Women In Frankenstein Essay, Research Paper
Although the female characters in Frankenstein are not given significant importance in a direct role, their influence upon Victor Frankenstein drives the entire plot. Victor’s descent into madness begins immediately after his mother’s death. Prior to his mother’s death he led an ideal life as Victor clearly states, “No human being could have passed a happier childhood than myself”.
When Victor turned seventeen he was to attend university but was detained by, “the first misfortune of my life occurred-an omen, as it were, of my future misery”. His mother died of scarlet fever. This had a hugely profound effect on Victor. At first he could not bring himself to admit that she had truly passed on, ” It is so long before the mind can persuade itself that she, whom we saw every day, and whose very existence appeared a part of our own, can have departed for ever–that the brightness of a beloved eye can have been extinguished, and the sound of a voice so familiar, and dear to the ear, can be hushed, never more to be heard. These are the reflections of the first days; but when the lapse of time proves the reality of the evil, then the actual bitterness of grief commences”.
Victor was in the midst of the grieving process, therefore was in no shape to embark on another traumatic event -his departing for university as planned, leaving behind his entire support system. He even stated that he thought it was too soon, “It appeared to me sacrilege so soon to leave the repose, akin to death, of the house of mourning and rush into the thick of life”.
It is at the university that Victor finds a channel for his grief. In his attempt to eradicate his suffering, he chose to direct his efforts to the very source of what distressed him, which was to obliterate the finality of death itself. In this passage, Victor Frankenstein describes the birth of his obsession to find the cure for death, “I felt as if my soul were grappling with a palpable enemy; one by one the various keys were touched which formed the mechanism of my being: chord after chord was sounded, and soon my mind was filled with one thought, one conception, one purpose. So much has been done, exclaimed the soul of Frankenstein–more, far more, will I achieve: treading in the steps already marked, I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation.”
At the beginning of his research Victor had been suffering from melancholy, a natural part of grieving. However, melancholy can be the starting point of madness. The melancholic individual is inherently more sensitive than others, and if the situation allows, becomes increasingly susceptible to everything. This severity of sensitivity can spiral downwards until the sufferer can no longer break himself out of this spiral, giving way to painful anxiety and insanity. By alienating himself from society, Victor essentially insured his own madness.
Victor expected his endeavors to culminate in the production of a creature that was beautiful, as was the love for his mother. However, we only get out of something what we put into it. As part of working through (or ignoring) his grief, he took everything that was ugly and miserable from his life and put it into that creation. His madness begot madness.
As Victor beheld the hideous “thing” born from his sorrow for his mother he thought, “I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body. For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardor that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart”.
Each death, for Victor, brought about escalating guilt and anxiety, “The death of William, the execution of Justine, the murder of Clerval, and lastly of my wife; even at that moment I knew not that my only remaining friends were safe from the malignity of the fiend; my father even now might be writhing under his grasp, and Ernest might be dead at his feet”.
The final blow dealt to Victor by his “grief incarnate” was the murder of the sole good part of his life left, Elizabeth; “But the overflowing misery I now felt, and the excess of agitation that I endured rendered me incapable of any exertion”. The loss of Elizabeth was too much for Victor to bear and sapped his will to live. Before he could succumb to the refuge of death, he indulged in the final obsession his madness dictated, tracking down his creation, “My rage is unspeakable when I reflect that the murderer, whom I have turned loose upon society, still exists. You refuse my just demand; I have but one resource, and I devote myself, either in my life or death, to his destruction”.
It is utterly appropriate that this monster born of grief only brings forth more grief for the creator. If one looks at this story as a path of self-destruction; Victor’s grief over his mother leading to the creation of the monster, which then leads to a vicious circle of death and more grief, all culminating in the destruction of the creator- it could be looked upon as being an slow form of suicide. Suicide being the only way to completely end the madness.
The two major turning points, the creation and intended destruction of the monster, were both brought about by events surrounding the two main female characters, thereby cementing the importance of their influence upon Victor Frankenstein.