In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, though the protagonist, Victor Frankenstein, and his creation are at constant conflict with each other, the two individuals share strikingly similar characteristics. As the reader progresses through the novel, this parallelism is seen between Frankenstein’s personality and that of the monster in their thirst for knowledge, lust for revenge, and appreciation of nature.
Victor Frankenstein’s ambitious nature was what initiated his eventual downfall. Ever since Frankenstein was a child, his “temperature [was]turned, not towards childish pursuits, but to an eager desire to learn…” (33). Victor Frankenstein stumbled across a volume of Cornelius Agrippa’s books, a renowned alchemist in older times. The books shaped how Frankenstein perceived the world, creating his love for natural philosophy. This thirst for knowledge drove the young man to go to the university of Ingolstadt to study the sciences. There he not only mastered natural philosophy, but also endeavored to gain knowledge from his mentors in chemistry and mathematics, becoming “a man of science” that Dr. Waldman had described (43). Likewise, Victor Frankenstein’s creation, the monster, has this same hunger to learn. From the very beginning of his existence, the monster had a desire to understand concepts and ideas. For example, when Felix and Agatha were instructing Safie in French, the monster instantly realized that he “should make use of the same instructions to the same end” (105). This ambitious nature served him well, for later on he chanced to come across Paradise Lost, a volume of Plutarch’s Lives, and The Sorrows of Werter, which opened his mind to the vast pools of knowledge those books had to offer. In a way, this enlightenment shaped how the monster perceived the world around him, just as the works of Cornelius Agrippa had done with Frankenstein. While Frankenstein and the monster had the dream to acquire knowledge, this knowledge in time led to their shared lust for revenge, which ultimately destroyed them both.
As the story of Frankenstein progresses, one begins to notice that both Frankenstein and the monster were filled with an insatiable vengeance. After the murder of Clerval and Elizabeth, Frankenstein devoted his life towards carrying out his revenge, thus spending all his efforts in tracking the monster across the continent. He endured the bitter cold and fatigue, but through it all, Frankenstein remained ardently determined, for “…revenge kept [him]alive; [he]dared not die and leave [his]adversary in being” (178). The monster also lived a life full of vengeance. After being beaten out of the cottage by Felix, the monster was consumed with revenge, claiming he would feel no remorse, even pleasure, if he “…[had]destroyed the cottage and its inhabitants, and [had]glutted [himself]with their shrieks and misery” (121). The monster also burned with this vengance when Frankenstein would not create a counterpart for him. Promising retribution, the monster swore to Frankenstein that “[he]will watch with the wiliness of a snake, that [he]may sting with its venom. Man, [Frankenstein] shall repent of the injuries [he]inflict[s]” (149). The monster later fulfilled his pledge and killed off Frankenstein’s best friend, Henry Clerval and his wife, Elizabeth. Thus, through the actions of the two characters in the course of the novel, it becomes very apparent that both Frankenstein and the monster live to quench their undying hatred and sorrow.
Yet, almost strangely, in their quest to avenge their grievances, Frankenstein and the monster are often calmed and eased by nature. Even in the most depressing of moods, such as after the murder of William and the unjust execution of Justine, Victor Frankenstein still found tranquility in gazing upon the beautiful glaciers of Montanvert, for it “filled [him]with a sublime ecstasy that gave wings to the soul, and allowed it to soar from the obscure world to light and joy” (87). Another example of nature’s therapeutic effects on Frankenstein’s emotional health would be during his trip on the Rhine River. While the young man felt miserable about having to create another monster, he was pleased with the beauty of nature and “…as [he]gazed on the cloudless blue sky, [he]seemed to drink in a tranquility to which [he]had long been a stranger” (138). Mirroring Frankenstein, the monster also found peace in nature amidst the times of strife. After being rejected from Felix, Agatha, and De Lacey, he is utterly disheartened, yet was calmed when “the pleasant sunshine, and the pure air of day, restored [him]to some degree of tranquility…” (121). The monster lived his life in solitude, but in this incredible state of loneliness he found comfort in wandering around in the natural environment he presided in, describing how “the black ground was covered with herbage, and the green banks interspersed with innumerable flower, sweet to the scent and the eyes, stars of pale radiance among the moonlight woods…my nocturnal rambles were an extreme pleasure to me…” (106). Both Frankenstein and the monster shared a love for nature. In the times when loneliness filled their hearts, man and monster sought refuge in Mother Nature’s ever awe-inspiring displays of wonder.
Throughout Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, one cannot help but see the parallelism between the very two characters that oppose each other. The reader observes their shared ambition to acquire knowledge, lust for revenge, and love for nature; all these growing evident through the characters’ actions.