From the first three chapters of "Frankenstein", what are the formative influences in Victor’s early life?

By Danielle Pham

Victor’s upbringing is a formative influence in his early life, as it ‘moulds’ him into who he becomes as an adult. He is born into a very distinguished and wealthy family, yet despite their immense fortune, his parents are untainted by their social status and remain noble and generous people. Being such ‘benevolent’ and affectionate people, when Victor is born they are ideal parents who raise Victor "with this deep consciousness of what they owed towards the being to which they had given life". Being treated as his parents’ plaything and "idol" leaves Victor with boundless confidence, which then leads him to believe that he is destined for greatness, thus he becomes ambitious and unusually determined (unfortunately his ambition becomes so great that he oversteps the boundary of what mankind should experiment with). The love and affection he receives from his parents, and which they seem to ‘bestow’ upon each other and all those around them, also bears influence on his adulthood as he too becomes, like his parents, a very affectionate and humane person; his only apparent flaw is his over-ambition.

Other formative influences in Victor’s early life appear to be Elizabeth and Clerval. Elizabeth is similar to Victor’s mother as, despite having suffered great hardship, they both remain gentle, virtuous and generous (to the point of self-sacrifice) women. The imaginative and romantic Clerval is also another person whom Victor grows up with who is "perfectly human and thoughtful in his generosity". The gentle nature of these two childhood playmates prevent Victor from becoming too caught up in his study of natural philosophy and science, and keep him in touch with the more enjoyable, romantic and beautiful side of life, thus he grows up into a sensitive and cordial adult.

The formative influences of Victor’s early life, come not only in the form of other human beings, but also in the form of books. By chance, he comes across a volume of the works of Cornelius Agrippa, and after reading it, seeks the works of Paracelsus and also Albertus Magnus. The works of these men appear to provide the basis of the answers, to the questions which Victor asks of nature and its secrets, thus he becomes the ‘disciples’ of these men. What Victor discovers through his reading is that there are certain ‘mystical’ aspects of nature which human beings have the ability to understand, and this coincides with his "fervent longing to penetrate the secrets of nature". This desire to ‘conquer the unknown realms of nature’ then leads him to attempt the creation of another being, which eventually brings about his downfall.

When Victor meets Professor Waldman at the University of Ingolstadt, he, unlike Professor Krempe, does not rebuke Victor for studying the work of Agrippa, Paracelsus and Magnus, as he understands Victor’s fascination with their work, and actually admits that "these were men to whose indefatigable zeal modern philosophers were indebted for most of the foundations of their knowledge". However, he does advise Victor to not concentrate on only one branch of natural philosophy, but all of them, and he also takes the time to show Victor the relevant equipment which he will need. As Waldman proves to be a man from whom Victor can learn a lot, without despising him (unlike Krempe), Victor begins to admire him, and thus becomes influenced by him, and so Waldman becomes another formative influence in Victor’s life.

This essay was found at www.englishresources.co.uk