What is the importance of Clerval in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein?
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Henry Clerval is a foil to Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley's classic, Frankenstein. Henry is a true Romantic, not a scientist like Victor; he encourages Victor to study nature, he enjoys reading romances about knights and damsels in distress rather than such works as those by Paracelsus and Albertus Magnus and Cornelius Agrippa, and he studies languages in hopes of traveling to exotic locations. Henry is humbly honest and forthright whereas Victor, in his arrogance, refuses to confess that it is his creation which has murdered his own brother.
In Chapter 2, Victor describes Henry Clerval as a boy of "singular talent and fancy" who
loved enterprise, hardship, and even danger, for its own sake. He was deeply read in books of chivalry and romance. He composed heroic songs, and began to write many a tale of enchantment and knightly adventure....I might have become sullen in my study, rough through the ardour of my nature, but that [Elizabeth] was there to subdue me...Ad Clerval--could aught ill entrench on the noble spirit of Clerval?--yet he might not have been so perfectly humane, so thoughtful in his generosity--so full of kindness and tenderness amidst his passion for adventurous exploit....
In the absence of the humane Henry Clerval, Victor Frankenstein goes awry in his scientific pursuits and loses his moral judgment. Thus, Henry Clerval is the character who best expresses Mary Shelley's Romantic concepts, concepts of knowledge through intuition and communication with nature rather than by scientific determinations, concepts that she believed were superior to those of Darwin and those involved with science.
Dr. Henry Clerval is Victor's best and most beloved friend. He serves as an anti-Victor in many ways: They are both doctors, but Henry remains ever the most humanist one, having a natural curiosity (not like Victor's obsession) with understanding life. Second, Clerval is the link between Victor and the world. It is Clerval who goes to England and Scotland with Victor, and they travel a great deal (Check Vol. 1, chapters 3 to 5 for quotations).
But it will be Clerval's death what ultimately will send Victor to near insanity, as he realized that the creature did it as a result of Victor's refusal to build a mate for the monster. Right when Henry came (once again) to save Victor from himself and to remove him from this lab, the creature took vengeance with Clerval against Victor.
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