Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Oakridge's 3rd Period Sophomore English Class Shares Insights about Chapters 1-4 of Vol. 1 from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein:

Victor's Creation: The Lab Report

Victor’s passion to discover the unknown secrets of nature allows him to develop his studies to the point where he isolates himself from his relationships and society to create a being that satisfies his obsession at the cost of consuming his life. His passion, however, may also be a way for him not to confront certain deeper issues concerning his ability to have meaningful relationships with others.

Materials Needed:
Chapters 1-4, Vol. 1, from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

"Victor’s Passion for Science" by Ben B., Caz F., Sam D., & Nick G.

Victor develops a strong passion for natural philosophy and science in Chapters 1-4 of Volume One. Victor makes the decision to continue his studies further such that a childhood interest changes into an entire lifestyle, and passion quickly morphs from a potential profession to an actual obsession, which consumes his time, his relationships, and himself. Victor makes the decision to attend Ingolstadt where professors, such as M Krempe, promote the idea of modern science rather than its less sophisticated, pre-modern counterpart (such as Alchemy). Victor ‘s relationship with science is different compared to most scientists; like figures such as Agrippa, Victor studies science to discover the secrets behind all of nature.​He​ ​is​ ​fueled by​ ​passion,​ ​wonder,​ ​and​ ​the​ ​satisfaction​ ​of​ ​doing​ ​something​ ​never​ ​before done, making him more emotional than the modern, detached rationalist. Because of this Victor turns away from his professors, stops going to classes, and obsesses over anatomy which leads to the creation of his “monster.” Kempe's method of science was more pragmatic and part of the mainstream community of science practice while Victor’s pursuit remained more fantastical and mythical, therefore outside the norms of human society. Ultimately, we believe Victor uses his scientific studies as both an escape, and an excuse to hide some deeper concern on his part.

“Family Issues: a deeper meaning” by Camryn C., Dagny M., & Katheryn M.

Victor develops negatively as a character when he goes away to school by abandoning all of his relationships. Victor claims,“I loved my brothers, Elizabeth, and Clerval; these were ‘old familiar faces’ but I believed myself totally unfitted for the company of strangers” (46). After Victor departs for school, he seems to think he can’t relate to anyone other than his family or friends. However,  his behavior reveals that his connection to family has weakened as well, which the reader can see when he neglects to return any letters. Is he using his devotion to science as an excuse to not confront a deeper family problem? Did his perplexing childhood and the troubles that he endured, such as his father’s neglect (see below) and his mother’s death, shape Victor's unhealthy desire to create life, no matter the cost? Like all individuals, Victor’s early family life both nurtured his innocence at a young age but also contributed to its loss due to events such as the death of his mother, and the possible feeling of standing in Elizabeth’s angelic shadow. Victor’s mood about his life ranges  from “My temper was sometimes violent, and my passions vehement” (23) to “no human being could have passed a happier childhood than myself” (23). Does the trauma and disappointment from his childhood make him a stronger person? Or does it cause him to make childish mistakes and decisions, such as his self-willed exile at the university? Instead of pursuing something he loves, such as science, it seems that Victor is more motivated by fleeing something he dreads, such as certain family experiences that have made it difficult for him to relate to others.

“Fathers and Sons” by Elliot W., Hiba A., Davis L., Brian D., Sarah T., and Kennedy T.

While Victor Frankenstein makes reference to his relationship with the other family members, much emphasis is placed on Victor’s relationship with his father, especially in Chapter Two, giving the idea that this relationship may be the most significant in the novel in terms of impacting Victor’s development.  When Victor discovers the writings and discoveries of late medieval philosophers like Agrippa, he is instantly seized with a passion to learn about the secrets of science.  When he shows it to his father, Alphonse dismisses it stating, “‘Ah Cornelius Agrippa! My dear Victor, do not waste your time upon this; it is sad trash” (40). Victor later reveals that if his father had taken the time to explain to him why the works of Agrippa were out of date, “[He] should certainly have thrown Agrippa aside and have contented [his] imagination, warmed as it was, by returning with greater ardour to [his] former studies… [T]he train of [Victor’s] ideas would never have received the fatal impulse that led to [his] ruin” (41).  We see a parallel to Robert Walton and his father’s disapproval of Walton’s desire to seek adventure on the seas.  Walton writes, “... a history of all the voyages made for purposes of discovery composed the whole of our good uncle Thomas’s library… These volumes were my study day and night, and my familiarity with them increased the regret that I had felt, as a child, on learning that my father’s dying injunction had forbidden my uncle to allow me to embark in a seafaring life” (16). Walton’s memory closely resembles the moment in the library where Victor found the books whose value was denied by his father, which provoked Victor’s interest all the more.  When Victor goes to Ingolstadt, he isolates himself from the rest of the world: Is neglecting his father the result of the neglect Victor felt as a child? Is the lack of an encouraging father the reason Victor creates the monster?  Does he need his father's approval?  Does he create the monster to prove to his father that he is better?  He does make the following confession: “A species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs” (55). Victor reveals his desire to play the ultimate “Father” role and perhaps this is the motivation behind creating the monster.

