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Victor Frankenstein: a Tragic Hero

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Victor Frankenstein: a Tragic Hero

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Critic Northrop Frye once commented that "Tragic heroes are so much the highest points in their human landscapes" (Frye 1). Few characters illustrate this characteristic of a tragic hero better than that of Victors Frankenstein, the protagonist of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. His story is one of a brilliant man whose revolutionary ideas brought suffering to himself, his family and friends, and his creation. Victor is an instrument as well as a victim to this suffering throughout his story. From the early chapters of the novel, Victor narrates a childhood, schooling, and career filled with an unstoppable thirst for learning. He pours over books in youth, and later attends university studying meticulously and eventually coming to a decision to attempt something never done before. In the words of Northrop Frye, tragic heroes are wrapped in the mystery of their communion with that something beyond which we can see only through them, and which is the source of their strength and their fate alike.' That 'something beyond' may be called God, or nature, or society, but in all cases it reveals some sort of eternal law, of the way things are or must be. While his experiment seems twisted and immoral, the reality is that it is phenomenally ambitious and quite visionary. The creation of life from pieces of inanimate flesh is certainly the epitome of genius by any standards, even those of modern times. By his astounding actions, he sets himself apart from all mankind, reigning at the pinnacle of progressive science. It is this very fact that Fry explains calls the lightning of misfortune to strike this heroic genius, and send him onto a path towards utter misery (1). The story describes innumerable sorrows wrought by Victor's creation. The first person brought to grief because of Frankenstein's creation, however, is the creation himself. It is a being brought into the world and immediately abandoned by his own designer. The monster lives in lonely solitude and is...