Discus the role of sickness in the Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.



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literaturenerd's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #1)

Victor Frankenstein, the protagonist of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, falls ill after every traumatic event in the novel. He falls ill after creating the Creature, after Clerval is murdered, and (for a short time) after Elizabeth is murdered. In a sense, falling ill acts as Victor's coping mechanism.

Given that Victor cannot deal with extreme distress, his body's natural defense is illness. This forces him to take time to new his body and mind before pursuing his next obstacle. Also, during these illnesses, others must care for Victor. He is so ill that he cannot care for himself.

This said, the only thing which seems to make Victor begin to recover is the promise of spring and constantancy. Given that Frankenstein is not only Gothic but Romantic, nature must be given power. In this novel, nature is given the ability to cure Victor. Not only does it cure him, it allows him to recognize the fact that consistency exists in the world (Mont Blanc, the lake by his home). Therefore, nature is shown as a healing power of human illness.

herappleness's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #2)

In Frankenstein illness may also be interpreted as another way to look into the mind and personality of Victor Frankenstein. Is Victor really sick or are his illnesses mere manifestations of a horribly guilty mind? Is illness a way for Victor to escape his reality? Is Victor making himself ill?

Victor suffers a series of traumatic collapses, all stemming from the consequences of his creation. The moment the creature comes to life marks the first time that Victor "breaks down" and flees, not wanting to know what has happened to the creature.

I thought I saw the spectre glide into the room; ‘he can tell.— Oh, save me! Save me!’

The same thing happens after the death of his friend Clerval, who is killed by the monster Victor created. Furthermore, it is yet another health breakdown that eventually kills Victor once he is found by Walton. Illness is definitely the sign of Victor's mortified mind, and it shows the vulnerable, weak, prone side of a man who was once glorified by his genius.

Illness further shows Victor's less admirable side because his tendency to implode and fall ill shows a lack of ability to face problems and accept responsibility. Victor only speaks of the monster after it has caused havoc. He never even clears Justine's name after she is falsely accused of killing Victor's brother, William. While it is true that his story would have sounded ludicrous, it is also true that he could have avoided a lot of harm if he had confronted the creature with a degree of compassion toward it. After all, the creature never asked to be created; it was Victor's obsession to play God that led him to break with nature altogether and create "life."


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