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Transcript of Frankenstein Seminar
"I imagined that I also might obtain a niche in the temple where the names of Homer and Shakspeare are consecrated. You are well acquainted with my failure, and how heavily I bore the disappointment. But just at that time I inherited the fortune of my cousin, and my thoughts were turned into the channel of their earlier bent.” (Shelly 2) Alphonse Frankenstein How he is introduced Frankenstein Sr. is the first character to be introduced in Victor’s narrative: “My ancestors had been for many years counselors and syndics, and my father had filled several public situations with honor and reputation” (Shelley, 14). Alphonse is a syndic – meaning one who helps in a court of justice; he is an advocate or a representative of the law. He also comes from a long line of men of the same profession. From the beginning, it is apparent that he is a man devoted to duty, which is reflected in his words and interactions with others. Physical Description Not much is said about Alphonse’s physical appearance. He is an older man (judging from the ages of his children), and is probably very dignified or distinguished in his appearance and mannerisms. This is one representation we found of him: Father of Victor, Ernest, and William Frankenstein; husband to Caroline Beaufort; adopted father of Elizabeth Lavenza. Personality Alphonse Frankenstein is a man of duty: he has a strong moral sense and sees it right that he should put the needs of others before himself. He also wishes to pass his values onto his children. A quote from Victor Frankenstein: “He was respected by all who knew him, for his integrity and indefatigable attention to public business” (Shelley, 14). Victor also talks about his father’s unfaltering care for those around him. Quote: pg. 14-15, paragraph 3 (Shelley). When Alphonse’s friend Beaufort falls into poverty and flees the country out of shame, Alphonse personally seeks him out (a feat taking ten months) wishing to assist him in regaining some wealth. However, when he finds him Beaufort has already fallen sick and died – leaving his daughter, Caroline, to provide for herself. Alphonse then graciously takes Caroline into his care (and they marry two years later). Victor sums it up well: “There was a sense of justice in my father’s upright mind, which rendered it necessary that he should approve highly to love strongly” (Shelley, 15). Alphonse Frankenstein also is portrayed as an extraordinary father and husband; he strives to teach Victor proper values, but does not try to control his choices, such as persuading him into becoming a syndic like many of the previous Frankenstein men. “Every hour of my infant life I received a lesson of patience, of charity, and of self-control” (Shelley, 16). However, Alphonse isn’t portrayed as perfectly noble – it is demonstrated how his sense of justice causes him to discriminate against certain things: Quote: pg. 20, paragraph 4 (Shelley). His intentions are good though, and it is apparent that he cares deeply about his family. He feels a strong need to protect those close to him. Frankenstein Sr. acts as Victor’s moral guide. He consoles his son in times of despair and continues to provide guidance even in Victor’s adult years. Example: (A letter to Victor) “Enter the house of mourning, my friend, but with kindness and affection for those who love you, and not with hatred for your enemies” (Shelley, 47). He writes to Victor constantly when the monster is being created, and travels to where his son is imprisoned for Henry’s murder. He is one of Victor’s only links to society, and also represents a large part of his blissful childhood. He also is the one who urges Victor and Elizabeth to get married, and who helps arrange the wedding. Each of the characters close to Victor are important, because their deaths signify another step in his path towards total isolation. Frankenstein Sr. is the last of Victor’s links to die, representing the final straw – the death of Alphonse assures Victor’s total separation from society and his fate of self-destruction. Role in the Story Caroline Beaufort How she is introduced Physical Description Personality In his narrative, Victor Frankenstein tells the story of how his father Alphonse takes in the orphaned daughter of a deceased friend. This orphan girl is Caroline Beaufort, and she later marries her guardian Alphonse – becoming Caroline Frankenstein. She is portrayed as a very kind and compassionate woman, as well as cunning and resourceful. When Frankenstein Sr. finds her she is already providing for herself as best a woman could at that time: “But Caroline Beaufort possessed a mind of an uncommon mould, and her courage rose to support her in her adversity” (Shelley, 15). However, like most of the women in the novel she is still portrayed as passive (having no control over her situation) – only being able to escape poverty when the man (Alphonse) rescues her from it. Like her husband, not much is stated concerning Caroline’s physical appearance, aside from her being much younger than Alphonse. Representation of her: Mother of Victor, Ernest and William Frankenstein; Married to Alphonse Frankenstein; Adoptive mother of Elizabeth Lavenza. Caroline is portrayed as benevolent and selfless – she cares for her children above all else and feels compelled to help those who need it. “Their benevolent disposition often made them enter the cottages of the poor. This, to my mother, was more than a duty; it was a necessity, a passion – remembering what she had suffered…” (Shelley, 16). Always wanting a daughter, she adopts the orphan Elizabeth, helping the family that cannot afford to keep her; her motives were also concerning the happiness of her son – she intended that Elizabeth and Victor would eventually marry. Caroline’s overwhelming care for her children is exemplified by the conditions of her death: When