AP English 4
8 February 2018
How to Find Happiness.
Thesis: In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, ultimate happiness is found in relationships with friends, lovers or family.
1) For Victor and the Monster, happiness springs from friendships.
a) Victor Frankenstein, the main character in Frankenstein, frequently falls into depression, from which only friendship with Henry Clerval can pull him out.
b) As revenge for Victor ending his project, the monster murders Henry Clerval, taking away the cornerstone of Victor’s happiness.
c) The monster is a creature of grotesque proportions, who spends the entire novel searching for a friendship from which he can derive happiness.
2) Numerous characters, including the Monster, Victor and Felix, rely on romantic relationships for happiness.
a) When Victor was but a boy, his parents rescued an orphan girl, Elizabeth, who ends up being a very important source of happiness for Victor. She became a pseudo-sister, often referred to as “cousin”, as well as the love of his life.
b) After observing the relationship between Felix and Safie, as well as many other couples, the monster realizes that a romantic relationship is what he wants the most.
c) The inhabitants of the cottage “were not entirely happy” (Shelley 98), and they often “appeared to weep” (Shelley 98), due to Felix’s missing bride.
3) Family relationships are one of the most important relationships for happiness, as seen through Walton, the cottagers and many other characters.
a) Safie’s family like nature with the rest of the cottagers provide happiness for the De Lacey’s.
b) The letters written by Walton to his sister Mrs. Saville are where the reader gets their first glimpse of happiness provided by familial relationships.
c) Throughout the novel, there is a motif of motherless children, being raised by their fathers, which causes them to search for happiness through relationships.
d) This is another motif throughout the novel, where orphans finally know happiness due to adopted families.
AP English 4
15 February 2018
What makes a person happy? The answer to that question is something humankind has searched for and found, although differently, in every era. Strict religious observance provided people in the 1700’s happiness. In the 1920’s, people found happiness in wealth, opulence and partying. For young children, happiness may simply be playing in the mud. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, ultimate happiness is found in relationships with friends, lovers or family.
Victor Frankenstein, the main character in Frankenstein, frequently falls into depression, from which only friendship with Henry Clerval can pull him out. He created a grotesque beast called the monster, the sight of which throws him into depression, with Victor recalling he “was in reality very ill, and surely nothing but the unbounded and unremitting attentions of [his] friend could have returned [him] to life” (Shelley 49). Victor falls into depression because of what he has done and where he has been. The thought of releasing the creature on humanity deeply upsets him. Also, his lack of relationships while creating the monster has sapped away all of his happiness. So, his sadness about the creature overwhelms him because he has no remaining happiness to balance it. Henry foregoes his study abroad program, which means a lot to him, to minister to Victor. Furthermore “Henry saw this, and had removed all my apparatus from [his] view. He had also changed [his] apartment, for [Henry] perceived that [he] had acquired a dislike for the room” (Shelley 55). Henry cares for Victor enough to notice what things bother him. He then takes it upon himself to remove any trigger for Victor’s illness from his sight. The sacrifice and care, which could be called love, shown by Henry for Victor ultimately pulls him out of depression into happiness.
As revenge for Victor ending his project, the monster murders Henry Clerval, taking away the cornerstone of Victor’s happiness. When Victor realizes that it is his friend, his “human frame could no longer support the agonies that [he] endured, and [he] was carried out of the room in strong convulsions” (Shelley 162). His sickness and depression return yet again, lasting more than two months this time. It is different than his usual manias because he did not have Henry to immediately start pulling him out. This shows that Victor is somewhat of a weak person. He cannot fix his own mental health issues. It suggests that Victor has always had relationships to make him happy, which makes sense when thinking about his upbringing. He does not remember anything from this two month period, describing it as “awaking from a dream” (Shelley 163). Shortly after awakening Victor says, “The whole series of my life appeared to me as a dream; I sometimes doubted if indeed it were all true, for it never presented itself to my mind with the force of reality. As the images that floated before me became more distinct, I grew feverish; a darkness pressed around me” (Shelley, 165). His sickness did not stay away this time, instead becoming a walking sickness. His whole life takes a dreamlike quality, which it retains for the rest of the novel. I believe this sickness represents depression, with a manifestation of physical symptoms as well as mental symptoms. Depression is often described as going through the motions, living in a dream, not having any purpose or reason to live. It is almost spot on with how Victor describes his own sickness. Furthermore, his fever and other physical manifestations come from shock, or from a weakened immune system from depression. The length, intensity and symptoms of his sickness this time are due to the lack of Henry. Victor does not have his best friend to show him the unconditional love and support that has healed his broken body and soul before, therefore he does not have happiness. Similarly, the monster longs for a relationship modeled after Victor and Henry’s, one of friendship.
