I enjoyed this scene; and yet my enjoyment was embittered both by the memory of the past, and the anticipation of the future. I was formed for peaceful happiness. During my youthful days discontent never visited my mind; and if I was ever overcome by ennui, the sight of what is beautiful in nature, or the study of what is excellent and sublime in the productions of man, could always interest my heart, and communicated elasticity to my spirits. But I am a blasted tree; the bolt has entered my soul; and I felt then that I should survive to exhibit what I shall soon cease to be – a miserable spectacle of wrecked humanity, pitiable to others, and intolerable to myself.
Surrounded by the majesty of nature, Victor Frankenstein briefly self-reflects on a troubled time in his life. Victor lives while his younger brother and housekeeper are dead, complies to his own creation that causes him grief, and walks with the bitter knowledge of his creation that only he understands. In essence, Victor is disillusioned. Although he believed his pursuit of knowledge was worthwhile, his inherent personality traits twisted his fate. Despite his past experiences, Victor cannot overcome his excessive desire for great status and independence.
In the following lines, Victor’s description of his life as a youth can be seen as incongruent with the reader’s knowledge. He was “formed for peaceful happiness” and that the “sight of what is beautiful in nature” or the “study of what is excellent and sublime” comforted him (Shelley 165). Without context, it might be assumed that Victor lived a carefree, scholarly life and occasionally peered out the window. But the events of his life are far different. Although Victor’s parents appropriately taught him to show love to his siblings, Victor’s thirst for knowledge gradually separated him. Since his father was not scientific, Victor taught himself the subjects of electricity and galvanism (42). His journey towards the valley of Chamounix provided him “relief from [his] intolerable sensations” despite Elizabeth’s plea to “stay true to each other, here in this land of peace and beauty” (96-97). His great diligence in studying human physiology was based more on seeking individual glory and reputation. He admits that even he was “surprised, that among so many men of genius,” he discovered the creation of life (53). It is also important to note that instead of using boredom, Victor uses “ennui” to describe a feeling. By definition, it shows a lack of interest, but it can also suggest superiority to others who don’t do anything useful. Victor did find solace in nature and his work, but it was true only on a surface level. To be more accurate, Victor was formed around peaceful happiness. His family was supportive and when tragedy struck, they made the necessary sacrifices for the good of the group. Victor doesn’t follow this belief and willingly leaves, highlighting how different he is from the rest of his family. His dangerous devotion to his interests even forces his isolation in pursuit of scientific glory. His family does not tell him to follow this path; rather, Victor considers his goals above his own family and chooses to become more important. In this way, Victor has lived a life rooted in selfish, egotistical reasons.
Victor then calls himself a “blasted tree” (165). In comparison to the “blasted stump” in Volume 1, Chapter 2, this metaphor shows that Victor was not completely ruined but still affected nonetheless (42). Before, Victor made the fundamental shift away from the teachings of Cornelius Agrippa and turned towards mathematics and related sciences. It is also at this point that he felt souls were “bound to prosperity or ruin” (43). Instead of souls, however, Victor is bound by his own personality traits. By comparing himself to a blasted tree, his desire for independence and self-importance is revealed. A tree stands in isolation, growing as it can, until it’s unable to or met by force. By some chance, unlike other trees, the tree is struck, differentiating it from the rest. Now, being a blasted tree, Victor is the one who warns wanderers that decide to take a walk through the wilderness; he essentially becomes important. Victor knows he cannot escape the lightning strike because of his own inherent personality. His own ambition and unwillingness to reconsider the consequences of his actions has now set him the task of remaking another creature.
In the final part of the passage, Victor states that he is “a miserable spectacle of wrecked humanity, pitiable to others, and intolerable to myself” (165). This final condemnation drives the point of his own personality faults affecting his fate. In other words, Victor considers himself to be a distinctive display of failure as a human being. His desires have completely turned to its worst possible case. His grueling creation will now only make him infamous and with the fiend constantly overhead, he cannot even have an ounce of freedom. This is why Victor states he is “intolerable to myself” as his core desires have now been taken away.
While the reader listens to Victor’s narration, his words and actions convey someone who is selfish and self-important. His personality drives him to terrible consequences even when he realizes his faults. Yet, Victor, unlike Robert, does not change course and accepts his fate.