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Where in Frankenstein is there support that a certain character exemplifies the...

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kareemoo | Student, Undergraduate | Valedictorian

Posted January 5, 2013 at 9:36 PM via web

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Where in Frankenstein is there support that a certain character exemplifies the Romantic hero?

What passages do I look for support?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 5, 2013 at 11:33 PM (Answer #1)

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With a theme of science as a "forbidden knowledge" that possesses properties of the inhuman to Mary Shelley's thinking, the tandem characters of Walton and Victor Frankenstein were created by her to demonstrate the dangers of scientific ventures.  As a foil to these characters, who lose their humanity as they become embroiled in their scientific pursuits, Henry Clerval represents the Romantic hero, one who passionately loves nature and the spiritual aspect of life.

And unlike Victor, who wishes to learn "the secrets of heaven and earth," Clerval aspires "to become one among those whose names are recorded as the gallant and adventurous benefactors of our species." He delights in languages, finds inspiration in nature, succors Victor in his illness and despair with his devotion and fraternal love.  In fact, Henry Clerval represents the love of two men in friendship that Romantics felt was the ideal, above that of conjugal love.  This love is exemplified when Henry first visits Victor at the university and brings, as Alphonse Frankenstein expresses,

...feelings of peace and gentleness, that will heal, instead of festering the wounds of our minds.

Victor himself declares that Henry

called forth the better feelings of my heart; he again taught me to love the aspect of nature, and the cheerful faces of children.  Excellent friend!...A selfish pursuit had cramped and narrowed me, until your gentleness and affection warmed and opened my senses; I became the same happy creature who...had no sorrow or care.

Similarly, in Chapter 18 Victor goes to Switzerland where he delights in the sublime. He describes Henry Clerval in glowing Romantic terms, such as "wild and enthusiastic" with "ardent affections.

Another Romanticized character is Elizabeth who, in Chapter 8, defends Justine's innocence at the trial for the death of Victor's brother William in spite of the fact that almost no one else will. In addition, Elizabeth is willing to marry Victor despite dangers; always she loves others more than herself. Clearly, Henry and Elizabeth values family and friendships over intellectual and scientific pursuits.

 

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