Elizabeth catches scarlet fever, her mother tends to her despite the danger of the disease: “She had, at first, yielded to our intreaties, but when she heard that the life of her favorite was menaced, she could no longer control her anxiety. She attended her sickbed… the consequences of this imprudence were fatal to her preserver” (Shelley 23). Caroline catches the disease herself, but it is more severe. On her deathbed, Caroline’s final wish is that Victor and Elizabeth would get married, and that her other children (Ernest and William) would be taken care of when she was dead. She is a devoted mother, even to the point of sacrificing her own life to care for her children. Role in the Story Role in the story: Although Caroline’s character does not appear for long in the book, she still plays a significant role. Her importance is mostly in her absence. Her death is the first of the series of tragic events that Victor undergoes throughout the story, and probably influenced his choice in studying death and how to overcome it – if she had not died, perhaps Victor wouldn’t have been compelled to create the monster. The fact that Victor should not have left for university right after his mother’s death also foreshadows the series of bad decisions that he makes which eventually lead to his downfall. It can be said that Victor needed the guidance of both his mother and father throughout his early adult years. Like her husband, Caroline also represents Victor’s happy childhood. She and Alphonse are usually referred to together, as “possessed by the very spirit of kindness and indulgence” (Shelley, 19) and the like. They are portrayed as the perfect parents, and Caroline as the ideal woman of that time – a sacrificial and devoted mother. Elizabeth Lavenza Henry Clerval How is Elizabeth introduced? Physical Characteristics Role/Purpose in the Novel Personality Introduction of character Physical Description Personality Role/Purpose in novel “She appeared of a different stock. The four others were dark eyed , hardy little vagrants: this child was thin, and very fair. Her hair was the brightest living gold, and despite the poverty of her clothing, seemed to set a crown of distinction on her head. Her brow was clear and ample, her blue eyes cloudless, and her lips and the molding of her face so expressive of sensibility and sweetness that none could behold her without looking in her as of a distinct species, a being heaven sent, and bearing a celestial stamp in all her features.” (Shelley 17) In the novel she is described as beautiful and it is this beauty that captures the attention of the people around her, and makes her instantly likeable to them. The beauty and grace she possesses through her outward appearance is also reflected in her personality- she is kind, nurturing, gentle, intelligent, and positive.
The thoughts of other characters in the story also help the reader conclude that she is friendly and well liked: "Everyone loved Elizabeth. The passionate and most reverential attachment with which all regarded her became, while I shared it, my pride and my delight" (Shelly 17-18).
"She was docile and good tempered, yet gay and playful as a summer insect. Although she was lively and animated, her feelings were strong and deep, and her disposition uncommonly affectionate. Her imagination was luxuriant, yet her capability of application was great. Her person was the image of her mind". This quote sums up her character. She is first introduced to the reader as an orphan, daughter of a deceased Milanese nobleman and a German woman, discovered by Caroline Beaufort during her trip in Italy. Elizabeth is later adopted by Caroline who decides to raise her as her own after seeing her at the orphanage. Caroline is amazed by her beauty and wishes that she marry her son, Victor, one day. Relation to Victor Through her exchange of letters with Victor Frankenstein, she serves as a provider of information to Victor about his hometown, family, and current events while he is away at the University: "Your father's health is vigorous, and he asks but to see you"(Shelley 40). This is important because this allows him to remain connected to his family but by changing the perspective it also allows the reader to observe Elizabeth's thoughts.
Later when she is killed by Victor's creation, her death solidifies the hate Victor holds for the monster. On another level, it also allows Victor to understand how it's like to be completely alone in the world and live a life that is motivated by vengeance - as the monster does. The reader is first introduced to Henry Clerval in chapter two; he is Victor's one childhood friend. From the beginning, Henry is described as "the son of a merchant of Geneva", "He was a boy of singular talent and fancy. He loved enterprise, hardship, and even danger for its own sake" (Shelley 19).
He is also the closest character to Victor in the novel and his equal in companionship, whereas Ernest and William -Victors' brothers- were of much younger age: "My brothers were considerably younger than myself, but I had a friend in one of my schoolfellows" (Shelley 19 ). Henry is the complete opposite of Victor, and serves as a foil to the character of Victor Frankenstein. In the novel, Victor also refers to Henry as an image of his former self: "In Clerval, I saw an image of my former self" (Shelley 129). This indicates how Victor used to be or could have been before his relentless hunger for knowledge overtook him. Henry's constant optimism portrays a contrast to the gloomy and manic state Victor always finds himself in. Above all other characters, Henry Clerval is who Victor spends the most time alone with and has the deepest connection to. From their childhood to their studies at Ingelstadt, and finally to their two year tour of Europe- Henry remains alongside of Victor. With Henry's company, Victor is distracted from his scientific concerns- even if only temporarily.
