Victor, is he really selfish?In every character analysis I read of Victor Frankenstein, the first despriptive word about him I see is that he is selfish. I can understand that the monster is...

Victor, is he really selfish?

In every character analysis I read of Victor Frankenstein, the first despriptive word about him I see is that he is selfish. I can understand that the monster is selfish, and maybe Walton sometimes, but Victor is not always selfish in my opinion.

How could he be selfish when he destroys his female work-in-progress for fear for mankind, and accepts the suffering the monster has promised to bestow upon him? It is true that he is selfish in not reporting the murderer of his brother, and in asking Walton to go after the monster however.

Also, walton might not be actually selfish if his claims to return from his voyage because of his crew are true; however the novel's analysis' I've read state that its kind of symbolic; that he returns beause he learns from Victor's tale that persuit of new knowledge is not always good.

I'm really confused about these points, as my thoughts oppose all the analysis' I've read.

Expert Answers
MaudlinStreet eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In response to your last statement, that's one of the great things about literature: it's open to interpretation. If what you think is different from the criticism, it doesn't mean that you're wrong or they're wrong. However, I would say that your interpretations of a text should always be supported by what you read in the text. Make sure you have evidence to validate your claims. It's clear that you've read the text carefully, and developed some ideas based on what you've read. And I would argue that no character in Frankenstein is as simple as one personality trait. Neither Victor, nor Walton, nor the monster can be summed up in one word.

As for your specific question about Victor here, I would say that selfishness is certainly an aspect of his personality, but not the only one. First, let's look at how one may draw the conclusion that he is selfish. One, he created the monster. He did out of pure self-indulgence, a desire to wield the power of life. His lack of contact with his family, his stealing corpses from gravesites...this points to a purely selfish need to discover knowledge. Two, once his creature is living, he immediately runs away, claiming self-preservation. In reality, he's just so disgusted by the sight of it, he leaves it all alone in the world, no more capable of taking care of itself than a child. So he's basically shirked all responsibility, leaving his creation to fend for itself. Three, he repeatedly withholds information and even lies concerning his creation. When William is killed, he remains silent. When Justine is arrested, he remains silent. When she is found guilty and executed, he remains silent. What could be more selfish than letting someone die for someone else's crime?

However, you've pointed out two instances where Victor may be considered to be acting in others' intersts. First, he destroys the female creature, although he knows it will quite possibly lead to pain for himself. Second, he accepts the revenge of the creature, as opposed to allowing others to take the blame. Finally, he chooses to follow the creature, seeking to destroy it before it can wreak more havoc.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In so many instances of irresponsibility, it seems reasonable that readers perceive Victor Frankenstein as selfish in his motivations.  When he knows that the creature has vowed to "be with you" on his wedding day, it is, indeed, selfish of Victor to wed Elizabeth.

But other actions would, perhaps, be better considered as irresponsible.  As he is dying, for instance, Victor who feels blameless of any wrongdoing in creating the creature, tells Walton that another scientist might succeed where he has failed.  In fact, throughout the narrative, the emotions that Victor exhibits for the reader--misery, gloom, and despair--are Romantic conventionalities, feelings indulged in rather than impetus to responsible action. 


hanooch | Student

I believe Victor married Elizabeth, as he thought the monster would come to kill him, to have a chance at getting rid of the monster as fast as possible. But yes, maybe he wanted to have a chance at being happy for once, and that would probably be very selfish of him.

I still dont believe that Victor is more selfish than the average human though. I belive we are by nature selfish beings, some people turn out to be exceptions. Thats just my opinion though.

hanooch | Student

Thank you, that was really insightful and helpful =)

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