Have you ever read a book or story and thought, “Wow, the characters in this story are extremely boring”? The development of a character within a story is a key element when writing literature. Often, the author will integrate the use of a tragic flaw within a character’s personality to further develop the character and to attract a reader’s attention. A tragic flaw is a term in literature that refers to a trait that a character acquires during a story, that leads to that character’s downfall. In Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein, one of the main characters, Victor Frankenstein, possesses a tragic flaw. Frankenstein’s tragic flaw is his thirst for knowledge and his obsession with discovering the secret of life, causing him to sacrifice his normal knowledge of life and obtain new, horrifying knowledge that brings pain, suffering, and isolation upon himself.
Throughout Victor Frankenstein’s childhood, he always had a thirst for knowledge and was supported by his loving family to pursue his journey to study at a university. After his mother died from scarlet fever, Victor decided to attend a university and became obsessed with natural sciences. At first, Frankenstein was enthusiastic and optimistic about being able to gain knowledge about science from a university. At the university, he meets a chemistry professor named M. Waldman, who inspires him to continue learning about science, and tells Victor that “In other studies, you go as far as others have gone before you, and there is nothing more to know; but in scientific pursuit there is continual food for discovery and wonder”(p.51). With a combination of his mother passing away and the inspiration he gained from M. Waldman, Victor Frankenstein decided he was going to discover the secret of life, the way humans are created, find a way to keep people from dying, and eliminate the effects of disease. Frankenstein decided to play the role of “God” by creating a creature that resembled himself.
In the pursuit of creating a creature that resembled himself, Frankenstein became consumed by the task and isolated himself from the rest of the world, focusing everything into creating the creature. Winter, spring, and summer passed by, and not once did he look out the window to watch the seasons pass by. He gathered body parts of deceased people to form his creation that was said to be 8 feet in height and proportionally large. “For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream had vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart”(p.59). When Frankenstein finished his creation and brought it to life, he immediately became horrified and disgusted by the creature he had created and abandoned the creature; unlike god, who supported his creation of mankind. He experienced a mental breakdown that caused him to get sick from the thought of his action that had unleashed a terrible creature. Frankenstein’s non acceptance of his creation was a major factor in the downfall of his character in the story.
Love and acceptance from his creator was all the creature wanted from Frankenstein. “Remember,” said the creature, “that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy from no misdeed”(p.105). This quote showed that the creature thrived for his creator to accept him, but instead, the creature felt unwanted. The creature compared Frankenstein to God, expressing that Adam, God’s creation, was loved; but the creature did not feel loved by his creator. This feeling of unwantedness led to the creature’s want for revenge on Frankenstein. Throughout the novel, in attempt to inflict pain and isolation upon his creator, the creature murdered Frankenstein’s loved ones. At first, the creature strangled Victor’s younger brother Willam to death because William spoke of the name Frankenstein. As the story progressed, the creature used Justine, a servant that Frankenstein’s mother treated as her own daughter, as a way for the murder of William to be used against her and framed her for his death. The consequence of a murder was death. The guilt of Justine and William’s death caused pain and suffering to Frankenstein. He said, “Instead of that serenity of conscience which allowed me to look back upon the past with self-satisfaction, and from thence to gather promise of new hopes, I was seized by remorse and the sense of guilt, which hurried me away to a hell of intense tortures such as no language can describe” (p.94). This quote foreshadowed the pain and suffering that Frankenstein was to experience. Later in the novel, Victor was framed for the death of his best friend, Henry Clerval. Having lost four of the people he loved and cherished the most, Frankenstein became broken-hearted and lost his mind. As if things weren’t bad enough already, to make sure that Frankenstein truly suffered from pain and isolation, the creature murdered Frankenstein’s wife; the woman he loved the most. The creature’s purpose for killing all of the people Frankenstein could depend on was to show his creator what his own life felt like, living in isolation with nobody to rely on.
In conclusion, Frankenstein’s tragic flaw in Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein, is his thirst for knowledge and his obsession with wanting to know more about the secret of life and how lives are created. At first, Frankenstein was an enthusiastic learner and was open to any way of obtaining knowledge about life. His initial intentions were to create a way to keep people from dying and eliminate the effects of diseases. However, he decided to create a creature that resembled himself and brought life to the dead. After creating the creature and abandoning it, Frankenstein realized he released a demon and does not show any type of love and affection toward the creature. The abandonment of the creature by Frankenstein lead to the wanting of revenge and suffering upon himself from his creation. What better way to get revenge on someone than by murdering his or her entire family and everyone that he or she has ever cared about?
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