Letters In Sympathy

In the 1831 edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein the ideas of sympathy and human connection are of vital importance. The characters of Walton, Victor, and the Creature are all looking for sympathy through the relationships that they forge, however not all find it attainable. In the end Walton is the only character that learns from his mistakes and succeeds at maintaining relations with those close to him. The frame narrative of Walton, which begins and ends the novel, is in the form of letters implying that the epistolary structure has a function beyond its outward appearance. Epistolary novels are grounded in the idea of connection and correspondence, and in Shelley’s case Walton’s ability to triumph over Victor’s and the Creature’s oral stories with his letters. Contrastingly, oral storytelling is based on fictional and mythical tales meant to excite or scare an audience, not create connections. Through the epistolary nature of the correspondence with his sister, Walton is able to maintain a relationship in ways that Victor and the Creature cannot, ultimately making his character capable of sympathy where Victor and the Creature are ultimately lacking.

In order to fully understand why Walton’s letters make him the most sympathetic and redeemable character, one must first examine the epistolary novel and its function in nineteenth century literature. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word epistolary is defined as “of or relating to letters or letter-writing.” In the nineteenth century it was very normal to write letters on a daily basis, as telephones and the Internet did not exist; in the 1800’s letters were the only way to maintain a relationship. Mary A. Favret states in her article “The Letters of Frankenstein”, that the epistolary novel of the nineteenth century represents “connections and continuity” and “human correspondence in an age of instability and incertitude.” With this philosophy in mind, it is simple to see that the frame narrative of Shelley’s novel encompasses these characteristics. Walton is constantly writing to his sister complaining of loneliness and his desire for “the company of a man who could sympathise with [him]”, signifying his yearning for connection from both his sister and those around him (Shelley 19). The letters serve as a stark contrast to the tales of Victor and his Creature, who never quite master the art of correspondence. In victor’s case, he rarely replies to the heartfelt letters he receives from his family, altogether forgoing the use of letters to keep in touch with his loved ones. In the Creature’s case, he is so shunned by society that he is incapable of having correspondence with anyone but his creator who hates him. It is therefore fitting that Walton’s narrative takes the form of letters, representing his ability to keep in touch, and that Victor’s and the Creature’s narratives take on the form of oral storytelling, implying a transitory and fictional nature with regard to their relations.

While Walton, Victor, and the Creature all arguably desire human connections at some point in the novel – although with varying degrees of want – only Walton is able to truly forge those connections through the constant correspondence with his sister. Walton’s letters typically include terms of endearment such as “my dear sister” as he constantly reminds his sister that he “love[s] [her] very tenderly”, marking him as someone that earnestly wants to have meaningful relationships despite his ambitions (Shelley 23, 22). The fact that this is done through an epistolary form only reiterates that fact. For Victor, relationships are only forged through spoken incidents. Similarly, the story he tells to Walton and their sequential relationship is based off of his verbal recollections. As Walton and his letters signify correspondence and connection, it is only logical to conclude that Victor and his preference for the word of mouth signify ineptitude for the same. Furthermore, at a time when Victor finds happiness through nature he out rightly states that he prefers the solitude as “the presence of another would destroy” the experience, an attitude that mirrors the one he had in university and has throughout the rest of his life (Shelley 100). Contrastingly, the Creature actually does wish for relationships only to be “irrevocably excluded”, turning him into a “fiend” incapable of forging relationships (Shelley 103). When trying to appeal to people he also forgoes letters and instead uses the spoken word, signifying that like Victor he is incapable of keeping up relationships the way Walton does.

Victor and the Creature do go through experiences that make their characters sympathetic, but their lack of human connections and inability to recognize the error of their ways prevents them from truly gaining sympathy. Jeanne M. Britton argues in her article “Novelistic Sympathy in Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’”, that the overlaying frames of stories within Shelley’s novel are of importance because “the impossibility of sympathy silences each voice and concludes each frame” (6). Following this pattern, Victor and the Creature can be seen as sympathetic at some point in the novel, however they ultimately fail in gaining said sympathy leaving the novel to end with Walton and his letters. Victor watches his loved ones die around him, providing his character sympathy, but he is continuously portrayed as self-centered. He constantly reminds himself of the “labours [he] endured”, a character trait that marks him as incapable of having relationships with others (Shelley 143). Although one can argue Walton does sympathize with Victor, calling him “the brother of [his] heart”, this sympathy arises early on in Victor’s tale and in the end Walton decides to do what Victor never could: return to his loved ones; the sympathy that Walton may have held for Victor dies along with him. On his deathbed Victor remains full of hate and self-pity saying he “must pursue and destroy the being to whom [he] gave existence; then [his] lot on earth will be fulfilled”, denoting his lack of remorse for the terrible things he has done (Shelley 215). Shelley’s portrayal of Victor as a selfish man with an inability to own up to his mistakes and show remorse implies that his character is not deserving of sympathy. Likewise, the Creature wallows in self-pity, continuously reminding Victor that he feels like “a blot upon the earth” (Shelley 123). While he has certainly endured a difficult existence being shunned by society, his violent behavior creates a character that is truly unsympathetic. Circumstance is arguably what turns him into a violent monster, but his lack of ability to recognize the errors of his ways and right his wrongs is what makes him undeserving of sympathy.

