Why does Shelley draw a parallel between the Delacey family?In a piece of literature, the author often creates parallel circumstances among charcaters and situations to create emphasis. Please...

 Why does Shelley draw a parallel between the Delacey family?

In a piece of literature, the author often creates parallel circumstances among charcaters and situations to create emphasis. Please explain the parallel that is drawn giving specific examples & explain what is shown by this parallel and why.



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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the main themes that Mary Shelley's Frankenstein explores is Nature vs. Nurture.  For, prevalent throughout the narrative is one example after another of nurturing on the part of those connected to Victor in sharp contrast to his complete abandonment of his creature. Time and again, one character cares for another:  Caroline Frankenstein is very solicitous of the orphaned Justine and Elizabeth, Elizabeth testifies on behalf of Justine at her trial for the death of William, Henry Clerval rushes to the aid of his dear friend, Victor; moreover, Alphonse Frankenstein does everything that he can for his family.

In Chapter 11, when the creature discovers that the hovel he has found in the woods is adjacent to a poor family, he spies upon them in amazement at the loving relationship that they all have.  And, although they are rather destitute, there is a warmth and happiness that emanates from the little cottage.  It is with wonder and desire that the creature listens and learns from the Delacey family--"It was a lovely sight, even to me, poor wretch!" As he observes the family, the creature recounts his feelings,

The silver hair and benevolent countenance of the aged cottager won my reverence, while the gentle manners of the girl enticed my love.

Then, in Chapter 12, the creature continues to observe the family and learns that they communicate to each other through sound. "This was indeed a godlike science, and I ardently desired to become acquainted with it," he relates.  And, as he continues to observe the Delacey's, the creature yearns to interact with them himself.  Unfortunately, they are terrified by his physical appearance and he is again rejected. 

Having been refused the healing comfort of other beings, the creature suffers greatly from the pain of his isolation, and he is almost forced into committing evil acts because of this rejection,whereas previously, he harbored no cruel or malicious thoughts when he vicariously participated in the loving relationships of the Delacey family.  Thus, Shelley suggests that given the nurturing that the Frankenstein family proferred the other "orphans," Justine and Elizabeth," the creature would have continued to be loving and unselfish as he has been toward the Delaceys. The renowned critic Harold Bloom underscores this observation as he writes,

The greatest paradox and most astonishing achievement of Mary Shelley's novel is that the monster is more human than his creator.

As exemplified in his attitudes towards the Delaceys, Frankenstein's creature is essentially the Rousseauian "noble savage" and, like those in the nurturing Frankenstein family, he is affable and kind. However, he is later rejected and treated cruelly, a condition that leads him to act in similar fashion as he suffers so terribly from his alienation.  Through the use of parallels, Mart Shelley demonstrates that without proper nurturing, man becomes capable of extreme cruelty.

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