In the tragic novel, Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, companionship is arguably one of the most important themes. Throughout the whole novel it is clear that each protagonist is longing for an equal; someone to share deep emotions with, and to connect on a higher, more intimate level. Indeed, the source of all the tragedy in this story is either the lack or neglect of a legitimate companionship.
The book opens up with Robert Walton, who is an explorer making an expedition of discovery to the North Pole. Robert Walton is also the first example of this pattern of tragedy causing isolation. During his voyage, he would frequently write letters to his sister – to whom he is very close – about his thoughts on loneliness. In essence, this novel is a compilation of all the letters he wrote. After Robert’s crew picked up a stranger on the brink of death, Robert wrote about this stranger;
I was easily led by the sympathy which he evinced, to use the language of my heart, to give utterance to the burning ardor of my soul; and to say, with all the fervor that warmed me, how gladly I would sacrifice my fortune, my existence, and my every hope, to the furtherance of my enterprise. One man’s life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which I sought for the dominion I should acquire and transmit over the elemental foes of our race (Frankenstein, 11).
The main purpose of this quote is to show the reader how fanatical Robert Walton is about his cause. He is more than just devoted to it, he is obsessed. Robert claims that one man’s life or death were but a small price to pay, and that he would gladly sacrifice his fortune, even himself, or others, for his goal, meaning he would give up everything, even destroy himself and others, just for the better of his “enterprise”. The reader eventually discovers that this stranger is Victor Frankenstein. This quote also introduces Victor’s benevolent character. The word sympathy refers to Victor’s actions after he recovered; Victor spent most of his days on the deck of the ship inquiring about the many projects of the crewmen, including Robert’s. Victor was also a great listener to Robert, and Robert eventually grew very fond of Victor. They became connected on a very intimate level. Immediately after hearing Robert say that he would sacrifice himself, Victor’s “countenance” changed from happy and caring to very dark and gloomy. This is because Victor has experienced an obsession very similar to this, and because of this obsession his life was ruined. After this quote, Victor immediately responds to Robert, and tells his story.
Victor Frankenstein is not so different from Robert Walton. They are both very educated, and they both leave those whom they are very close to in order pursue higher knowledge. They both develop a goal of discovery, and both devote themselves entirely to this goal. Victor confirms this when he describes to Robert the experience of his enterprise;
The summer months passed while I was thus engaged, heart and soul, in one pursuit. It was a most beautiful season; never did the field bestow a more plentiful harvest, or the vines yield a more luxuriant vintage: but my eyes were insensible to the charms of nature, And the same feelings which made me neglect the scenes around me caused me also to forget those friends who were so many miles absent, and whom I had not seen for so long a time. I knew my silence disquieted them… (Frankenstein, 33).
Victor’s ultimate goal was to create life. This quote displays Frankenstein’s extreme devotion, borderline obsession, in creating this being; He is so devoted that he is insensible, or blind, to the things in life that are most precious to him. He neglects writing to his “sister” and the rest of his family, and fails to acknowledge the rare beauty of his surroundings. The significance of this passage is that it shows that Frankenstein has entered a new state of mind. He is no longer the charming, gentleman that was previously described. He is now losing himself in science, neglecting everything except for his one goal; to create life. In fact, he is so caught up with this goal that he fails to realize the possible outcomes of this discovery. After the success in creating this being, Victor is horrified by the sight of it. He flees his apartment and goes on a walk. This symbolizes the return of his previous character; he now appreciates nature and remembers his family. The monster eventually escapes and wreaks havoc among humanity, especially Victor and his family; he kills them, one by one, ending with Victor. In essence, Victor destroyed himself by devoting himself entirely to his enterprise and in turn, neglecting his companions; just as Robert claims he is willing to do.
The Monster is appalling in appearance, but he is actually very sophisticated. He taught himself to speak, read, and write. He is especially articulate. But at the sight of him, people become terrified and flee from his presence. This causes him to become lonely and long for a companion, following the main theme for this book. He figures that Victor created him, so Victor could create a mate for him. The monster kills Victor’s little brother, forcing Victor to return home. Victor eventually realizes who killed his little brother, and hunts the monster down. He finally finds the monster and converses with him. To Victor’s surprise, the monster can speak very well. In this conversation that the two of them share, the monster begs Victor to create an equal, female counterpart. The monster begs, but Victor refuses. The monster angrily replies;
How is this? I must not be trifled with: and I demand an answer. If I have no ties and no affections, hatred and vice must be my portion; the love of another will destroy the cause of my crimes, and I shall become a thing of whose existence everyone will be ignorant. My vices are the children of a forced solitude that I abhor; and my virtues will necessarily arise when I live in communion with an equal. I shall feel the affections of a sensitive being, and become linked to the chain of existence and events, from which I am now excluded (Frankenstein, 107).
While the monster claims that the source of his evilness is the lack of love from another, how does Frankenstein know that this female monster that he creates will comply with this deal? Or how does he know that the two monsters would not wreak havoc upon earth together? Before this passage, Frankenstein is questioning the monsters motives, but after this passage Frankenstein is convinced that the monster means well, and only wants a companion. This passage is undoubtedly meant to bring out sympathy for the monster. It shows that the monster understands loneliness, and wants to have a companion to share intimate feelings with. Not long after this passage, the monster shares his story with Victor, and the source of his desperation. The monster spent most of his days at a cottage he had found which was filled with a friendly family. He hid away outside their house and studied them. These cottagers follow the main theme of the book; they are all very close to each other and are equal. This is very important, because it caused the monster to learn about companionship, and made him want a companion. One day, the monster decides to confront the father because he is blind, and will have no pre-conceived notion of the monster due to his horrible appearance. This would have gone well, but the monster stayed far too long, and the children – who were not blind – returned to the cottage. They immediately became horrified. The monster fled the cottage and so did the family, never to return. This filled the monster with anguish and grief. He decided that it was his creator’s fault that he was lonely. So the monster sought out his creator, in hopes of having a companion created for him. In many ways, the monster, Victor, and Walton all share the same desire; companionship. In the end, after Victor dies, the monster realizes that he has lost his only real companion. Throughout his whole life, the monster was evil towards Victor. It can easily be argued that Victor was evil towards the monster as well, but this is not so. After this quote, Victor’s sympathy is obvious. It seems that if the monster had only tried to make a real companion out of Victor, then he would have felt the happiness he so much desired.
This book makes it evident that a lack of companionship could potentially cause insanity or rage, while neglecting companionship will lead to the ultimate destruction of one’s self. Victor neglected his family and his creation, and ended up losing everything because of this. The monster neglected his only true companion; Victor Frankenstein, and also devoted himself entirely to trying to convince Victor to create a companion for him. Victor sees a part of himself in Robert, and warns him that he should be cautious and precise in his actions when seeking for knowledge. If Robert fails to think of a single possible outcome, it could come back and ruin him. Victor tells his story to warn Robert, and tell him that his life is not a worthy price to pay for knowledge.