Where Victor and the Creature lack the ability to change and show remorse, Walton understands his mistakes and genuinely wants to repair his relationships, making him the only character truly deserving of sympathy. Originally a selfish and ambitious man like Victor, Walton has a change of heart after Victor’s tale and writes to his sister “encompassed by peril” that he will never get the chance to return home (Shelley 215). Walton undergoes a transformation where he decides to “[return] to England” and “the dearer friends that inhabit it,” confirming that the constant correspondence with his sister gives him the ability to recognize his mistakes where Victor’s and the Creature’s isolation could not (Shelley 218, 215). In the end, Victor’s tale is a mere tool for Walton to recognize the error of his ways and return to his loved ones. Using Britton’s observations about the frame narratives in Shelley’s novel, one can argue that the fact that Walton’s narrative concludes the story means that he gains sympathy. Victor and the Creature show no remorse for their actions, and make no attempts to change their ways, which finally results in their narratives concluding with a lack of sympathy. Conversely, Walton’s story ends on an open-ended note. The reader is given only the information that he has decided to return home and that he has reminded his loved ones of his affection for them, the rest is up to interpretation. His innate difference from the other characters in the novel combined with Britton’s structural argument verifies that his character is the only one in the novel that is worthy of and receives sympathy.

At the end of the day Frankenstein is a novel about sympathy and the importance of relationships. Victor and the Creature never truly understand the connection between relationships and sympathy, ultimately leaving them alone and unsympathetic. Walton, on the other hand, comprehends what they cannot and gains sympathy through remorse and correspondence in his letters. Where Victor’s and the Creature’s oral stories of self-pity fail them, Walton’s epistolary narrative of righting wrongs and cherishing those around him leads him into a life of love and understanding.

Works Cited

Britton, Jeanne M. “Novelistic Sympathy in Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’”. Studies in             Romanticism 48.1 (2009): 3–22. Web.

“epistolary, adj. and n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, December 2015. Web. 5                         December 2015.

Favret, Mary A. “The Letters of Frankenstein.” Genre 20 (1987): 3-24. Web.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Ed. Maurice Hindle. London: Penguin, 1994. Print.




A Failed Prometheus

In her novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1831), Mary Shelley alludes to the myths of Prometheus as the creator and champion of mankind as a method to cast Victor Frankenstein in a negative light. Shelley’s novel, as suggested by the subtitle, slightly diverges from the traditional myths to emphasize a shift from an ancient story of heroism and responsibility to a modern one of cowardice and negligence. While Harriet Hustis’ article “Responsible Creativity and the ‘Modernity’ of Mary Shelley’s Prometheus” argues that Shelley’s modernization of the legends of Prometheus centers on Victor’s lack of responsibility towards his creation through the abandonment of his hideous child, Hustis’ analysis can be extended to include additional circumstances of departure from the myths that alter the perception of the true nature of Victor’s character. Although Victor parallels the character of Prometheus through his innovative role as a creator and his consequent subjection to a life of anguish, his contrasting selfish intentions, unjust treatment of his creation, and unresolved suffering ultimately shape him as a failed Prometheus.

While both Victor and the mythological character of Prometheus exhibit the characteristics of a creator, demonstrating a shared desire to instill life where none exists, Victor’s motives prove egocentric and contrast the selfless intentions of his counterpart. Victor’s initial infatuation with science stems from a mere childhood “curiosity” to understand the unknown and hidden “secret[s]” of the universe (Shelley 38). However, as pleasurable feelings of “rapture” and “deligh[t]” begin to accompany his studies, prompting Victor to embark on a journey of self and formal education, Shelley emphasizes that Victor’s interests are becoming fueled by alternative motives (Shelley 38). As Victor ages, his academic dedication results from an increasing desire for self-satisfaction rather than solely a thirst for knowledge. Therefore, through Victor’s realization that he would only be “grati[fied]” (Shelley 53) if he could “unfold to the world” a discovery of the “deepest mysteries of creation” and power (Shelley 49), it becomes apparent that Shelley alludes to the “obscur[e]” legend of Prometheus as the “maker of man” (Hustis 850). Shelley reveals that her modernization of the altruistic mythological character begins to take its shape with a disparity of intentions. According to the legend, Prometheus is given a task by the superior authority of Zeus to construct the human race. Prometheus utilizes “clay,” a substance generated from water and the earth, to meticulously mold and configure each being in the “image of the gods” (Raggio 46). While the ambiguity of this myth variation leaves limited explanation, a close reading of Prometheus’ creative process, namely his materials and inspiration, suggests the virtue of his intentions and highlights Shelley’s divergence from the legend. In carefully crafting each individual mortal to mirror the divine magnificence of those residing mightily in the heavens, Prometheus strives to position the human race, while inferior to the gods, as differentiated from and of higher status than the beasts of the earth. With an upright stature and appealing demeanor, Prometheus enables humankind to reach closer to Mount Olympus, more dignified and worthy of the gods’ attention. However, in contrast to his counterpart, Victor independently and of his own accord decides to undertake a similarly “bold” project (Shelley 52). Through a declaration that he can accomplish what the “wisest [of] men” could not, Victor, demonstrating hubris, discloses his belief that he is greater than his own kind (Shelley 53). Victor further conveys that when he succeeds, expressed haughtily without doubt in a matter of fact statement, he will create a new generation of organisms that will both “bless” him and shower him with “gratitude” (Shelley 55). Insinuating that he can and will reach a God-like status of divinity, Victor not only further discloses his conceit, but also his underlying motives to elevate his prestige among society. With the hope that he might receive “glory” and fame if credited as the first individual to achieve the unfathomable, Victor reveals that, unlike Prometheus who acts in the interest of the well-being of others, he is motivated by the idea of self-promotion (Shelley 42). As a result, Victor, acting solely with a selfish expectation for instant recompense, fails to mirror the diligence and thoughtfulness of his counterpart’s creative process. Despite his recognition of the insufficiency of his ingredients, Victor resolves to continue the construction of his creation with elements of the human body “corrup” and “degraded” by death” (Shelley 53). Victor parallels Prometheus through his utilization of inanimate materials. However, the grotesque nature of his decaying parts drastically contrasts the wholesome substances of his counterpart; implying that Victor’s character, actions, and motives are associated with darkness and negativity. Furthermore, in finding that the elaborate and minute “intricacies” (Shelley 54) of the human figure would “impede the [speed] and progress” of his project (Hustis 848), Victor chooses to expand the frame of his being to one of “gigantic stature” (Shelley 54). In addition to his blatant remiss of using inadequate human remains, Victor’s desire to disregard minor and time-consuming details highlights a further divergence from Prometheus’ demonstration of pensive consideration. Victor demonstrates through his process that his focus is on the “abstraction” and achievement of creating life rather than the quality of his creation (Hustis 848). Although he can be perceived to emulate God or a demi-god like that of Prometheus through the embodiment of the power and innovative role of a creator, Victor fails to exemplify Prometheus’ God-like mentality of selflessness and integrity. While Prometheus is depicted with a concern for how his creations come into existence, mindful of the traits they will exhibit and the condition of the lives they will lead, Victor is characterized only with a concern for his own success. As a contrast to his unselfish and benevolent counterpart, Victor is perceived as self-centered and ultimately cast in an unfavorable light.

