Dreams and nightmares play a recurrent role throughout Shelley’s Frankenstein. How do they relate to changes in Victor’s character?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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There are two places in Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein where dreams affect Victor's character. The first dream comes after Victor has succeeded in creating life, while the second dream comes as Victor and his father are on their way home from Ireland.

In chapter five, after bringing the Creature to life, Victor dreams of Elizabeth. In this dream Victor is embracing Elizabeth and she turns into his deceased mother, Caroline.

I slept, indeed, but I was disturbed by the wildest dreams. I thought I saw Elizabeth...her features appeared to change, and I thought that I held the corpse of my dead mother in my arms.

Here, the nightmare Victor has foreshadows the death of Elizabeth.

Later, in chapter twenty-one, Victor, on his way home from Ireland, dreams that the monster has come to make good on his promise to end Victor's life.

Towards morning I was possessed by a kind of nightmare; I felt the fiend's grasp in my neck, and could not free myself from it; groans and cries rung in my ears.

Here, Victor dreams about dying in the same way both William (his brother) and Henry (his best friend) died--by strangulation. This not only speaks back to the deaths of both, it foreshadows the fact (for Victor) that the Creature will see him again on his wedding night.


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