In Frankenstein, what are Clerval's plans for his career?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Henry Clerval, Frankenstein's childhood friend, is a kind person who Frankenstein describes as "perfectly humane." Instead of becoming a pioneer in science, which is Frankenstein's goal, Clerval aims to benefit humanity. To this end, Clerval convinces his father, a merchant, to allow him to attend the university at Ingolstadt, where he studies languages, including Greek, Latin, Persian, Hebrew, and Arabic. Clerval later accompanies Frankenstein to England. Frankenstein says of his friend, "In Clerval I saw the image of my former self." Clerval is eager to gain knowledge and experience. His plan is to visit India, as he knows its languages and culture, and his goal is to have "the means of materially assisting the progress of European colonization and trade." Clerval believes, before his death, that he can help India develop through trade. His aspirations are quite different than those of Frankenstein, who wants to push the boundaries of science in what are described as ungodly ways. 

scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Victor's best friend Henry wants to learn languages of the "Orient" (Persian, Arabic, and Sanscrit) most likely to travel there and be involved in trade of some kind.  His occupational choice is quite realistic for the time setting and for Shelley's earlier description of Henry's father being a practical person. During the late 1700s, colonial expansion was flourishing, and Europeans were traveling far and wide for investment and trading purposes.

Victor mentions in Chapter 6 that Henry

"turned his eyes toward the East, as affording scope for his spirit of enterprise" (55).

In this description of Henry's pursuits, Shelley once again demonstrates Henry's Romantic tendencies versus Victor's scientific pursuits.

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