Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 756
The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White is an updated version of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein for young adult readers, published on the 200th anniversary of the original, which examines the story from the point of view of Elizabeth Lavenza.
An orphan brought into the Frankenstein home to be a companion for young Victor, Elizabeth finds herself in a precarious social position. Neither an employee nor a family member, she understands she must do her job to act as a check on Victor’s rages or she could be turned out of the Frankenstein home to face a world with no money, no formal education, and no practical skills. As she and Victor grow up together, Elizabeth feels increasingly responsible for him. When Victor stops responding to her letters and appears to go missing, Elizabeth and the Frankenstein governess, Justine, travel to Ingolstadt to find him.
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En route to Ingolstadt, Elizabeth spins a tale for Justine about how she first met Victor. While Justine expresses delight over the story, Elizabeth reflects,
Words and stories were tools to elicit the desired reactions on others, and I was an expert craftswoman.
She acknowledges that due to her circumstances, she must manipulate, flirt, and tell lies in order to get what she needs. She’s aware that lying may not be the best tactic and that withholding the truth from the sincere Justine could damage their friendship, but feels she has little choice. Throughout the novel, Elizabeth shows how artful she is at lying, storytelling, and covering up for Victor’s misdeeds and for getting what she wants—in particular, security from poverty. In this manner, Elizabeth is just as much a creator and artificer as Victor.
When they are young, Victor and Elizabeth are constant companions, exploring the grounds of the remote Frankenstein home. When Victor starts formal education, Elizabeth feels envy and turns to art as compensation. While the others remark on her work, she notes,
But really, it was a way of escaping back into the wilderness when I was trapped inside.
This aside illustrates the talent and intelligence she possesses but can’t use openly in a society that doesn’t allow women to be formally educated. Elizabeth has as much ambition as Victor but can’t employ it through regular, open channels. Again, she has to turn to artifice to fulfill her needs.
In Ingolstadt, when Elizabeth, Justine, and book store clerk Mary search for Victor’s last known address, Elizabeth thinks,
I did not repent my distance from God. If I wanted help, I would find it for myself.
Her expression of frustration at her fate and responsibilities also indicates an independent spirit. If Victor is playing God by becoming a creator of life, then Elizabeth supports his boldness with her own turning away from traditional belief.
The need for creation and artifice carries over into...
(The entire section contains 756 words.)
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