How is Victor's friend Henry Clerval different from Victor in terms of their study and interests in Frankenstein?

As a child, Henry Clerval was vastly different from Victor in terms of interests. While Victor enjoyed scientific exploration, Henry preferred to exercise his creativity. Victor wanted to understand the world and the nature of the human body and soul, and Henry wanted to explore the virtues of heroes and the lives of the good and brave.

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As a child, Victor was very interested in science and exploration, while Henry Clerval was a child of "singular talent and fancy," according to Victor. Little Henry was extremely creative and possessed a lively and vivid imagination to which he gave free reign.

While Victor would choose books about science,...

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As a child, Victor was very interested in science and exploration, while Henry Clerval was a child of "singular talent and fancy," according to Victor. Little Henry was extremely creative and possessed a lively and vivid imagination to which he gave free reign.

While Victor would choose books about science, Henry would choose books about "chivalry and romance" and would compose heroic songs and fairy tales to share with his friends. Little Henry would write plays in which he attempted to compel his friends to act, and the characters were often similar to those of heroic stories and legends of old. He was evidently fascinated by heroism and danger and romance, and Henry's imagination and passions were warm.

Victor says that he was fascinated by "the mysterious soul of man" and the metaphysical as well as the "physical secrets of the world," while Henry was occupied with "the moral relations of things." Victor preferred to be alone or to only associate with a select few people, but Henry seems to have loved and been loved by many, much more social in nature than Victor was. Henry was interested in the "virtues of heroes, and the actions of men," and he dreamed of becoming a person whose name is recorded for posterity as one who has benefitted humankind with his works.

In short, as children (and, really, as adults too), Henry and Victor could not have been more different. They were both incredibly passionate people at a very young age, but their passions took nearly opposite directions.

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Henry Clerval is every bit as intelligent as Victor Frankenstein, if not more so. However, his intelligence is combined with a deeply compassionate nature that sets him apart from his more egoistic friend. Whereas Victor's moral compass has catastrophically lost its bearings, Henry's remains in full working order throughout the story.

To a large extent, this is because Henry's studies don't lead him into the kind of moral dilemmas that Victor is forced to struggle with due to his scientific experiments. Henry has no interest in science; his vivid imagination is too vast to concern itself with the minutiae of "natural philosophy" (an old-fashioned expression for science). Instead, he prefers to study Eastern languages such as Persian, Arabic, and Hebrew, while also mastering Greek and Latin into the bargain.

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Clearly a foil to the science-oriented Victor Frankenstein, Henry Clerval possesses all the qualities of a male friend in the Romantic period.

Whereas Victor Frankenstein inquiries are directed to unlocking the physical secrets of the natural world, Clerval occupies himself with things more spiritual:

The busy stage of life, the virtues of heroes, and the actions of men were his theme; and his hope and dream was to become one among those...recorded...as the gallant and adventurous benefactors of our species. (Ch.2)

Whereas Victor flees from his creature after he is frightened by its ugliness, and takes no responsibility for his creation throughout the narrative, Henry assumes the care of his friend Victor and nurses him back to health, staying by his side as a protector.

Moreover, in contrast to Victor, Clerval balances his emotional and intellectual pursuits, but Victor focuses solely upon "the secrets of heaven and earth." Henry desires "to become one among those whose names are recorded in history as the gallant and adventurous benefactors of our species," but Victor's desires are purely selfish. In further contrast, Henry Clerval is sanguine in nature, kind, patient, and loving, while Victor Frankenstein is retributive in nature, antagonistic, impulsive, and selfish. Victor projects much of the blame for the deaths of his family upon the creature, rather than taking responsibility for what he himself has created.

 

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The answer to this question can be found in Chapter 2, which is when Henry Clerval is first introduced to us. Clerval is presented as a foil to Victor, as he is very different in a number of key areas, especially in terms of his interests and how he devotes his study time. Whereas Victor, my his own admission, devotes himself to learning "the secrets of heaven and earth," and the "metaphysical, or... the physical secrets of the world," note how the text describes the academic pursuits of Henry Clerval:

Meanwhile Clerval occupied himself, so to speak, with the moral relations of things. The busy stage of life, the virtues of heroes, and the actions of men, were his theme; and his hope and his dream was to become one among those whose names are recorded in story, as the gallant and adventurous beenfactors of our species.

The difference is stark. Victor is obsessed by penetrating the secrets of nature with a fury and a violence that he himself recognises. Clerval, on the other hand, wishes his study and work to benefit humanity rather thanbe something that will gain himself glory and honour. We can see through the languge used in this section of the novel that from the very beginning, Victor's obsession lacked moderation and had questionable motives, and this is something that is highlighted by Clerval's approach to his studies.

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