Frankenstein: Chapter 2
Over the course of Chapter 2, Victor identifies his interest in Natural Philosophy and how it defined his life going forward. Victor's coming of age in this chapter sets his character up for the developments to come and gives the reader exposition of how he ended up with the knowledge and state of mind to pursue the creation of the monster. Victor undergoes a parallel growth throughout most of this chapter and the entire book because the dual timeline being told is moving forward both in the past and in the present as Victor is telling the story. This dual progression allows for the reader to characterize Victor both based off of his previous experiences as well as his attitude while retelling them.
Elizabeth remains a rather constant character throughout the chapter. Victor's attitude toward her describes her as "of a calmer and more concentrated disposition;" (Shelley 19). This description allows Elizabeth to serve as a foil to the more complicated and questioning Victor. Elizabeth's studies of poetry and such reveal her more delicate character and foreshadows how her character will bend the most emotionally and in sadness compared to other characters. Elizabeth seems to personify the definition of the the feminine character but there isn't enough information provided in this chapter to identify her characterization as because she is a female or if that simply suits her innocent nature.
Henry is given a lengthy description by Victor in chapter 2, this description serves to show how his innocent and imaginative nature is a source of positivity for Victor to look back upon. Although Victor describes his childhood and that of those around him as happy, Henry is the character which this happiness seems most evident and contagious to Victor in. Victor looks back upon the mistakes he made following his childhood and positively remembers Henry. Because he looks back on Henry with this attitude, Henry's rather simple character becomes more important due to the fact that it contrasts heavily with Victor's despair. This chapter introduces Henry as a source of positivity in Victor's life.
Victor's interest in the philosophies is something most would be proud of and would have warm feelings looking back upon it, but with Victor, there is much regret. This stance on his learning as well as how he relates the recollection of his fascination to his ultimate downfall makes it evident that his not knowing of the intricacies of natural philosophy would have been preferable to him. "Natural philosophy is the genius that has regulated my fate;" (Shelley 20). Victor's regret in learning perfectly captures the belief that ignorance is bliss simply because he believes his life would have been so much better without his pursuit of knowledge and power in natural philosophy.
Dreams and Imagination:
Henry Clerval personifies the romanticism of the book and his childhood actions expose his intrigue in the objects of folklore and fantasy. "He was a boy of singular talent and fancy. He loved enterprise, hardship, and even danger for its own sake. He was deeply read in books of chivalry and romance. He composed heroic songs and began to write many a tale of enchantment and knightly adventure." (Shelley 19). Henry's studies and his interests in fantasy and adventure show how his childhood innocence defines the happiness associated with dreams and imagination. Victor describes Henry's studies and looks upon them with a vague sense of envy. This envy shows how the innocence of dreams and imagination in Victor's mind is much greater than the burden that came with his more scientific studies.
"Besides, in drawing the picture of my early days, I also record those events which led, by insensible steps, to my after tale of misery, for when I would account to myself for the birth of that passion which afterwards ruled my destiny I find it arise, like a mountain river, from ignoble and almost forgotten sources; but, swelling as it proceeded, it became the torrent which, in its course, has swept away all my hopes and joys." (Shelley 19). The above quote deeply captures Victor's regret in what was once his passion. His guilt over what became of his love for science is one of the first signs of guilt and suffering that Victor eventually goes through. When he compares how his guilt and regret originally manifested to a river growing from a stream, it shows how Victor's the magnitude mistakes were grew over time until it turned into the guilt that later consumed his being.
Victor's details of misfortune that came from his childhood passion foreshadow how he later ended up pushing his interest too far.
- "I feel exquisite pleasure in dwelling on the recollections of childhood, before misfortune had tainted my mind and changed its bright visions of extensive usefulness into gloomy and narrow reflections upon self." (Shelley 20)
When Victor compares his childhood and the passions that he had at that time to a mountain river, it makes it clear that he believes his mistakes a long time ago led him to the troubles he dealt with as he was telling the story.
- "Besides, in drawing the picture of my early days, I also record those events which led, by insensible steps, to my after tale of misery, for when I would account to myself for the birth of that passion which afterwards ruled my destiny I find it arise, like a mountain river, from ignoble and almost forgotten sources; but, swelling as it proceeded, it became the torrent which, in its course, has swept away all my hopes and joys." (Shelley 19)
General Plot Developments
Karloff, Boris. Frankenstein. 1931. Web. 19 Sept. 2016.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein Cover. 1818. Web. 19 Sept. 2016.