Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1421
Essential Passage 1: Letter 2
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But I have one want which I have never yet been able to satisfy; and the absence of the object of which I now feel as a most severe evil. I have no friend, Margaret: when I am glowing with the enthusiasm of success, there will be none to participate in my joy; if I am assailed by disappointment, no one will endeavor to sustain me in dejection. I shall commit my thoughts to paper, it is true; but that is a poor medium for the communication of feeling. I desire the company of a man who could sympathise with me; whose eyes would reply to mine. You may deem me romantic, my dear sister, but I bitterly feel the want of a friend. I have no one near me, gentle yet courageous, possessed of a cultivated as well as of a capacious mind, whose tastes are like my own, to approve or amend my plans. How would such a friend repair the faults of your poor brother!
Robert Walton has long had the dream of sailing to uncharted regions at the North Pole. In the age of exploration in the eighteenth century, daring individuals continue to try to find a route, a Northwest Passage, around the northern shores of the North American continent. With an inheritance, Walton has supplied himself with a ship and crew, spending years in the preparations. Now, he is ready to begin his voyage, leaving from the northern port of Archangel in Russia. Yet fulfilling his dream has become less important as he realizes his loneliness and his friendless condition. He confesses to his sister, Margaret, that he is lonely on the voyage, as much as he was throughout his life. He yearns for a kindred spirit, a bosom companion to share his thoughts and dreams. Not only companionship, but accountability is what Walton desires. His hopes are for someone who will guide him away from his faults and toward a life of honor and nobility.
Essential Passage 2: Chapter 2
...We possessed a house in Geneva, and a campagne on Belrive, the eastern shore of the lake, at the distance of rather more than a league from the city. We reside principally in the latter, and the lives of my parents were passed in considerable seclusion. It was my temper to avoid a crowd, and to attach myself fervently to a few. I was indifferent, therefore, to my schoolfellows in general; but I united myself in the bonds of the closest friendship to one among them. Henry Clerval was the son of a merchant of Geneva.
Victor grows up in a close and loving family. Being the eldest son, he enjoys his parents undivided attention until he is seven years of age, when his brother Ernest is born. Living in the Swiss city of Geneva, the family also has a country home where they spent most of the time. The family, along with Victor, lives in relative seclusion from their neighbors. The home in Belrive is open only to those who reside there, and the chosen few who are invited to become a part of the Frankenstein circle. There Victor gains a single friend, Henry Clerval. He avoids most of the boys his own age, choosing a solitary existence, except for Henry. Though many friendships are available to him, he rejects them all in favor of just one. Henry Clerval will then be his chief, and indeed only, friend outside his immediate family, and will play a part in the story. Henry eventually joins Victor in Ingolstadt after Victor creates the monster.
Essential Passage 3: Chapter 10
How can I move thee? Will no entreaties cause thee to turn a favourable eye upon thy creature, who implores thy goodness and compassion? Believe me, Frankenstein: I was benevolent; my soul glowed with love and humanity: but am I not alone, miserably alone? You, my creator, abhor me; what hope can I gather from your fellow-creatures, who owe me nothing? They spurn and hate me. The desert mountains and dreary glaciers are my refuge. I have wandered here many days’ the caves of ice, which I only do not fear, are a dwelling to me, and the only one which man does not grudge. These bleak skies I hail, for they are kinder to me than your fellow-beings. If the multitude of mankind knew of my existence, they would do as you do, and arm themselves for my destruction.
The creature has met Victor in a cave in the sea of ice in the mountains. He has told Victor of his travels, from the time when Victor abandoned him at his apartments in Ingolstadt, through his wanderings through the villages and forest to Germany, where he encounters the DeLacey family. From the latter, the creature learns to speak and read, enabling him to join the human community. But his endeavors have been in vain, for he is shunned and tormented because of his appearance. As Victor has rejected him, so have all people. In this the creature feels the intense loneliness of the outcast. Although born with a heart full of goodness and love, the creature meets nothing but hate. He has found himself in the caves of ice, immune to the cold. The ice is warmer than the humans he has encountered. He knows that, if the people below knew of his living in the caves, they would travel as Victor has done, to put him to death if they can.
Analysis of Essential Passages
Though Frankenstein is often promoted as a horror story, the horror lies not in the terror of the unknown, but in the unloved. Loneliness is at the heart of the fear that pervades the hearts of the three major characters.
Robert Walton sets the foundation of the absence of companionship as he writes to his sister of his loneliness. Earthly accomplishment cannot fill the void in his life that a true friend would. Although surrounded by crew members, he cannot find a true kindred spirit, someone to share his dreams, his aspirations, his faults, and his failures. The emptiness of the Arctic mirrors the emptiness of his life. He seeks a passage through the ice, as he hopes to find a soul with him he can share true friendship.
In the Romantic era, friendship between men often took the tone that in today’s culture would sound more like a physical relationship, yet it would be a misinterpretation. True friendship, both between men and between women, was often held much higher than it is in the modern world. Someone with whom one can share the feelings that only someone of one’s own gender could was considered to be even higher than that between a man and a woman. Thus, though the modern reader may feel uncomfortable with the some of the expressions used, such as in Walton’s letter, to read more into it would be a gross misinterpretation.
It is against this presentation of friendship with which Victor does not fully fall in line. Although he has a close relationship with Henry Clerval, it is not the same as that described by Walton as the desire of his heart. Victor’s weakness lies in his isolation from others. This separate is thus at the heart of his inability to connect with his creature. It is a flaw of the heart, rather than horror, that causes Victor to reject the creature. It is his lack of loneliness that leads to the terror.
It is the creature himself that presents the horror of complete loneliness. He is separated and rejected from all humanity, as well as his creator. He is the picture of a person without family, with friend, with God. The loneliness is not due to any action he himself has taken, but to the evil of others in their rejection of him based on appearance. A loving heart, the creature has done nothing deserve the isolation. Thus forced apart, he now pledges himself to make himself deserving of this separation. By one murderous act after another, the creature brings the darkness of total loneliness closer and closer to Victor.
The message of Frankenstein, a product of the Age of Romanticism, is thus not a fear of the unknown. It is a fear of the results of rejection, of refusing love to those who have a right to expect that love from us. The horror is not in the creature. It is loneliness that each of us fears.