“Elizabeth: The Object of Victor’s Affection?” by Katie R., Emily I., & Natalie B.

Elizabeth makes us question whether Victor’s personality is split in some sense. She plays a major role in Victor Frankenstein’s life, and through her intuitive and selfless disposition, she reveals an interesting contrast between the two as well as flaws in Victor’s personality. Victor is very attached to Elizabeth, as seen when she writes him and he feels her genuine concern, revealing his heartfelt emotions. Throughout the novel, there is an interesting contrast between Elizabeth’s and Victor’s personalities. Elizabeth stays at home while Victor goes to the university, and she shows interest in literature while he studies science.  Victor is also a dark person who is very obsessive while Elizabeth proves to be a more positive character as demonstrated when Victor states, “She indeed veiled her grief, and strove to act the comforter to us all.” (45). She was the foundation of the strength of the family in the aftermath of Victor’s mother’s death. It is puzzling, however, to think that these two very different people are engaged. For instance, the language that he uses in association with Elizabeth, in addition to how he treats her, is a bit controversial. In Chapter Two, when he first meets her, he states, “No word, no expression could body forth the kind of relation in with she stood to me- my more than sister, since till death she was to be only mine” (37 emphasis added). Victor reveals his affections for her and thinks of her fondly, but as he gets older, he begins neglecting her in favor of his scientific pursuits. Considering his neglect for her along with his possessive word choices (“she was to be only mine”), it seems fair to say that Victor sees Elizabeth more as an object than an equal partner. A point was made in the Google docs that Victor has the strange ability to turn relationships on and off abruptly. When he is with Elizabeth, he seems to be very happy, almost as if her personality is contagious to him. But when they are apart, he reverts to his obsessive pursuit. Victor is very consumed by his work that he forgets his entire family including his wife to be, making us question the depth of his relationship to Elizabeth and whether science is his excuse to avoid the deeper challenges that come with being in a serious relationship.

Victor Frankenstein reminds us of William Wordsworth's poem "Line Composed A Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey" when the speaker compares his former self (from five years prior) to his present self stating, "Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first / I came among these hills; when like a roe / I bounded o’er the mountains… more like a man / Flying from something that he dreads, than one / Who sought the thing he loved.” Victor's motive for pursuing his passions is compromised because it is fueled by a desire to flee something he dreads the idea of having to confront. Victor fails to find grounds for defining his pursuit in terms of seeking something that he loves.


  1. Great write up. I love the way you inject what other authors have said, and your own thoughts. Keep up the good work.

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  2. Hello Mr. Reid! This is 3rd period sophomore Honors Survey of British Literature and Rhetoric, more specifically, this is Joey. I'm representing us right now.
    Thank you for the feedback, we appreciate it! We thought it would be clever to share our insights about Victor Frankenstein's science experiment in the form of a lab report. Thanks for reading!

  3. To 3rd Period Honors Survey of British Literature & Rhetoric:

    We enjoyed reading your insight about Volume I, chapters 1-4 as a lab report. We agree that the neglect of the father arouses a curiosity that turns to obsession in their sons. We first notice this with Robert Walton. We know that his father tells Robert's uncle that he doesn't want Robert to be an explorer. This initially prevents Robert from going against his father's wishes and he pursues writing instead, only to fail abysmally. When given the opportunity, he pursues his first dream of sailing and it seems that BECAUSE his father didn't want him to do it, he wanted to pursue it all the more. Victor, like Robert, has a similar relationship with his father. Victor's father tells him the works of Agrippa are some kind of "trash" and that causes Victor to pursue those works more heartily. The neglect of the father indirectly causes the obsession in the son. We can see this with Victor and the monster, too. Victor neglects the monster totally and that causes the monster to prey on Victor's loved ones to get Victor's attention.

    Mrs. Anders' First Period British Literature
    The Oakridge School

  4. Hello First Period British Literature, thank you for your comment. We appreciate your insight. Thank you for liking our lab report, we thought it would be clever. We agree that Victor’s father’s neglect of Victor led to Victor’s neglect of the Monster, which led to the Monster’s obsession with Victor, and to the monster killing Victor’s family members. Isn’t it interesting how family dynamics reproduce themselves generation after generation? Thank you for the feedback.

    Natalie (AKA 3rd Period Honors British Lit)