Did Victor Frankenstein ever really assume responsibility for the dire consequences that resulted from his creation or was he more of a self-centered coward, refusing to own his errors?

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hmassman eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Intriguing question! In the book Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Victor Frankenstein’s actions lead to intense repercussions. Although this book was written decades ago, scholars still debate Victor’s actions and responsibility. Throughout the book, Victor’s acceptance of responsibility (or lack thereof) is clearly evident, especially with Elizabeth’s death and the creature’s experiences.

Beginning with Elizabeth's death, Victor illustrates that his actions of creating the monster incited extreme consequences. For example, Victor expresses his responsibility for the actions by stating:

“From the tortures of my own heart, I turned to contemplate the deep and voiceless grief of my Elizabeth. This also was my doing! And my father's woe, and the desolation of that late so smiling home -- all was the work of my thrice -- accursed hands!”

As a result, Victor expresses the guilt that he feels, especially after the death of his loved one, Elizabeth. Although he feels remorse and responsibility for these actions, Victor never tries to ameliorate the situation by stating his guilt to the court or even by confessing to Elizabeth.

Furthermore, Victor feels responsible for making the creature; however, he never seems to express remorse for not caring about his creature. As Victor states while discussing with Walton:

“You seek for knowledge and wisdom, as I once did; and I ardently hope that the gratification of your wishes may not be a serpent to sting you, as mine has been.”

Thus, Victor seems to accept responsibility for pursuing knowledge overzealously; however, he fails to admit responsibility for leaving his creature alone without care or nourishment. As the creature expresses:

"It was dark when I awoke; I felt cold also, and half-frightened, as it were instinctively, finding myself so desolate. Before I had quitted your apartment, on a sensation of cold, I had covered myself with some clothes; but these were insufficient to secure me from the dews of night. I was a poor, helpless, miserable wretch; I knew, and could distinguish, nothing; but feeling pain invade me on all sides, I sat down and wept.”

Therefore, throughout the book, Victor confronts the repercussions of his actions, such as Elizabeth’s death and the creation of his monster. Although he admits his partial guilt, he fails to accept full responsibility. For example, he never tries to save Elizabeth and he fails to provide nourishment and care for the very being that he created. Furthermore, he never apologizes to his creature or attempts to mend their relationship. Thus, he blames the creature for many of the repercussions and takes the easy way out by simply ignoring or trying to destroy his creation.

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Frankenstein

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