Through a focus on the relationship between a creator and his creation, Shelley emphasizes that, unlike the mythological character of Prometheus, Victor demonstrates an abuse of creative power and a lack of responsibility towards his progeny; modernizing an ancient story of compassion and support to one of indifference and abandonment. Despite his efforts to establish mankind as the supreme species, Prometheus learns upon completion that “all the gifts of nature” were allocated “among the animals” (Raggio 45). While the beasts of the earth were bestowed with greater strength, speed, and bodily defense systems like sharp teeth, scales, and fur, the human race was left vulnerable and defenseless. Mankind, “naked…[,]unprotected,” and unable to survive on their own, ultimately represents the inferior species (Raggio 45). As Victor looks upon the hideous and uncanny appearance of the being that “lay at [his] feet…convulsi[ing with] motion,” he similarly reveals that the fulfillment of his desire did not turn out as intended (Shelley 58). Through the grotesque and animalistic deformations of semitransparent “yellow skin,” “watery eyes,” “straight black lips,” and a “shriveled complexion,” (Shelley 58) Victor reveals that his creation appears nothing like himself or a being as “wonderful as man” (Shelley 54). Although each creator reveals that the product of their toils fails to align with their visions, Victor, contrasting the sympathetic emotions of Prometheus with expressions of bitter disappointment and dread, perceives this event as a horrifying disaster rather than as heart breaking. Therefore, alluding to the “primary” legend of Prometheus as a fire-bearer, Shelley reveals that her modernization further stems from an emphasis on the divergence of each character’s reactions as a result of their individual interpretations (Hustis 846). Upon learning that his creations are destined to suffer lives of pain, despair, and hardships, Prometheus is immediately filled with sorrow. “Inspired by pity” and his recognition of humankind’s state of helplessness, Prometheus chooses to intervene and consequently, “steals fire” from the gods on Mount Olympus to give to the human race (Hustis 847). With fire came survival and a newfound ability to excel in the arts of agriculture, tool making, and weaponry. With this gift of “reason and wisdom” came civilization and thus, the prosperity and superiority of mankind (Raggio 45). In contrast, Victor expresses “breathless horror and disgust” at the “demoniacal” appearance of his creation (Shelley 58,59). This declaration of his personal fear and revulsion in addition to the grotesque and animalistic description of the being’s physical appearance further discloses Victor’s disapproval and adverse feelings towards his creation. As he refers to his creation solely as a “thing” and a “creature,” it becomes apparent that Victor exhibits detachment (Shelley 58). Through a refusal to recognize his creation as human or even as his child, Victor not only reveals that he is “unable to endure” and love a thing so frightening and ugly, but also that he desires to separate himself from a monstrous achievement that will taint his reputation (Shelley 58). Therefore, while Prometheus demonstrates compassion and a desire to help through an understanding of his “offspring[s’] need for…guidance…and support,” Victor, unwilling to embody the parental role of his counterpart, abandons his creation (Hustis 845). With inhuman characteristics and a horrifying physicality, Victor’s creation is perceived as a monster and destined to suffer the life of an outcast. However, unlike Prometheus who hoped to ensure the “survival [and] long-term happiness” of his children, Victor, consumed with fear and distaste, turns his back on his only child (Hustis 848). By denying his creation of affection[,]” and endearment as well as the knowledge of how to assimilate into society, Victor ultimately condemns his creature to a life of exclusion and misery (Shelley 103). As a result, while Prometheus is depicted as heroic by alleviating the sufferings of his progeny, Victor is perceived as negligent and, in turn, abusive. Exemplifying the source of his creation’s afflictions through his cowardice and selfishness, Victor fails to mirror the responsibility exhibited by his counterpart and consequently, is perceived as lesser in character.

