Frankenstein Critical Lens Essay

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Aaron Zimmerman
Mrs. Carr
English 10H
???I??™m drawn particularly to stories that evolve out of the character of the protagonist.??? David McCullough, an American author and two-time winner of the Pulizter Prize, expresses through his words the vitality of a protagonist??™s outlook in a novel. In her novel Frankenstein, Mary Shelley utilizes her characters??™ perspectives to shape the novel??™s plot. Unlike in most novels that have a constant narrator throughout the plot, Mary Shelley displays her novel??™s story through multiple narrative perspectives. These perspectives provide the story with filters so that certain characters??™ viewpoints and emotions appear more significant, while others??™ are viewed as nugatory. Victor Frankenstein, the protagonist of Frankenstein, plays a more major role than the other characters, including his nemesis and creation, the Monster. Growing up in Geneva, Victor enjoys an unperturbed, marvelous upbringing. After Victor leaves his hometown and family behind to pursue a greater education, he develops a desire to create life and ???pursue[s] [his] undertaking with unremitting ardour??? (55). This compulsion ruins everything; from the moment that Victor gives life to his creation, an enmity develops between Victor and the Monster that torments them both for the remainder of the plot. Though both characters display valid arguments, Victor??™s side seems to outweigh the Monster??™s. Victor??™s perspective contributes to the essence of Frankenstein, demonstrating how a story can be manipulated based on the angle at which it is presented. In her novel Frankenstein, Mary Shelley utilizes narrative filters to elicit favoritism for Victor and to engender sympathy for his character.
Walton??™s narrative generates a predilection for Victor by highlighting and praising aspects of his character. For one, Walton approbates Victor??™s appreciative mindset in a letter to his sister, illustrating, ???if anyone performs, an act of kindness towards him, or does him the most trifling service, his whole countenance is lighted up, as it were, with a beam of benevolence and sweetness that I never saw equalled??? (27). By accentuating Victor??™s gratitude to anyone who does even the slightest action for him, Walton causes the readers to view Victor in a positive fashion. In addition to emphasizing his gratefulness, Walton also spotlights Victor??™s placation and classifies Victor as fascinating. For example, when Victor first arrives on Walton??™s boat, ???his manners are so conciliating and gentle, that the sailors are all interested in him, although they have had very little communication with him??? (28). Thus, though Victor is not vocal or aggressive, he still ???excite[s] [Walton??™s] admiration??? (28) and interests the sailors; they see and convey Victor as a likeable man due to his gentle, soft-spoken disposition . Aside from depicting Victor as soft-spoken and captivating, Walton also stresses his articulateness, writing to Mrs. Saville that ???[Victor] is so gentle, yet so wise; his mind is so cultivated; and when he speaks, although his words are culled with the choicest art, yet they flow with rapidity and ???unparalleled eloquence??? (28). In describing Victor??™s cerebral prowess and brilliance in speech, Walton yet again conveys Victor as a ???wonderful man??? (30). Finally, Walton??™s love and ???pity??? (28) for Victor leads the readers to feel concern for him as well. When Walton writes to his sister, ???I begin to love him as my brother; and his constant and deep grief fills me with sympathy and compassion. He must have been a noble creature in his better days, being even now in wreck so attractive and amiable,??? (28) he suggests that Victor is virtuous even in a debilitated state of being. Walton??™s narrative induces solicitude for Victor, which supplements the readers??™ affinity for his character. Not only does Walton??™s narrative promote Victor, but also Victor??™s own narrative also prompts the readers to favor his character.
