Who does Shelley set up as character foils? How does this influence the reader's understanding of Victor and his behavior?

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A character foil is a character whose purpose is to provide the audience with a contrasting image to the protagonist, so as to reveal a clearer image of the protagonist.

Shelley uses Victor's friends and family members as character foils to Victor, to illustrate the shortcomings of Victor's character that result in destructive behavior.

William, Victor's little brother, represents youth and innocence. While Victor's aim in creating the Creature was to succeed in manufacturing new innocent life, the immediate death of William is used to show that he has actually created the exact opposite: crime and destruction.

Justine, the family servant who is accused of William's murder, reveals Victor's character in the way that she reacts to her false accusation. She ends up confessing to the murder, even though she did not commit the crime, because her strong Catholic faith dictates that confessing will absolve her of her past sins. Victor, on the other hand, watching the situation unfold, has the chance to save Justine and confess his actual guilt in creating the Creature that killed William, but he instead allows Justine to be hanged for the murder.

Victor's friend Henry is a patient, emotionally available friend to Victor, who helps strengthen him when he is ill. This shows an alternative side to Victor: someone who is solid and capable of inner strength, and who is not possessed with individual ambition.

Elizabeth, Victor's fiancee, represents the passive, faithful wife. They lead exact opposite roles in the relationship. Through Elizabeth's dutiful patience that Victor will one day relax his ambitions and come back home to her, the audience realizes that Victor is incapable of giving up his work for another person.

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