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Hero Representation in Frankenstein

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Introduction

Hero Representation in Frankenstein If we are to look at hero representation in Frankenstein, we must look at exactly who is the hero. At first glance we could name the Doctor, or even Robert Walton as the protagonist of the tale, but deeper analysis shows that Shelley never fully explains her choice as to who is the hero and who is the villian. It is left open to the reader to decide who is right and wrong. On the exterior, the cause is to be for the good of all society; however, underneath the surface it is actually an expedition for Walton's own personal glory. Throughout his many letters, his self- love becomes apparent due to the fact that he never once asks about his sister's well being, for he believes that she is pining for him and spends her every moment awaiting his return. In each letter that he writes, Walton displays evidence of the intentions of his ambition with his redundant references to "glory", "admiration" and "triumph". This facade prepares the reader for the understanding of the central theme of the novel, as Walton's story is temporarily abandoned and we are introduced to Victor Frankenstein. The characters of Walton and Frankenstein were shaped by Romantic idealism. That is, the pursuit of fulfillment through the exploration of the undiscovered. What sets them apart is the means that they utilize to accomplish their respective goals. Curious and determined, Walton sets out to tread a land never before imprinted by the foot of man in an effort to satisfy his romantic ideals. While he describes his motivations as �sufficient to conquer all fear of danger or death, Shelley portrays Walton as a compassionate character from the very beginning. Despite his determination in his quest, his longing and concern for family and friendship mirrors aspects of romantic sentimentality presented in William Wordsworth's Tintern Abbey. Wordsworth addresses his ode to his dear, dear sister. ...read more.

Middle

He states to Margaret: �My enticements . . . are sufficient to conquer all fear of danger or death. . . You cannot contest the inestimable benefit which I shall confer on mankind to the last generation� (16). However, Walton's compassion is able to overcome his narcissism. As the sailors justify their apprehension in continuing the quest, Walton feels the depth of his responsibility just as Victor slowly comes to realize his own involvement in the murders of his creation. While it was too late for Victor, Walton still had the chance to demonstrate his compassionate character. Rather than continue his voyage toward the North Pole as Victor urges, Walton clearly demonstrates the strength of his sister's influence in deciding to return home to safety. Both Walton and Victor were unsuccessful in their quests for fulfillment. What is evident as the primary difference, however, is the nature in which they failed. With the character of Victor, Mary Shelley means to illustrate the peril associated with the male-dominated quest. Without the aid of female influences, Victor allows his ego to take over his quest. The result, as noted earlier, was his demise at the hands of his own creation. It seems that with the character of Walton, Shelley offers hope in the form of family, friends, femininity and love. Passive Women - For a novel written by the daughter of an important feminist, Frankenstein is strikingly devoid of strong female characters. The novel is littered with passive women who suffer calmly and then expire: Caroline Beaufort <javascript:CharacterWindow('http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/frankenstein/terms/char_9.html', %20'6850bdf7f9',%20500);> is a self-sacrificing mother who dies taking care of her adopted daughter; Justine is executed for murder, despite her innocence; the creation of the female monster is aborted by Victor because he fears being unable to control her actions once she is animated; Elizabeth waits, impatient but helpless, for Victor to return to her, and she is eventually murdered by the monster. ...read more.

Conclusion

He describes to them the absurdity of their prior claims of bravery when now at the first sign of danger they shrink away. He tells them to "be men" and to be bold against the "danger and death" which surround them (159). It seems that through this speech of encouragement, Victor did not learn his lesson. He remains adamant on the pursuit for glory and honor, disregarding these ambitions as the cause of all his troubles. Victor Frankenstein dies in his failure, insistent that the cause was an "accident of circumstance, the result of insufficient knowledge, or an imperfection in nature itself" (Kiely 160). Even through his last words, he declares himself blameless, and through no fault of his own, he has been stripped of his dreams. Like his previous warnings, he tells Walton to "avoid ambition" (162), but this time he blames nature for his failure and fails to see the malice in the pursuit for glory. Realistically, Frankenstein, the literary character, was in a way successful. By the utterance of his name today he is immortalized, yet he did not receive the glory that he had intended. He is remembered for his failure more than his genius. For his failure lie not in the creation of his monster, but through the intention by which he created. It was not his ambition that killed him, but his distortion of it. The pursuit of knowledge is at the heart of Frankenstein, as Victor attempts to surge beyond accepted human limits and access the secret of life. Likewise, Walton attempts to surpass previous human explorations by endeavoring to reach the North Pole. This ruthless pursuit of knowledge, of the light (see "Light and Fire"), proves dangerous, as Victor's act of creation eventually results in the destruction of everyone dear to him, and Walton finds himself perilously trapped between sheets of ice. Whereas Victor's obsessive hatred of the creature drives him to his death, Walton ultimately pulls back from his treacherous mission, having learned from Victor's example how destructive the thirst for knowledge can be. ...read more.

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