“His limbs were nearly frozen, and his body dreadfully emaciated by fatigue and suffering. I never saw a man in so wretched a condition.” Letter4
Here Walton describes Frankenstein at first sight. His body is thin and malnourished, he looks wretched, and overall is a sore to the eyes. Now, if we take Frankenstein and compare his look at this moment to his creation’s hideous appearance, you’ll find that both raise high concerns. You see, by the time Frankenstein creates the monster, he slowly begins to mold into one himself. He begins to feel alone, apart from society, and stops caring for himself to such an extent that he receives worried looks similar to those the monster received, minus the fear. This is an example of duality/duality.
“I never saw a more interesting creature: his eyes have generally an expression of wildness, and even madness…he is generally melancholy and despairing, and sometimes he gnashes his teeth, as if impatient of the weight of woes that oppresses him.” Letter 4
At this point in the story, Walton has spent several days with Frankenstein and is past concern. He is even past naming him as a human being, rather an interesting creature. In his eyes it seems Frankenstein is a stray animal, gnashing his teeth, softening at any act of kindness as if he was deprived of this, as if he was starving from lack of benevolent human contact. This greatly mirrors the monster’s ‘personality’. At first, he means well, although he doesn’t know anything, he helps the family in tough times, and watches over them. But as he is drowned in isolation he goes raging mad, and turns into al wild-eyed animal, similar to the one we are introduced to in the beginning of the story.
“My temper was sometimes violent, and my passions vehement; but by some law in my temperature they were turned not towards childish pursuits but to an eager desire to learn, and not to learn all things indiscriminately.” Chapter2
In this quote Frankenstein admits to a violent temper, and this coincidentally mirrors that of the monster’s as he is consumed with loneliness and a life of exile. With this passionate drive of Frankenstein’s comes a dangerous eagerness that leads him to creating this monster. His earn and his violent temper shows Frankenstein holds little control of himself, and it seems as he becomes ‘hungrier’ he becomes more monstrous.
In a solitary chamber, or rather cell, at the top of the house, and separated from all the other apartments by a gallery and staircase, I kept my workshop of filthy creation; my eyeballs were starting from their sockets in attending to the details of my employment. …and often did my human nature turn with loathing from my occupation” Chapter 4
Frankenstein shows here in this quote the beginning of his isolation. This happens to perfectly mirror that of his creation’s. As he continues his project, he lives in his “solitary chamber”, in his “cell”, exiled from the rest of society. He starts to hate himself and his work, and in the end as he finishes the project is in horror of himself. In the same way the monster is disturbed when he sees how wretched he looks and is forced to live a life of solitude.
In the four letters and 5 chapters we were first introduced to the characters. We see two sides of Frankenstein, one – Clerval’s friend, Elizabeth’s possible future love…’normal’. The other side is the one that arose after the death of his mother, the one that came out from the desire to put an end to death, the over compulsive, over-ambitious side of Frankenstein. As the story begins we first see Frankenstein from Walton’s point of view. We see wild eyes, skinny, desperate, and lonely. We see a creature. And as the story abruptly switches to Frankenstein’s point of view, there is a stark change. For Frankenstein is a ‘human being’ as he narrates, and gone is the crazed look in his eyes.
As Frankenstein begins, we know no misery. It follows the “knowledge is sorrow” idea in a sense, since as we progress, and as we learn more, the story gets gloomier and we worry, but for now, the tone is more or less ‘content’. At first, I wasn’t sure why Mary Shelley decided to spend a few chapters on Victor’s childhood, but later on I realized that the death of his mother was an important part of his psyche, along with the importance of introducing Henry at an early stage – allowing us to become acquainted with him from the start.
I believe a big part of why Henry even exists in the story – besides the purpose of being a local companion – is to contrast him and Victor. From the second chapter we see that while Victor admitted his “temper was sometimes violent, and my passions vehement; but by some law in my temperature they were turned not towards childish pursuits but to an eager desire to learn, and not to learn all things indiscriminately,” Henry was the stark opposite. He was focused on the adventures, he busied himself with actions, but he was not over-ambitious, he was more level-headed. And so with this contrasting relationship, we readers see clearly the dangers of Victor’s behavior. He becomes obsessive over the elixir of life and philosopher’s stone, he wanted to raise ghosts, etc. When we see him we see uncontrolled and too emotional for his own good.
In chapter 4, Frankenstein mentions he hasn’t been home in 2 years, instead he worked on his goals of making certain discoveries. He also says: “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. I knew my silence disquieted them” This struck me as worrisome and emphasized his obsessive behavior even further. Though Shelley didn’t say, I felt like I could draw the conclusion that he didn’t just “not visit” he didn’t write home either. He was already pushing himself away from society, and this was just the beginning.
Leading into chapter 5, Frankenstein is finishing up his project when he finally snaps out of his state and realizes what he has done. He has nightmares and wakes up to find his creation, his baby, grinning at him.
As Frankenstein puts life into his creation he starts to die and the monster becomes alive – able to thrive.
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