The monster is a creature of grotesque proportions, who spends the entire novel searching for a friendship from which he can derive happiness. After his initial run in with his creator, he travels far and wide searching for someone that would accept him. He walks into a village saying: “One of the best of these I entered, but I had hardly placed my foot within the door before the children shrieked and one of the women fainted” (Shelley 93). The inhabitants of the house freak out at the mere sight of the monster, not giving him a chance to even speak. His appearance is apparently so grotesque it causes people to faint. This initial interaction with people makes the monster realize he will never have a relationship with someone if they can see him before they get to know him. The monster comes upon a small house far away from any others, taking refuge in the hovel attached to the hut, watching the family in the hut and learning the language. In this situation, his “spirits were elevated by the enchanting appearance of nature; the past was blotted from [his] memory, the present was tranquil, and the future gilded by bright rays of hope and anticipation of joy.” (Shelley 103). The monster finally feels a sense of relationship, like he is a part of the family living in the hut. The monster achieves some semblance of happiness through his relationship with the family, but he quickly wants more out of this relationship with the family. The father is blind, so the monster decides to meet the father when the rest of the family is away from the house. The monster has realized something that most humans wish were true. He decides that love is blind, so he can find a relationship with the father despite his appearance. The plan works well at first, the monster meeting the father and having a nice conversation. But the family returns; “Agatha fainted, and Safie, unable to attend to her friend, rushed out of the cottage, Felix darted forward, and with supernatural force, tore [him] from his father” (Shelley 122). Yet again the monster’s appearance keeps him from having relationships. Blind love was working so well with the father, but once someone can see him it all falls apart. If only someone could have just overlooked the monster’s appearance, they would have found a loving, lonely soul. But after this interaction, instead of being sad and lonely, he turns bitter. He feels as though he “could with pleasure have destroyed the cottage and its inhabitants, and have glutted [himself] with their shrieks and misery” (Shelley 123). This sets the mood for the entire novel, seeing murder as an option for the first time. Having a semblance of the happiness which comes from relationships taken away from him only makes him want it more.
When Victor was but a boy, his parents rescued an orphan girl, Elizabeth, who ends up being a very important source of happiness for Victor. She became a pseudo-sister, often referred to as “cousin”, as well as the love of his life. From a young age Victor was told by his parents Elizabeth would be his bride. They were soul mates and Victor “never saw any woman who excited, as Elizabeth does, [his] warmest admiration and affection.” Throughout the entire novel, Victor never looks at another woman in any romantic way because he understands that only Elizabeth will give him true happiness. They never disagreed because “Harmony was the soul of [their] companionship, and the diversity and contrast that subsided in [their] characters drew [them] nearer together” (Shelley 24). Elizabeth completes Victor, his abundance of certain qualities complimenting her lack in those, and vice versa. Multiple times throughout the novel, Victor’s contact with Elizabeth pulls him out of his madness. His romantic relationship with Elizabeth is a great source of happiness for Victor.
When Elizabeth dies, Victor is distraught. He “fell at last into a state of utter exhaustion; a film covered [his] eyes, and [his] skin was parched with the heat of a fever” (Shelley 181). This is worse than his other manias because he fell into a combination of physical sickness and mental sickness. He could not find any way in life because “All this time no distinct idea presented itself to [his] mind, but [his] thoughts rambled to various subjects” (Shelley 181). The death of his love turned him into an invalid. He was unable to make decisions, or fix his life. This was heightened by Elizabeth being his last important living relative. His relationships with his loved ones, especially Henry and Elizabeth, are what pulled him out of madness time and time again. Without these relatives, he is unable to recover from this illness, staying in a relative state of sickness and depression throughout the rest of the novel. The loss of his remaining significant relative takes away any chance of happiness he has left. Much in the same way, Victor’s creation suffers from a lack of relationships.
