himself and the people he loved. That unselfish side of Victor was seen a minimal amount throughout the novel. He spent the next part of his life chasing the monster in order to get revenge. He wanted only to repay the creature for the hell he had cast into his life. Never again was his surviving brother even mentioned in the tale. Even in his dying days, he asked Robert Walton to pursue the monster should he die without victory. Again, he did not consider the consequences of what he was asking of this man, he simply wanted his own aspirations fulfilled.
The creation of such a creature by someone completely sane is hard to grasp. The understanding of the character of Victor Frankenstein is very important. Without this understanding, the reader may have a hard time excepting the story as plausible even as a fiction novel.


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