Although Victor and the mythological character of Prometheus each endure the consequences from their decisions as creators, unlike Prometheus, Victor’s suffering proves unresolved and as a result, suggests the immorality of both his actions and the nature of his character. Through Victor’s choice to make man and Prometheus’ decision to steal fire from Zeus, each character “undertak[s an] act of daring responsibility” manifested in the form of a defiance of supreme authority (Hustis 847). Despite the successes of both Victor and Prometheus as they come to possess the power of a divine entity, namely God and the gods of Mount Olympus respectively, each character must face the ramifications of the implementation of their “creative power” (Hustis 846). While both Victor and Prometheus are subjected to a life of misery, Victor suffers emotionally whereas Prometheus endures physical torture. As Victor’s creation begins to embark on a “murderous rampage” as a result of his rejection and abandonment (Hustis 852), killing his creator’s loved-ones, Victor becomes filled with a “heart-sickening despair” (Shelley 87). Victor conveys that in addition to a life defined by “miserable reflections” of an accomplishment that failed to fulfill his aspirations for acclaim and esteem, he now also suffers the pain and anguish that stems from the horrific and “unalterable evils” committed by his creation (Shelley 94,95). Due to an abuse of power through negligence, exemplified in the “thoughtles[sness]” of both the generation and spurning of his creation, Victor is consumed not only with unhappiness and regret, but also the tormenting emotions of anxiety, apprehension, and terror as he awaits the arrival of another abhorrent incident (Shelley 95). According to the legends, Prometheus was similarly left to endure a miserable life of agony as a punishment for his “transgres[sion]” (Hustis 846). With a desire to sustain the existence of the human race, Prometheus defies the will of Zeus and bestows the unknown element of fire to humankind as a gift to promote societal advancement and survival. As a punishment, Prometheus is “bound…[with] chains” to a post and left to have his liver “feasted on” by an eagle (Philips 296). Prometheus, an immortal demi-god, “regenerat[es]” his liver each night and consequently, is exposed to the same physical trauma every day (Philips 296). However, according to many myth variations, Prometheus’ suffering, unlike that of Victor, proves not to be a life sentence. While Prometheus’ life of misery ends with the “slay[ing] of the eagle” by Heracles (Philips 296), Victor explains that only “in death” will “his spirit…[finally] sleep in peace” (Shelley 225). Therefore, Shelley’s modernization emphasizes a “departure” from the ending of the traditional myths (Hustis 845). Through the consideration of each character’s intentions and utilization of power, it becomes apparent that Shelley’s divergence exemplifies a tactic to highlight Victor as a morally corrupt and reprehensible character. While each character commits an offense, Prometheus’ “rebellion” is not only perceived as an act of “audacity,” but also a “gesture of compassion” and responsibility to change the “benighted state” of mankind (Hustis 847,848). In contrast to the egocentric character of Victor who cruelly spurns his creation out fear for the damage it might inflict on his life and reputation, Prometheus reveals his will to suffer for the well-being of others. When comparing the bravery of Prometheus and the goodness of his intentions to the self-promoting, cowardly, and immoral nature of Victor, Shelley casts Prometheus as heroic, honorable, self-sacrificing, and – unlike Victor – undeserving of punishment. By creating a disparity of endings through Prometheus’ sudden release and Victor’s unresolved suffering, Shelley not only implies Victor’s guilt, but also the ugliness of his true nature.

In her novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, Mary Shelley alludes to the traditional myths of Prometheus as the maker of man and the savior of the human race as a tactic to shape Victor Frankenstein as a failed Prometheus. While Prometheus is cast as selfless, willing to suffer for the survival and advancement of the human race, Victor, failing to mirror the heroism of his counterpart, abandons and rejects his own creation out of fear and self-interest. By modernizing, or diverging from, the legends through differing motives, reactions, and resolutions, Shelly highlights the true egocentric and morally corrupt nature of Victor.

Works Cited

Hustis, Harriet. “Responsible Creativity and the ‘Modernity’ of Mary Shelley’s Prometheus.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 43.4 (2003): 845-58. JSTOR. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.

Philips, F. Carter, Jr. “Narrative Compression and the Myths of Prometheus in Hesiod.” The Classical Journal 68.4 (1973): 289-305. JSTOR. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.

Raggio, Olga. “The Myth of Prometheus: Its Survival and Metamorphoses up to the Eighteenth Century.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtald Institutes 21.1/2 (1958): 44-62. JSTOR. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus: Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Maurice Hindle; Revised Edition (Penguin Classics). Ed. Maurice Hindle. London: Penguin Group, 2003. Print.

Skin Deep

Appendix: ‘You, who call Frankestein your friend, seem to have a knowledge of my crimes and his misfortunes. But, in the detail which he gave you of them, he could not sum up the hours and months of misery which I endured, wasting in impotent passions. For while I have destroyed his hopes, I did not satisfy my own desires. They were forever ardent and craving; still I desired love and fellowship, and I was still spurned. Was there no injustice in this? Am I to be thought the only criminal, when all human kind sinned against me? Why do you not hate Felix, who drove his friend from the door with contumely? Why do you not execrate the rustic who sought to destroy the saviour of his child? Nay, they are virtuous and immaculate beings! I, the miserable and the abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on. Even now my blood boils at the recollection of this injustice.’ Shelley, page 223-224.

          Mary Shelley’s epistolary Frankenstein chronicles the descent into madness of its title character, Victor Frankestein, after his success in creating and animating a human-like being. The nameless creature chases and torments Frankenstein until his death in the Arctic, where the creature comes face-to-face with the man dictating the story. Published in 1818, the novel was surrounded by concepts and ideas that find their origins in the romantic ideals of the 18th century. Not to be confused with the Romanticism of some of Shelley’s contemporaries, the impressions of these romantic ideals can be felt strongly in the correlation drawn between outward beauty and inward virtuosity and goodness. Through the voice of Victor Frakenstein, the idea that one’s appearance is directly informed and shaped by the presence of natural goodness is reinforced repeatedly in the novel. This ideal is one that consistently informs the treatment of the creation, and the creature itself directly confronts this superficiality with a barrage of rhetorical questions. These questions force Walton and his audience, the readers, to turn a critical eye inwards and address the source of the fear that guided the treatment of the creature.

            The passage being addressed takes place on the penultimate page of the novel, at the moment when the creature visits the dead Frankenstein. Before delving into the heart of the passage, however, there’s a moment in the first line of the selection that casts an interesting shadow on the interpretation of this piece. Recalling again that Frankenstein has been narrating his story to a third party, the monster begins speaking to Walton by saying “You…seem to have a knowledge of my crimes and his misfortunes. But, in the detail which he gave you of them, he could not sum up…the misery which I endured” (Shelley, 223-224). Here the creature very fairly points out a blemish in the situation; Frankenstein has only imparted his half of the exchange with the creature; Victor relayed its crimes and his own suffering at the hands of the creature, but he wasn’t capable of expressing the misery that the creature would have endured during its existence. This immediately savors of unreliable narration, and the creature, having successfully undermined Frankenstein’s narrative authority, lays into Walton with a barrage of questions.