After observing the relationship between Felix and Safie, as well as many other couples, the monster realizes that a romantic relationship is what he wants the most. The person can be his lover and his best friend at the same time. He finally approaches his creator for the first time in the novel, telling him “You must create a female for me, with whom I can live in the interchange of those sympathies necessary for my being. This you alone can do; and I demand it of you as a right which you must not refuse to concede” (Shelley 131). His use of necessary is very important. His time with the inhabitants of the hut has shown him the only way to live is with happiness. The monster has seen, as well as felt, what happiness brings to people’s lives. His use of must shows an idea in his head, that life is not worth living without relationships. He decides that he can no longer live as a hermit. Not only does he want a wife, his “companion must be of the same species, and have the same defects. This being you must create” (Shelley 130). Yet again the use of must shows his feelings on relationships. He has come to his own conclusion that life can only be lived well while in relationships, and he is dead set on having one. Wanting a bride of the same species and defects has a twofold meaning. First of all, he wishes for an equal, someone to accept him for what he is. Equality is what most people want in a romantic relationship, meaning the monster is mostly human in his reasoning. The other reason is so that his wife will never leave him. No one will accept her, just as the monster has not been accepted. She will not have anyone else in life, so the monster will always have her and always have happiness.
When Victor refuses to create a bride for the monster, the monster actually falls apart. He cries, “shall each man find a wife for his bosom, and each beast have his mate, and I be alone? I had feelings of affection, and they were requited by detestation and scorn” (Shelley 153). This time the monster becomes emotional about missing out on a relationship, but he quickly turns bitter. The monster angrily tells Victor,
Man! You may hate, but beware! Your hours will pass in dread and misery, and soon the bolt will fall which must ravish from you your happiness forever. Are you to be happy, while I grovel in the intensity of my wretchedness? You can blast my other passions, but revenge remains-revenge, henceforth dearer than light or food! I may die, but first you, my tyrant and tormentor, shall curse the sun that gazes on your misery” (Shelley 154)
The feelings that he felt after being attacked by the family from the hut return tenfold when his request is rejected by Victor. He does not want to kill Victor, but rather, he wants him to feel how he has felt. He wants Victor to long for the sweet release of death, because his life is so otherwise terrible. If the monster cannot be happy, then Victor will not have happiness due to the monster. This statement is a catalyst for the rest of the novel, driving the monster and Victor to action. .
The inhabitants of the cottage “were not entirely happy” (Shelley 98), and they often “appeared to weep” (Shelley 98), due to Felix’s missing bride. They spend their days engulfed with menial chores so that they can survive, with their only joy coming from the music De Lacey plays. But this all changes when a cloaked rider arrives. “Felix seemed ravished with delight when he saw her, every trait of sorrow vanished from his face, and it instantly expressed a degree of ecstatic joy, of which I could hardly have believed it capable; his eyes sparkled, as his cheek flushed with pleasure” (Shelley 105). The immediate reaction of Felix is physical change, with his entire appearance changing to convey his happiness. The author uses “ravished” which implies that Felix was completely and totally consumed by this happiness. The monster almost finds it impossible that such a strong change could overcome Felix, which is why he uses “could hardly believe”. The monster, through Felix and Safie, relates to the reader how much happiness a relationship can truly bring. Felix and Safie’s love story is one that everyone in the De Lacey family has sacrificed everything for, because she not only provided Felix with happiness.
Her family like nature with the rest of the cottagers provide happiness, for “Her presence diffused gladness throughout the cottage, dispelling their sorrow as the sun dissipates the morning mists. Felix seemed peculiarly happy, and with smiles of delight welcomed his Arabian” (Shelley 105). Again, the happiness that Safie brings is obvious even to the monster, with the happiness being highlighted to the reader through the metaphor used. It is incredibly noticeable when you wake up and it is foggy, but later in the day everything is clear and sunny. The different relationships between Safie and the cottagers provide them with tremendous happiness, as relationships tend to do. The story of cottagers is set in almost the middle of the novel, and although it is worked into the story, it could very well stand alone as its own story. The letters at the beginning of the novel are the same type of frame story.
