Everybody Needs Henry Clerval

In each of the three volumes of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Henry Clerval is present, seemingly understated, and, yet, forms one of the most integral parts of the story. Although introduced as a boy of singular talent, Henry can do far more. Besides being a nicer, less sickly counterpart to Victor, free from dealing with the plight of his friend, Henry has helped far more. It is largely because, through his own actions and inactions, Henry Clerval represents the necessity of friendship.

Simply by appearing throughout Victor Frankenstein’s life, Clerval provides company and removes isolation. Going by the second letter, even Robert agrees with the necessity of having someone who would not “despise me as a romantic.” For the years spent at sea, he needed someone who was willing to hear his thoughts and considered its absence a “severe evil.” Even Victor’s creation desires company. After his long tale, the fiend’s sole request is another companion; else, he would cause fear and injury. In some sense, Victor is lucky. When Frankenstein meets Clerval, his familiar face made him felt “for the first time during many months, calm and serene joy.” After spending years toiling in isolation, now Victor’s own spirits are raised, does not become reduced to causing mayhem such as the fiend, nor does he continue towards pursuits that puts his “body to hardship.”

Clerval also gives Victor Frankenstein the will to live and the feeling that he still belongs in society. Physically, Clerval gives Frankenstein the will to live by nursing him from his sickness. In a later chapter, Clerval’s own enjoyment of existence consoles him and “soothes his heart.” In contrast with Frankenstein’s creation, the fiend has no “Henry Clerval”, and the small chance of a possible companion is torn right in front of him. Then, through what may be considered poetic justice, the fiend destroys Frankenstein’s very own will to live.

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