There’s a mild anaphoric element present in the rhetorical questions posed by the creature in the heart of this paragraph. Each statement begins with a form of a question: “Was there”, “Am I,” and “Why…Why” all pepper the reader with the creature’s pain and frustration at the responses he received from humans at no other provocation than his visage. The creature, all the while acknowledging the horrors he committed against Frankenstein in the line “while I have destroyed his hopes” (Shelley, 224), reminds Walton of what he has endured from people he caused no harm. The line “Am I to be thought the only criminal” begs the question of why the humans aren’t treated with the same amount of malice as him, but the sarcastic answer of “Nay, they are virtuous and immaculate beings!” (Shelley, 224) demonstrates the monster’s awareness of the fact that beauty is enough for absolution, and that he is thought to be deserving of rejection because of his appearance. The creature explains that all he desired was “love and fellowship” (Shelley, 224), and he heavily implies in the passage that his crimes are in direct response to the way he was dismissed. Looking at the evidence from this passage, we can begin to unravel how the creature became a monster under the influence of the beauty/morality concept, and in turn undermine the judgmental foundations for the humans’ treatment of the creature.

The Curse of Language


The monster’s reflections on Felix’s history lesson in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein wield oppressive power over him. In learning about the nature of human beings, he dives deeper into knowledge of how he would be perceived by them. As he dwells on the meaning of Felix’s words, he forms a new self-image, one that is informed by the society’s concepts of status and wealth. The monster’s despondent reflections are caused by the knowledge bestowed by human words.

The monster demonstrates an awareness of the power of words after eavesdropping on Felix’s lesson. He is induced by the words to “turn toward [himself] (122),”  stating it so the words place him in a position of subordination. Until now, the monster has obsessed about “acquiring the art of language” (118) and hoped that he could command language in order to introduce himself to the family. After hearing Felix’s lesson, however, he is subjugated by the words’ power, and made to “turn toward [him]self,” away from the human family. He now understands that the tendency for language that he originally embraced is a force that alienates him from humanity.

The monster struggles to define himself with words. “What was I?” he asks himself (123), ignorant of his origins and ancestry, and therefore having no discernable purpose in life. Importantly, defining himself as “what” instead of “who” shows the influence that human perception has on his words. To a human being, the monster is an object. The monster is aware of the fact that if he continues to use the language of man, he is emphasizing his place in the world as an other.

The monster compares himself to a “blot upon the earth” (123), as if the earth were a written document. Essentially, Felix’s dictation from the history book is the monster’s perception of the world, which is oppressively the only avenue for understanding the world that the he has. In this metaphor, the monster would be a misshapen spill of ink, forming no intelligible words. A blot would assuredly be considered a mistake and would never be recognized as a legitimate part of a written work.

The monster proclaims “I cannot describe to you the agony that these reflections inflicted upon me” (123). Again his language demonstrates that he feels victimized, this time by the “reflections” of his new knowledge brought about by Felix’s words. Words are not enough, however, to describe his agony, because it is beyond what human beings are able to experience. In this passage, the addressee is Victor Frankenstein, who, the monsters recognizes, would be unable to understand his level of agony.

Because the monster’s “sorrow only increased with knowledge” (123), he can only avoid it by avoiding learning. Ironically, he originally believed that learning the ways of human beings would help him interact with them and, as a result, he would be happy. Now, the monster wishes that he had remained in nature in ignorance, without having “known nor felt beyond the sensations of hunger, thirst, and heat” (123). Essentially, he wishes he could divorce himself from the human world of written knowledge and become purely animal, recognizing only the things he senses.

Works Cited

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein, Or, The Modern Prometheus. Ed. Maurice Hindle. London: Penguin, 2003. Print.


Selected Passage from Frankenstein (122-3):

‘The words induced me to turn towards myself. I learned that the possessions most esteemed by your fellow-creatures were high and unsullied descent united with riches. A man might be respected with only one of these advantages but, without either, he was considered, except in very rare instances, as a vagabond and a slave, doomed to waste his powers for the profits of the chosen few! And what was I? Of my creation and creator I was absolutely ignorant; but I knew that I possessed no money, no friends, no kind of property. I was, besides, endued with a figure hideously deformed and loathsome; I was not even of the same nature as men. I was more agile than they, and could subsist upon coarser diet; I bore the extremes of heat and cold with less injury to my frame; my stature far exceeded theirs. When I looked around, I saw and heard of none like me. Was I then a monster, a blot upon the earth, from which all men fled, and whom all men disowned?

‘I cannot describe to you the agony that these reflections inflicted upon me: I tried to dispel them, but sorrow only increased with knowledge. Oh, that I had forever remained in my native wood, nor known nor felt beyond the sensations of hunger, thirst, and heat![’]

The Night of Creation

In the first volume of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Chapter V unveils the pivotal creation scene. Rather than immediately depicting the moment Victor Frankenstein’s goals and aspirations finally come to fruition, Shelly strategically inserts a short introductory paragraph that precedes and delays the illustration of this much-anticipated event. Shelley’s utilization of haunting imagery through her incorporation of fervent diction and grim detail generates both an eerie ambiance and a disconcerting setting that not only exemplify characteristics of a Gothic novel, but also prove as tactics to foreshadow a sense of foreboding disaster as well as Victor’s adverse feelings towards his creation.