Victor??™s narrative of his childhood precipitates the readers to view Victor as a once privileged and esteemed adolescent, which furthers their fondness for him. For one, as soon as Victor begins his life story, he informs the reader that ???[he] is by birth a Genevese; and [his] family is one of the most distinguished of that republic??? (33). As soon as Victor introduces himself, he delineates his family??™s prominence. Consequentially, the readers tend to Victor as a man of noble birth and respect his character even from the start of the narrative. Additionally, Victor depicts his parents??™ immeasurable endearment for him, illustrating, ???they seemed to draw inexhaustible stores of affection from a very mine of love to bestow them upon me??? (34). In exposing his parent??™s deep affection for him, Shelley influences the readers to see Victor as beloved; therefore, they are prone to developing a love for Frankenstein as well. In addition to promulgating his parents??™ devotion for him, Victor also indicates their exemplary ???raising and guiding him??? (36); Victor explains that ???during every hour of [his] infant life [he] receive[s] a lesson of patience, of charity, and of self-control, [he] was so guided by a silken cord, that all seemed but one train of enjoyment to [him],??? (35) which accounts for his merriment as a child. Because Victor portrays his parents??™ ???constant attention to the values they wanted to instill in him,??? (36) Shelley conveys Victor as a joyous boy who learns proper etiquette, potentially leading readers to admire Victor??™s decorous character, as it implies a definite moral standard within Victor. Victor??™s narrative of his childhood displays Victor as a once exuberant adolescent, and it also evokes a contrast with Walton??™s narrative, hence furthering the readers??™ partisanship for Victor.
The chronological and linguistic juxtaposition of Victor??™s and Walton??™s narratives precipitates compassion for Victor as the reader contrasts his esteemed upbringing with Walton??™s account of Frankenstein??™s despair. For one, Victor??™s deteriorated prestige causes the readers to pity his character. For instance, Victor is initially introduced as a ???human being??? with ???only one dog??? (26). However, when Victor relates back to his childhood, he presents himself as belonging to ???one of the most distinguished of that republic??? (33). Thus, Shelley??™s pitiful followed by venerable depictions of Victor lead the readers to feel sorry for him. Additionally, Shelley adverts to Victor??™s tragedy by illustrating how Victor has degenerated and lost his ???extraordinary merits??? (30). As a boy, Victor ???receives a lesson of patience??? even ???every hour of [his] infant life,??? which is why ???all seemed but one train of enjoyment to [him]??? (35). Contrarily, when Walton analyzes Victor, he notices that Victor ???is generally melancholy and despairing; and sometimes he gnashes his teeth, as if impatient of the weight of woes that oppresses him??? (27). Thus, Shelley indicates how Victor has regressed from a jocund, patient adolescent to a saddened, ???impatient??? man. As the readers observe Victor??™s loss of equanimity and enjoyment for life, they are more likely to empathize with his sorrows, increasing their concern and adoration for him. In addition to contrasting Victor??™s childhood with his debilitated self after battling the Monster, Victor??™s narrative also educes favoritism for Victor.
Victor??™s accounts of his hunger for education lead the reader to revere Victor??™s fervor for learning and to respect his character. Soon after leaving his hometown, Victor evinces how he ???ardently desire[s] the acquisition of knowledge,??? (46) and that he ???had longed to enter the world, and take [his] station among other human beings??? (46). Hence, Victor presents himself as a man who aspires to grow intellectually and socially, acquainting the reader with his hopes and dreams. Once Victor reveals his goals, he exposes others??™ recognition of his yearning and potential. Specifically, Victor recalls how his professor regards him; Professor Waldman informs Victor that ???if [his] application equals [his] ability, [Waldman has] no doubt of [his] success??? (48). In showcasing Waldman??™s acknowledgement of Victor??™s desires to learn, Shelley prompts the readers to also appreciate the extent of Victor??™s determination and to hope for Victor??™s success. Furthermore, Victor??™s actions at Ingolstadt exemplify his passion for learning as well as his attempts to fulfill his dreams. Not only do ???natural philosophy, and particularly chemistry, in the most comprehensive sense of the term,??? become ???nearly [Victor??™s] sole occupation,??? (52) but Victor also ???attend[s] lectures, and cultivate[s] the acquaintance, of the men of science of the university??? (52). Victor places all of his efforts in his studies, and ???[his] ardor [is] indeed the astonishment of the students, and [his] proficiency that of the masters??? (52). Evidently, Victor thrives at his University, for ???M. Waldman expresse[s] the most heartfelt exultation in [his] progress??? (52). Shelley??™s portrayal of Victor??™s educational journey shapes Victor??™s character. By exhibiting Victor??™s ardor, which leads to his ???rapid progress??? (52), Shelley portrays Victor as a committed and successful intellectual in the eyes of his peers and superiors. This portrayal engenders readers to tend to see Victor as an accomplished intellectual, ergo revering him. Overall, Shelley depicts Victor as a dedicated, rising scholar, precipitating readers to respect and admire the young Frankenstein.
