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

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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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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