Through the employment of dark vocabulary to depict both the daunting influence of the weather and the haunting image of a candle, Shelley, conveying elements representative of Gothic fiction, establishes a ghostly tone and instills sensations of horror. The illustration of “a dreary night of November” with “rain patter[ing]” against the windows immediately emphasizes the somber mood and unsettling sounds that typically accompany a storm, generating a gloomy atmosphere (Shelley 58). The description of Victor working past “one in the morning” on a cold, wet, and dark night to the unsteady “glimmer” and decreasing illumination of a “nearly burnt out” candle further paints a haunting image. Late into the hours of darkness when most people are asleep, stores are closed, and towns are quiet, Victor is interrupted solely by the “disma[l]” cadence of rain drops and the sounds of his own labors. Shelley not only fosters feelings of unease through this chilling portrayal of a bleak night penetrated by a morbid silence, but also invokes sensations of dismay through the insinuation of a growing darkness that threatens to enclose Victor as he works in a perceived state of solitude. The image of a “half-extinguished” candle, exemplifying both the passing of time and the lengthy hours Victor has hitherto devoted to his project, discloses that the darkness from outside is slowly bleeding into Victor’s laboratory. This illustration of an incrementally decreasing candlelight, casting shadows and distorting perceptions, not only conveys panic through the possibility of a negatively twisted reality as objects shift in appearance and take on the mien of terrifying shapes, but also indicates that soon a hair-raising blackness will become all consuming.

In associating what should be a bright and happy moment with the downcast mood of a stormy night, the unnerving depiction of darkness, and Victor’s dehumanizing description of his creation through the integration of passionate diction and grotesque imagery, Shelley foreshadows Victor’s detachment and disgust towards his creation. After much hope, apprehension, research, and “toils,” Shelley reveals that Victor finally succeeds in his endeavor to create life. However, the melancholy and unappealing description of unfavorable weather conditions on a cold night instantly generates a feeling of cheerlessness. Additionally, the delineation of an intensifying and overwhelming growth of darkness that threatens to engulf Victor as he works induces a feeling of suffocation. This juxtaposition yields a sense of foreboding, an element of Gothic fiction, and relays an impression of impending doom, exemplifying a tactic to foreshadow not only Victor’s imminent unhappiness, but also future horror and dread that will follow his “accomplishment.” Furthermore, despite Victor’s aspirations to create a human being, in this passage he solely refers to his creation as a “thing” and a “creature.” Rather than referring to his creation as his child or a person, Victor instantly objectifies his creation as an unidentifiable entity as well as identifies the being to hold the inferior status of an animal. This reaction, lacking the feelings of warmth and excitement, indicates Victor’s disapproval. Through the alarming description of a “yellow eye” like that of a lizard, an unnatural and inhuman characteristic, Shelley exemplifies an act of dehumanization and foreshadows Victor’s displeasure with and condemnation of his creation.

With the institution of a morose and ominous setting as well as the unearthly and disturbing description of Victor’s creature, encapsulating qualities of a Gothic novel, it is no surprise that the following paragraph, the central creation scene, communicates the outcome of Victor’s experiment as an unpromising and negative feat. As Victor looks upon the being that “lay at [his] feet…convulsi[ing with] motion,” he describes the event as a “catastrophe.” As Victor gazes upon the hideous and uncanny appearance of his creation, he acknowledges how his creation’s semitransparent “yellow skin,” “watery eyes,” “shriveled complexion,” and “straight black lips” all conjoin in a disastrous, repulsive, and animalistic manner. With the creation’s grotesque deformations offsetting the only human elements of “flowing” hair and “pearly” white teeth, Victor conveys that the fulfillment of his desire to instill life in an inanimate being did not turn out as intended. Revealing the inhuman characteristics and horrifying physicality of the “wretch,” Victor ultimately conveys his unhappiness and distaste for the life he created. He is left to further endure the tormenting emotions of “anxiety,” apprehension, and terror that reside within his own mind.

Through intense diction, grave descriptions, and frightening imagery, Mary Shelley sets the scene for the dramatic phenomenon of Victor’s installment of life. Displaying qualities of Gothic fiction, Shelley invokes inauspicious sensations of imminent misfortune and calamity. In her depiction of a desolate atmosphere, a disturbing darkness, and Victor’s act of dehumanization, Shelley foreshadows both the devastating outcome of Victor’s experiment as well as his dissatisfaction with and fear of his creation that surface in the following paragraph.

Works Cited

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus: Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Maurice Hindle; Revised Edition (Penguin Classics). Ed. Maurice Hindle. London: Penguin Group, 2003. Print.

The Master and the Slave

The Master and the Slave

No other literature quite highlights the danger of becoming a slave to your own invention(s) like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In Victor Frankenstein’s selfish search for knowledge, he creates a being that he is not ready to take responsibility for and it is his downfall. The creator/creation relationship is always there, for Frankenstein will always be the creator and the creature will always be the creation; however, there is a power shift that occurs between them in Volume II when the creature asks Frankenstein to create a mate for him. From there, the connotation leans more toward that of a master/slave dynamic.

A definition in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) states that a “slave” is “One who is completely under the domination of, or subject to, a specified influence” (oed.com). Victor certainly falls into this definition when creating the creature’s female companion, or at least it’s not until then that he starts thinking “chains and darkness were the only objects that pressed upon me” (p.202). Several times, he refers to his predicament as his “slavery”. Conversely, the creature later refers to himself as a “slave, not a master” (p. 222) as he laments over Frankenstein’s corpse. This is profoundly interesting, not because neither sees themselves in the master role, but because earlier, when the creature confronts Victor about destroying the mate, the creation calls his creator a slave! The power dynamic at its most uneven here, he ends the threat, “Slave! You are my creator, but I am your master- obey!” (p.172). The creature blames his behavior on compulsion, “… an impulse, which I detested, yet could not disobey” (p. 222), during his confession to Walton in the final moments of the novel. The creature could not allow Frankenstein any happiness because the scientist could not show his own creation the same kindness. Now that his creator is dead, the urge to ruin his life or have any power is gone; the creature is left with only guilt and retrospection.

