In Frankenstein, how do Clerval and Victor differ intellectually?
Victor and Clerval are both scholars, but their intellectual pursuits differ greatly. First of all, Victor is drawn towards the sciences; it is "the secrets of heaven and earth that [he] desire[s] to learn." Victor seeks to understand the physical universe; his inquiries are focused on discovering "the physical secrets of the world."
Clerval, on the other hand, is interested in understanding the nature of man. He studies "the moral relations of things...the busy stage of life, the virtues of heroes...the actions of men." Clerval hopes one day to be recognized as one of the "gallant and adventurous benefactors of our species."
In addition to their differences in interests, Victor and Clerval also show a dispararity between their manner of pursuing their goals. Victor is single-minded, likely to cut himself from others in his passion to increase his understanding of the physical world. He tends to become consumed in his studies, and indeed descends to the brink of insanity as he isolates himself and involves himself, body and soul, in his quest to replicate life. Clerval, on the other hand, never loses his sense of humanity; he is stable, dependable, and well-rounded. Clerval's intellectual pursuits only serve to make him a stronger, more fully-realized human being, and when Victor is nearly destroyed by the consequences of his own educational strivings, Clerval is there to nurture him and restore him to health.