Victor??™s recollections of his loved ones??™ deaths further Victor??™s appearance as a broken man, amassing a greater partiality and solicitude for Victor. Firstly, William??™s death plays a major role in educing Victor??™s pain and leading the readers to favor Frankenstein. After Victor beckons Henry to ???come with [him] to Geneva,??? Henry ???could only express his heartfelt sympathy??? (75). Thus, because Victor recounts Henry??™s compassion for him, the readers are more likely to pity him as Henry does, which fortifies their concern for him. Furthermore, Henry serves as a source of friendship and support for Victor; consequentially, after Henry dies, Victor literally falls ill, for he suffers ???strong convulsions??? following a ???fever??? (167). Aside from precipitating Victor??™s additional grief, Henry??™s death also leaves Victor bereft of companionship. After observing Henry??™s role as a provision of solace for Victor followed by Henry??™s tragic death, the readers are bound to empathize and desire to comfort Victor??™s character, as Victor has now lost his closest friend and consoler. Thus, following Henry??™s death, Victor??™s only companion left is his lover, Elizabeth. Once Victor marries Elizabeth, he finally ???enjoy[s] the feeling of happiness??? (181). Nonetheless, after Elizabeth too is murdered, Victor exclaims that he has lost ???every hope of future happiness??? (187). Once Elizabeth, Victor??™s sole source of joy, murdered, Victor spirals into a state of ennui, extirpating his gaiety forever. Victor retells his story to Walton in a manner that highlights loss and equates Elizabeth to his only happiness. Thus, as the reader is exposed to Victor??™s merriment in marrying Elizabeth as well as his irreversible melancholia in losing her, he/she develops added pity for Victor. Overall, Victor relays his reactions to multiple deaths, which generates sympathy for his character.
In summation, Shelley writes Frankenstein through multiple narrative perspectives, which evokes biasness and sympathy for Victor. Walton??™s narrative stresses Victor??™s positive qualities by underlining Victor??™s gratefulness, sorrows, and gentle persona. After delineating Victor??™s flawless childhood, Shelley collocates Victor??™s reminiscing of his upbringing with Walton??™s perception of Victor in his final days, which extracts supplemental sympathy for Victor??™s character. Shelley also brings attention to Victor??™s intellectual drive by tracing his development at the University of Ingolstadt. Furthermore, Shelley highlights the deaths of Victor??™s friends and family to highlight Victor??™s despondency and depict his character as a pained man. Shelley??™s writing technique is admirable; Shelley presents the story of Frankenstein through the outlooks of different characters, providing a myriad of insights for her readers. Arguably, the shift in perspective itself is what produces the distinguished bias for Victor. By portraying Victor??™s qualities through the viewpoints of varying characters, Shelley develops multiple angles of empathy and commendation for Victor??™s morals, decisions, and tragedies. These angles engender a sensation of incessant praise for Victor, thus inspiriting the readers to adore Victor, as the novel??™s characters do. One must consider the effect of multiple views, as opposed to simply one source of encouragement. Shelley writes with several narratives to elicit not only favoritism for Victor, but also to broaden the readers??™ understanding of his greatness. Conclusively, Shelley demonstrates the efficiency of narrative filters by successfully creating a partisanship and pity for Victor.