In a way, the creation is a slave to existence as well as to his creator. It would certainly fit under one of the OED’s definitions “The condition of being entirely subject to some power or influence” (oed.com); the power or influence being life itself. In his first moments, the creation was cast away into a superficial world that would never accept him. Forced by humanity to only travel by moonlight, the creature spurns his creator and curses the day he was given life; his very existence haunts him. However, upon his climactic meeting with Frankenstein on the mountain summit, “Life,” the creature says, “…is dear to me, and I will defend it” (p.102). The creation lacks the constitution to kill himself until the very end. In life, Frankenstein was his only hope for happiness; in his creator’s death, nothing is left for the lonesome creation. The power dynamic notably shifts again. In death, Victor holds the power as he was the master key to the creature’s happiness. Without Frankenstein, the creature is nothing. It seems only fitting that his life is presumably ended. That way, they are finally equal, creator and creation, only in death.

The second female creation would seemingly fit into the OED’s primary definition of a “slave”: “One who is the property of, and entirely subject to, another person, whether by capture, purchase, or birth.” (oed.com). The master/slave relationship for her would exist between both Victor and the creation; in the case of the mate and the creature, she is a slave before she is created. For example, in the creation’s plea to Frankenstein to create a companion, he explains his plan of living off the grid with his new companion; her solitary fate is sealed before she even exists. It is supposed she would not have a say in the matter as this is the sole point of her existence; so, already the master/slave dynamic exists between her and the creature. Say she was given the opportunity to voice her opinion, and she did indeed not want to go. In this event, it could be surmised that this could put Victor in the same position he is in now. She would be a slave, as the first creation is now, to Frankenstein as she would rely on his knowledge to fashion her a companion to her liking.

Being that Shelley was a Romantic and the Industrial Age was on the horizon when she wrote Frankenstein, it would be fair to hypothesize that Victor’s hasty innovative obsession with creating the first creature is Shelley’s way of warning against reckless innovation and industrialization. It can certainly be read as a warning against delving into the unknown; there are some places that humans just aren’t meant to go. It’s always been a problem with our species to want to understand everything. “Knowledge is powerful” is a dangerous phrase for an obsessive but ignorant person like Frankenstein; it made him think he could play God. Frankenstein’s story highlights one horrific, albeit fictional, way how one can become a slave to their own inventions. Perhaps Shelley hoped that readers would learn from Victor’s devastating story, run from innovation, and flee back to nature.

Works Cited

  1. Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. London: Penguin Books Ltd, 1818. Print.
  2. “slave” Def. 1a. Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press.Web.
  3. “slave” Def. 2b. Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press. Web.
  4. “slavery” Def. 3b. Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press. Web.

“Misery” in Frankenstein

In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein and the creature are affected time after time by struggles, including the ghastly deaths of loved ones, persecution and rejection from society. Attributing each other as the cause of one another’s hardships, Frankenstein and his creation are bent on revenge. However, rather than dying at the hands of one another, the troubled characters sink to their demise in their individual pool of miseries. Shelley regularly employs the word “misery,” which according to the Oxford English Dictionary means “a condition of external unhappiness, discomfort, or distress,” to describe the depressed sentiments of Frankenstein and the creature. This highlights the selfishness both exhibit and how drowning in one’s own miseries can equate to self-inflicting physical and emotional pain.

The frequency of “misery” increases over the course of the novel as each successive death of Frankenstein’s family member transpires. Frankenstein may feel remorse for the losses, but he also does not do much other than complain. After the death of his younger brother, William, Frankenstein takes a couple days leave to dwell in the seclusion of nature in order to contemplate on William’s death and “the misery [he] imagined and dreaded” (Shelley 77) will ensue in the future. Despite this, Frankenstein refuses to alert anyone of the threat the creature imposes. After Justine’s unjust execution, Frankenstein again departs on a journey through magnificent valleys and mighty mountains while “indulging in the misery of reflection” (98). Frankenstein chooses to ignore how he had a chance to absolve Justine of all guilt by revealing the existence of his rampaging creation. His desire for his own continued survival outweighed his wish for Justine’s pardon.

Frankenstein also never considers himself the source of his own miseries. Instead, he blames Fate and, inadvertently, his parents. Frankenstein states his future was “in their hands to direct to happiness or misery” (35) and mentions that if his father had not dismissed the views of Cornelius Agrippa, then he would not have taken a stronger interest in “natural philosophy” and end up with a “tale of misery” (40). To top off the chain of blame is the creature, even though he suffers greatly from his own string of melancholies. The creatures drop the word “misery” down as much as Frankenstein does. He is constantly denied any opportunity of friendship or intimacy because of his grotesque appearance. On the other hand, the creature is not completely cleared of having selfish, condemning tendencies. He points his finger at Frankenstein as the reason for his “insupportable misery” (138). The creature laments about his birth—“Cursed, cursed creator! Why did I live?” —but believes achieving revenge in the form of murder is the rightful purpose of the remainder of his life.

Frankenstein and the creature each consider themself as the most miserable being of all time. “No guilt, no mischief, no malignity, no misery, can be found comparable to” (223) to the creature’s and “misery had her dwelling in [Frankenstein’s heart]” (190). As a result of these perspectives, both push aside sympathy for others that actually deserve it and fight each other out of greed for pity. Specifically, Frankenstein completely dismisses the character of a poor woman nursing him to health by negatively labeling her as someone who will not sympathize “in sights of misery” (182). He has no right to assume she lacked a strict dose of miseries throughout her lifetime. The more Frankenstein and the creature despair, the more insensitive they become to the difficulties of others’ lives.

By the end of the novel, misery appears to be a major cause of Frankenstein and the creature’s deaths. Frankenstein succumbs to a fever of vengeance, hatred and misery while the creature decides to escape from a world of vengeance, hatred and misery through suicide. The two, however, fail to ever obtain a desire to try for reconciliation or repentance. They instead act on adverse emotions, such as misery, and thus deteriorate into beings with immoral, hateful mindsets.

Misery can be compared to the fire which the creature was once warmed and later consumed by: it grows and grows, kindled by an excess of the same severe unhappiness. Frankenstein and the creature did not bother to extinguish the flame when it started. In consequence, selfishness and intolerance cultivated within them, and they burned.