The letters written by Walton to his sister Mrs. Saville are where the reader gets their first glimpse of happiness provided by familial relationships. The letters are written from a ship travelling across the North Pole. He is trapped on a ship with gruff sailors and he feels as though “When [he is] glowing with the enthusiasm of success, there will be none to participate [his] joy; If [he is] assailed by disappointment, no one will endeavor to sustain [him] in dejection. [He] shall commit [his] thoughts to paper, it is true but that is a poor medium for communication of feeling” (Shelley 5). His first worry is that he will not have someone to experience or endure his emotions. He sees the most important part of a relationship as emotional support, with the thought of missing out on that leading him to dejection. He then states he will attempt to share his emotions with his sister through his letters, but he doesn’t think that will work. He longs for a flesh and blood relationships: a shoulder to cry on, a body to hug, a voice to soothe, and everything else people may take for granted. Further along in the letters, he says, “You may deem me romantic, my sister, but I bitterly feel the want of a friend” (Shelley 5). At first, he is afraid of not having a friend, but he plans to have the letters as his friend, to pour his emotions into them. But he quickly becomes lonely in the absence of a relationship. Walton is a man used to relationships. When he goes without a relationship, he quickly loses all happiness provided by previous relationships
Walton cares for his sister as much as any man would care for his wife, or any parent for their child, receiving happiness from this hereditary relationship. He becomes trapped in ice, and fears for his life. He writes, “Oh my beloved sister, the sickening failing of your heart-felt expectations is, in prospect, more terrible to me than my own death” (Shelley 197). He is incredibly worried that he will die trapped in the ice and no one will know about it. His choice of words in this quote shows his care for his sister. Stating that her not knowing will be more upsetting to him than his own death means he is putting her happiness above his own. He does this because his happiness stems from his relationship with his sister, which will not provide him happiness if she is sad. He understands the desolation a lack of news about her brother will bring Mrs. Saville, because of how much he cares about her. But Walton and his crew become free of the ice and “While [he is] wafted towards England, and towards [Mrs. Saville], [he] will not despond” (Shelley 200). He realizes that he will see his sister again soon, which keeps him from sadness. He does not care that he did not achieve his goal because he is going to bask in the happiness provided to him by a relationship.
Throughout the novel, there is a motif of motherless children, being raised by their fathers, which causes them to search for happiness through relationships. Victor’s own mother “died calmly; and her countenance expressed affection even in death” (Shelley 31). Her death is also a death of a mother for Elizabeth; for she cared enough to ask her to “supply my place to my younger children” (Shelley 30). The monster had only one parent, using that term loosely, who was Victor. This lack of relationships is one of the motivating factors for the monster’s search for happiness. The inhabitants of the cottage, Felix, Safie, Agatha, were all without a mother, contributing to their sadness in the beginning of their mini-story. Justine, the poor housekeeper, is essentially cast out by her mother, saved by Victor’s mother.
This is another motif throughout the novel, where orphans finally know happiness due to adopted families. Alfonso’s parents adopt his bride Caroline. Victor’s parents adopt Elizabeth, as well as the maid Justine. The De Lacey’ take Safie into their home. The adoptive families and deceased mothers show how relationships provide happiness. Elizabeth and Justine become members of the Frankenstein family, basking in and contributing to the happiness shared in that family. During the trial of Justine, Elizabeth says, “She nursed Madame Frankenstein, my aunt, in her last illness, with the greatest affection and care” (Shelley, 72). Elizabeth’s use of “aunt” showcases how she feels a part of the family, while Justine’s “affection and care” portrays how much Madame Frankenstein means to her. After the trial Elizabeth says, “How shall I ever again believe in human goodness? Justine, whom I loved and esteemed as my sister (Shelley, 73). Elizabeth, an adopted member of the Frankenstein family, sees Justine as a sister, meaning the rest of the Frankenstein’s see her as family. Her statement about Justine exemplifying “human goodness” proves in what high regards Elizabeth holds Justine. Shortly after his mother dies, the family loses bliss and begins to endure hardships. Each subsequent death of a family member drives the remainder further from happiness. The De Lacey’s are not happy until their adoptive daughter arrives, because their family relationship is incomplete. The monster is without any family relationships, and try as he may, no one is willing to open their homes to him. The loss of family members, even in the strange, convoluted, extended family units in this novel, leeches a degree of happiness from the collective which in many cases is never again obtained.
The motifs in this novel further exemplify the impacts that relationships can have on a person. Platonic and Romantic relationships provide happiness for the characters in Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein. People in real life search far and wide for happiness, but these characters have it figured out. Victor finds happiness through romantic relations with Elizabeth, and platonic relations with Henry. On the other hand, his creature the monster does not have a relationship with anyone. Mrs. Saville provides a familial relationship to Walton, raising his spirits when he is out to sea with no friends. The De Lacey’s find happiness in their relationship with Safie, which for Felix is a twofold relationship. Other characters like Caroline, Justine and Elizabeth find happiness through relationships with their adoptive families. Mary Shelley has shown that lasting happiness springs from a good relationship with someone you love.
On my honor, I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this graded academic work. ~Ty P. Schumacher
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein. New York: Sterling Publishing, 2015.