What is the importance of Clerval in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein?Need quotes to support answer.

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The existence of Henry Clerval helps Mary Shelley to convey several themes.  First, we watch as Victor loses touch with his family, his moral compass, and his own human nature as he creates the monster.  After its completion, he falls victim to a terrible fever, and it is only the ministrations of Henry that return him to life and health.  When he first sees Henry, Victor says,

Nothing could equal my delight on seeing Clerval; his presence brought back to my thoughts my father, Elizabeth, and all those scenes of home so dear to my recollection [...].  I felt suddenly, and for the first time during many months, calm and serene joy.

The sight of his best friend initially helps to remind Victor of himself and his priorities.  However, Henry remarks on how ill Victor appears to be, and this began "a nervous fever which confined [Victor] for several months.  During all that time Henry was [his] only nurse."  Without Henry's care, Victor would likely have perished during this time; even Victor says so.  This relationship helps Shelley to convey the idea that companionship is a vital human need.  In fact, after Henry's murder, Victor immediately falls into yet another fever.  We cannot sustain our health or our happiness without such friends as Henry.  

Moreover, the contrast between Victor and Henry helps to illuminate the idea that Enlightenment values, represented by Victor, must be balanced with Romantic values, represented by Henry.  While Victor abandons his relationships and focuses solely on his experiment, he grows ill; Henry remains healthy throughout the book, and he has no such obsessions.  Instead, Henry is alive to the beauties of nature and relishes his intimate relationships.  He is imaginative and poetic, and though he values a scientific education, he does not confine his mind to one subject only.  When Victor describes the child, Henry, he says that Henry "was deeply read in books of chivalry and romance.  He composed heroic songs and began to write many a tale of enchantment and knightly adventure."  Further, his appreciation of nature is unparalleled.  These more Romantic interests help to balance Henry in a way that Victor lacks.  When Victor operates according to Enlightenment values alone, he suffers in a way that Henry never does, implying that its lack of emphasis on interpersonal connection and emotion does the human race a disservice.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Henry Clerval is a foil to Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley's classic, Frankenstein. Henry is a true Romantic, not a scientist like Victor; he encourages Victor to study nature, he enjoys reading romances about knights and damsels in distress rather than such works as those by Paracelsus and Albertus Magnus and Cornelius Agrippa, and he studies languages in hopes of traveling to exotic locations.  Henry is humbly honest and forthright whereas Victor, in his arrogance, refuses to confess that it is his creation which has murdered his own brother.

In Chapter 2, Victor describes Henry Clerval as a boy of "singular talent and fancy" who

loved enterprise, hardship, and even danger, for its own sake.  He was deeply read in books of chivalry and romance.  He composed heroic songs, and began to write many a tale of enchantment and knightly adventure....I might have become sullen in my study, rough through the ardour of my nature, but that [Elizabeth] was there to subdue me...Ad Clerval--could aught ill entrench on the noble spirit of Clerval?--yet he might not have been so perfectly humane, so thoughtful in his generosity--so full of kindness and tenderness amidst his passion for adventurous exploit....

In the absence of the humane Henry Clerval, Victor Frankenstein goes awry in his scientific pursuits and loses his moral judgment. Thus, Henry Clerval is the character who best expresses Mary Shelley's Romantic concepts, concepts of knowledge through intuition and communication with nature rather than by scientific determinations, concepts that she believed were superior to those of Darwin and those involved with science.

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dr. Henry Clerval is Victor's best  and most beloved friend. He serves as an anti-Victor in many ways: They are both doctors, but Henry remains ever the most humanist one, having a natural curiosity (not like Victor's obsession) with understanding life. Second, Clerval is the link between Victor and the world. It is Clerval who goes to England and Scotland with Victor, and they travel a great deal (Check Vol. 1, chapters 3 to 5 for quotations).

But it will be Clerval's death what ultimately will send Victor to near insanity, as he realized that the creature did it as a result of Victor's refusal to build a mate for the monster. Right when Henry came (once again) to save Victor from himself and to remove him from this lab, the creature took vengeance with Clerval against Victor.

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