“Misery, N.” : Oxford English Dictionary. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2015.

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein, Or, The Modern Prometheus. Ed. Maurice Hindle. London: Penguin, 2003. Print.

Frankenstein’s Basic Desires

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.

Frankenstein: Video Game Adaptations (coltonwadedempsey and ngarcia96)

Caruso, Norman. “The Video Game Crash of 1983.” The Gaming Historian. The Gaming Historian, 24 March 2011.

This article summarizes the effects of the Video Game Crash of 1983. In the presentation, the focus leans toward the pieces of the article that chronicle E.T. The Game’s role in this event and the effect it had on licensed properties. Since consumers no longer had faith in the quality of Atari games, the market crumbled and was almost demolished. The article also touches upon Nintendo’s role in changing the process of licensing properties by restricting third party developers for their 8 bit system, the NES, and how the brought the industry out of its depression. The gives context to the existence of “The Monster Returns.”

Pearson, Roberta and Anthony N. Smith. Storytelling in the Media Convergence Age. New York: Palsgrave Macmillan, 2014.

The first chapter of Storytelling in the Media Convergence Age opens with a summary of the first Super Mario game that describes the basic plot elements and archetypes of the game. The quest, the hero, the damsel in distress, the boss battles, and the two dimensional side scrolling are all outlined. Many games, both in the Mario franchise and out of it, continued the pattern in attempts to recreate the success. The introductory chapter highlights the archetypes that serve as the foundation for Frankenstein: The Monster Returns. The player is given the task of saving the kidnapped Emily from Frankenstein, and along the way he must defeat numerous minor ad major villains.

Wolf, Mark J.P. The Video Game Explosion. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2008.

Chapter 40 of The Video Game Explosion contains a section that touches on the relationship between video games and other media, specifically film. The section points out that after the Video Game Crash of 1983 Hollywood studios lost interest in the market. However once the popularity of Nintendo’s NES was clear, Hollywood studios regained interest in the market, particularly an economic interest. Video games since the early 80’s had been adapting TV and film to the medium, and after the resurgence of consoles in the late 80’s this trend resumed. Popular films gave inspiration to video games, as highlighted by the video game tie in of 1994’s Mary Shelleys Frankenstein. The film-video game relationship was mutually beneficial, as both mediums essentially advertised for the other.

Respectable Femininity in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

“I gazed on the picture of my mother which stood over the mantel-piece. It was an historical subject, painted at my father’s desire, and represented Caroline Beaufort in an agony of despair, kneeling by the coffin of her dead father. Her garb was rustic, and her cheek pale; but there was an air of dignity and beauty, that hardly permitted the sentiment of pity.”

Frankenstein, Page 79

The female characters in Frankenstein are few and are generally relegated to the background, as are most of the secondary characters, as the majority of the novel centers on Victor and his creature. However, unlike the male secondary characters, the only prominent women of Frankenstein are almost always depicted as long-suffering saints, whose nobility and composure in the face of adversity are their most attractive traits. Notably, Victor’s mother, Caroline, is portrayed in this manner. This depiction of the female characters in Frankenstein reflects the idea that a femininity characterized by suppressed pain, particularly one dampened by grief, is the most attractive a woman can possess.

Victor’s mother, Caroline, is introduced as the daughter of an ailing man, a friend of Victor’s father, who does all in her power to support him until his eventual passing. It is within this context that she meets her future husband, who, “came like a protecting spirit to the poor girl”. She is therefore rewarded for bearing her struggles, remaining a dutiful daughter and serving a traditional role in a patriarchal system. Within the span of two years she transitions neatly from a caretaker to her father, to a wife and caretaker of a child. It is mentioned briefly that Caroline had been “shaken by what she had gone through”, but her grief at losing her father to disease in relative squalor is never fully explored. From that point on the only emotion she shows is concern for others, going on to be described as “a guardian angel of the afflicted”. She ends up contracting a fatal illness by refusing to be stopped from nursing Elizabeth when she takes ill, and the one-sidedness of her character only continues with her death. Of his dying mother, Victor says, “On her death bed the fortitude and benignity of this best of women did not desert her”, and Caroline’s final moments are spent telling Victor and Elizabeth that she wants them to get married, and then she dies “calmly”, “and her countenance expressed affection even in death”. She never has a moment where she is without poise or composure, even as she knows she is about to die, and she is held up by Victor as “this best of women”. This woman, who we never get to know as a full-fledged character, serves as the pinnacle of idealized respectable femininity in the novel. She is charitable and kind, always thinking of others before herself, and when she has served her purpose (nursing Elizabeth from illness) she dies quietly and without incident.

These traits are echoed in Elizabeth, who, after Caroline’s death, “indeed veiled her grief, and strove to act the comforter to us all”, and Victor even claims that “never was she so enchanting than at this time”; that is, never was Elizabeth so appealing than when she was suppressing her own unexplored feelings of grief and possibly guilt at having been nursed to health only to see her caretaker killed by that same illness which afflicted her, to appease the people around her. We see a similar treatment of Justine who, is not only rendered “exquisitely beautiful” by the “solemnity of her feelings” upon being on trial for murder, but is described as a “saintly sufferer” who “assumed an air of cheerfulness, while she with difficulty repressed her bitter tears” trying to comfort Elizabeth on the eve of her own death. These women are attractive when they are denying their own emotional needs for the sake of those around them, at least in Victor’s eyes.

This idealized feminine suffering is made especially clear when Victor returns to his family home and looks upon the painting of his mother described in the quote above. This portrait, displayed prominently on the mantelpiece, is how his father wanted to remember her: sobbing over her father’s grave (where he first met her and, perhaps, fell in love with her). Her pain is romanticized to the point where her depiction in the portrait “hardly permitted the sentiment of pity” because her suffering is just so darn beautiful.