Morality and Judgements: the Portrayal of Sympathy in Frankenstein.

Topics: Frankenstein, Novel, Paradise Lost Pages: 6 (2105 words) Published: July 23, 2012
Morality and Judgements: the portrayal of Sympathy in Frankenstein.

Frankenstein, written by Mary Shelley and first published in 1818, follows the set of extraordinary events encompassing the life of Victor Frankenstein; natural philosophy devotee and reanimation pioneer. Characterization plays a major role in encouraging different attitudes in Frankenstein, an example being how the reader is encouraged to feel sympathy for Frankenstein and his creation throughout the novel. Aided by the differing narrative perspective, these sympathies are continually evolving, changing as the reader’s perception of the two is altered, and at the end of the novel, the reader is left questioning who the real monster is: Frankenstein, or his creation? The character construction of Victor Frankenstein and the creature encourages the reader to gain, lose and sustain sympathy for the two throughout the novel.

The speech, appearance, and thoughts of Frankenstein have a profound effect on his characterisation and cause the reader to gain sympathy for him. When we are first introduced to Frankenstein, he is described by Captain Walton as being “dreadfully emaciated by fatigue and suffering. I never saw a man in so wretched a condition.” This initial description causes the reader to feel great pity for Frankenstein. The powerful language used- phrases such as “dreadfully emaciated” invoke powerful imagery, making the reader feel and comprehend the great suffering this man has endured. His lack of power in this situation also makes the reader feel very sorry for him. This pity that the reader feels towards Frankenstein encourages the reader to feel sympathy for Frankenstein. This sympathy is continued throughout the novel, but is at its strongest point when Frankenstein’s best friend, Clerval, is murdered and Frankenstein is jailed. This point in the novel is told from Frankenstein’s point of view, and he says “Have my murderous machinations deprived you also, my dearest Henry, of life? Two I have already destroyed; other victims await their destiny: but you, Clerval, my friend, my benefactor-“ (pg 181)

This quote shows Frankenstein accepting some responsibility for his actions, but also indicates Frankenstein’s love for his best friend. Frankenstein is obviously very grief- stricken at this moment, and the reader feels sorry for Frankenstein because of this. Frankenstein continues on, saying: “Why did I not die? More miserable than man ever was before, why did I not sink into forgetfulness and rest? Death snatches away many blooming children, the only hopes of their doating parents: how many brides and youthful lovers have been one day in the boom of health and hope, and the next a prey for worms and the decay of the tomb! Of what materials was I made, that I could thus resist so many shocks, which, like the turning of the wheel, continually renewed the torture?” (V.3, Ch. IV, Pg 181)

This quote reflects Frankensteins’s utter despair, and compares the relationship between Clerval and Frankenstein to that of a parent and child, or two lovers. This shows how strong the bond between the two was, and now that it is severed, how agonised Frankenstein is. The fact that Frankenstein has accepted his situation and is taking some responsibility shows the reader that there is still hope of Frankenstein redeeming himself, and these aren’t just empty words to him. This, combined with the pity that the reader feels for Frankenstein, causes the reader to gain sympathy for Frankenstein.

The main way in which the reader is encouraged to lose sympathy for Frankenstein is through his actions. Frankenstein is developed as being self-centred, and neglects his family in times of grief. A strong indication of Frankenstein’s self-serving nature occurs when Justine is up on trial for the murder of Frankenstein’s youngest brother William. Frankenstein considers telling his story and saving Justine, but changes his mind, saying “My tale was not one to...
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