When I was a senior in high school, it looks like I had to take a stand on a topic I found interesting in the book Frankenstein. Of course I didn’t get to this Halloween week (I was busy baking, what can I say?), so I’d like to post it belatedly.
Note: Not to be completely emo, but I think we can all see a little bit of ourselves in Victor Frankenstein.
Victor Frankenstein is a man of substance. This man has sought after one solitary goal in life: to understand every concept and aspect of the creation of man. Through his accounts of years of assiduous education on the topic, it becomes apparent to the reader that his curiosity has escalated into an obsession. One might wonder if these efforts contribute to a healthy lifestyle for Victor, while he shuts out every form of direct communication with the people he loves in attempts to achieve his objective. Although it seems that Victor Frankenstein is a man researching for the common good, he is, in all actuality, in selfish pursuit of companionship.
While Frankenstein formulates his endeavors, those who are closest to him, people whom he loves, become more distant. Elizabeth, his first true love, becomes ill. “Elizabeth had caught the scarlet fever; her illness was severe and she was in the greatest danger” (Shelley 40). Directly following Elizabeth’s illness, Victor’s mother becomes identically ill. “Elizabeth was saved, but the consequences of this imprudence were fatal to her preserver. On the third day my mother sickened; her fever was accompanied by the most alarming symptoms, and the looks of her medical attendants prognosticated the worst event” (40). The loss of his mother and the fact that he almost lost the woman who he loves, however, are events overshadowed by Victor’s departure for Ingolstadt in pursuit of his knowledge. “And the same feelings which made me neglect the scenes around me caused me also to forget those friends who were so many miles absent, and whom I had not seen for so long a time” (53). His fascination with his endeavors detracts his attention from significant people in his life, and he begins to create the void that would, under any normal circumstance, be filled by his friends and family.
From the beginning, Victor does not quite understand his own desires.
I confess that neither the structure of languages, nor the code of governments, nor the politics of various states, possessed attractions for me. 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. (34)
It is obvious that Victor does not intend to expand life expectancy or find a cure for cancer. His efforts have no moral substance, no matter how religious he may articulate them as.
Under the guidance of my new preceptors, I entered with the greatest diligence into the search of the philosopher’s stone and the elixir of life; but the latter soon obtained my undivided attention. Wealth was an inferior object; but what glory would attend the discovery, if I could banish disease from the human frame, and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death! (37)
Victor’s desire for glory paints a picture in the reader’s mind of his unnatural longing to attain perfection. He begins his activities selfishly, instead of using his research for the common good.
Victor views his creation as a complete catastrophe. He repeatedly curses his creation, annoyed with the way in which it has presented itself to the world. “Begone! I will not hear you. There can be no community between you and me; we are enemies. Begone, or let us try our strength in a fight, in which one must fall” (98). The “monster” even realizes that he does not live up to the expectations Victor has subconsciously established for a companion. “Remember, that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel” (98). Victor has created this being so that he can have a comrade—and his creation falls short of this idea. He has created the being to have the ability to necessitate human feelings. Victor’s creation is intended to complement Victor’s own feelings, intended to cause an instantaneous companionship. “How can you, who long for the love and sympathy of man, persevere in this exile?” (146) Victor’s expectation is that his creation encompasses such human feelings, creating the ultimate companion for himself.
He has spent all of his life in fruitless pursuit of a single goal: a goal to form life where there is none. His behavior has inadvertently led to a subconscious search for the comfort of a companion that he has previously caused himself to lack. Had Victor’s efforts been aimed for a cause to positively affect mankind instead of simple self-satisfaction, his life would not have this void. The absence of loved ones due to his obsessive attitude toward his accomplishments transforms his search into that of an artificial companion: a being to fill a gaping, lonely hole in his heart.