The presence of Henry Clevral reinstates the feeling of happiness into Victor's life and subsequently erases both Victor's mental and physical turmoil :“I felt suddenly, and for the first time during many months, calm and serene joy” (Shelley 55).
The next time Henry re-enters the novel he is nursing Victor back to health- after Victor falls ill following his ordeal with the monster. Henry Clerval portrays the need Victor has for a balanced life and interactions with the social world. Henry Clerval is a true romantic, has an interest for "moral relations" (Shelley 19), and loves languages- his main focus being Oriental languages. He is described as: "a poet...his mind was filled with the imagery and sublime sentiments of the master of that art" (Shelley 39).
He is cheerful, imaginative and considerate: "Henry rejoiced in my gaiety, and sincerely sympathized in my feelings: he exerted himself to amuse me, while he expressed the sensations that filled his soul. His conversation was full of imagination and he invented tales of wonderful fancy and passion" (Shelley 45). This quote shows Henry's positive outlook on everything and his efforts to bring happiness to Victor.
He is also very attentive, kind, and a loyal friend: "How kind, how very good you are to me. This whole winter, instead of being spent in study, as you promised yourself, has been consumed in my sick room" (Shelley 39). This quote shows the selfless nature of Henry Clerval as he tends to his friend, putting Victor's needs ahead of his studies.
Both Victor and Henry are dreamers, love their studies, and want to achieve great things; although, unlike Victor, Henry is better at balancing his studies with other aspects of his life. He is not obsessive in attaining his goals to an unhealthy point. The character of Henry Clerval shows that Victor wasn't always alone and that he was able to have a friendship before it was taken away by the monster. It allows the reader to compare and contrast the impact of friendship vs. loneliness in Victor's life and the changes it brought forward in Victor's character. Henry also serves as Victor's guide throughout the novel, he selflessly helps Victor get through his problems even when Victor doesn't share the truth with him. There is not much information on his appearance but we can conclude that he is the opposite of the monster in physical appearance with our knowledge of his acceptance in a society that believes looks are everything. While the monster is seen as ugly, Henry is seen as attractive and handsome. Elizabeth's character also serves to reveal characteristics of Victor. She is a function of Victor's character and her demise is a result of Victor's obsession with science and knowledge. She is killed because the monster wanted to deprive Victor of a relationship that he himself was denied. It also shows that her death is a result of Victor prioritizing his work over everything else- including her. This lack of balance in his life even led to the delay of their wedding- this portrays the depths of his obsession and the negative effects he brings unto himself. Best Friend of Victor, and a family friend Parallels to Victor Frankenstien The biggest similarity between Walton and Victor is their motivation by ambition. They both wanted to achieve a sense of personal fulfillment by doing something amazing which will benefit mankind. The death of Victor's mother sparked his interest in creation and life and death. He wanted to overcome death and the grief that came with it
"I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation." (Shelly 28)
"Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world." (Shelly 32) Walton wanted to bring glory to his name by being the first explorer to explore the North Pole and find a Northern Passage to the Pacific (presumably for trade) and to accomplish "some great purpose" (Shelly 3) Robert Walton as a Reflection and a Foil to Victor A lot of Victor's Personality traits are reflected in Robert Walton: they are both passionate about knowledge and exploration and this passion blinds them from seeing the possible outcomes of their actions.
However Walton's decision to terminate his trip makes him a foil to Victor. After hearing Victor's story and his warning, Walton decides to abandon his pursuit and sail back home:
"Learn from me . . . how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow." (Shelly 31) The purpose of doing a character sketch is to gain a better understanding of a text by getting to know the characters better. Having an understanding of the characters of a story is critical to fully understand the story. In this presentation, we will be taking a look at the following characters: Robert Walton, Alphonse and Caroline Frankenstein, and Elizabeth Lavenza and Henry Clerval. She is approximately 23 years old. Adoptive daughter to Caroline Beaufort and Alphonse Frankenstein, adoptive sister to Ernest, Victor and William Frankenstein,
and wife of Victor Frankenstein How is Elizabeth Lavenza's character revealed? Her character is revealed through her interactions with others:"Elizabeth alone had the power to draw me from these fits; her gentle voice would sooth me when transported by passion, and inspire me with human feelings when sunk in torpor (Shelley 140). This quote is by Victor and it shows how kind, caring, and affectionate she is towards him as she persistently tries to cheer him up.
Elizabeth is also a loyal friend, we can see this through her actions; she defended Justine's innocence alone when no one else was willing to stand up. Through her dialogue with Justine, her character is also revealed: "Fare well, sweet lady, dearest Elizabeth, my beloved and only friend" (Shelley 60). Relation to Victor Frankenstein How is his character revealed?