Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 375
The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein (2018) by Kiersten White features as its primary protagonist and narrator Elizabeth Lavenza. The titular Elizabeth is only a secondary character in Mary Shelley's 1918 novel, Frankenstein, of which White's book is a re-telling.
The novel opens with Elizabeth recounting her history at the Frankenstein household to the governess, Justine (as well as to the readers). Elizabeth was brought to the Frankenstein house at the age of five to be a companion for Victor. Elizabeth's mother died in childbirth, and, as a result of her orphaned status, Elizabeth was treated cruelly in the orphanage. At the novel's outset, Elizabeth feels desperate for Victor's attention. Moreover, she feels literally dependent on him for his existence, as she is indebted to the family for having adopted her. The first half of the novel largely comprises Elizabeth's remembrance of and search for Victor, who has gone away to college. By the end of the novel, Elizabeth is a liberated woman with her own sense of identity.
Victor Frankenstein is, in a way, another narrator; the novel includes letters from Victor and excerpts from his journal. To the extent that he is a narrator, Victor is certainly unreliable; the major twist in the novel is that Victor himself was behind the killing of his brother, William, and his childhood friend, Henry.
Another major character is Justine, a governess in residence at the Frankenstein household who is in charge of Victor's younger brothers, Ernest and William. Justine is not only a tutor to the younger Frankenstein boys, but she is also a confidante to Elizabeth. The reader learns much of Elizabeth and Victor's history by means of a flashback to events that Elizabeth tells to Justine. Justine proves to be a loyal friend, traveling to Germany to help find Victor. Unfortunately, Justine is framed for the death of one of the boys, William, and herself executed.
Other minor characters include Mary, a bookseller, who knows Victor and directs Justine and Elizabeth to his whereabouts. Another casualty of the novel is Henry, Victor's childhood friend whom the latter killed. Finally, the Creature himself can rightly be considered a character, as he is named Adam and makes a well-intentioned effort to help Elizabeth.