In Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, families are a very important part of the structure of the novel.
Frankenstein’s family is critical because the reason why the monster was created lies within the family. Almost every family mentioned in the novel was either incomplete or was dysfunctional. Frankenstein’s family in particular was missing a female role. The Frankenstein family had no mother, but they did have Elizabeth who was the only other female in the house and she was adopted when she was just a child. The monster was created because of this absence, not necessarily to fill the role of the mother, but to fill in the role of the missing family member. However, the monster is shunned away when he is animated and the fall of the Frankenstein family awaits them. Victor Frankenstein’s family was normal to begin with. He had a mother and a father, but later on when Elizabeth becomes sick with a fever, his mother nurses her back to health at the cost of her own life.
On her deathbed, Victor’s mom says, ‘Elizabeth, my love, you must supply my place to my younger children. Alas! I regret that I am taken from you; and, happy and beloved as I have been, is it not hard . . . a hope of meeting you in another world’; (42). Elizabeth is expected to fill in as the role of the mother by taking care of and protecting the young children. Although she replaces the role of the mother, there is still the fact that a family member is missing.
A mother is impossible to replace; you can’t have a stepmother because she will never be a replacement for an original mother. Nor can a mother be bought, but Victor uses his knowledge from Ingolstadt to create a being to fill in that missing figure. In the later part of the novel, the monster stumbles upon a family where he learns the basics of living and surviving. The monster is very intelligent and can learn at a exceedingly rapid rate.
The family that he crosses is the De Lacey family. This family is also incomplete because they are also missing a mother figure here. Yet they have a substitute as does the Frankenstein family has. For the De Lacey family, Agatha, the sister, plays the womanly role here. Felix her brother always takes care of her and tries to make life as easiest as possible even though they have gone through many hardships.
The problems that this family faces are numerous indeed. Their father is blind and cannot help them in any way. Besides this fact, the De Lacey family was expelled from their native land and forced to live in poverty in a foreign place.
‘He did not succeed. They remained confined for five months before the trial took place; the result of which deprived them of their fortune and condemned them to a perpetual exile from their native county’; (122). During the time of the exile, Felix was unable to see his loved one, just like while Victor was away studying, they both could not see the one they cared for. The monster at this time learns of emotion and compassion. He can sympathize with his ‘benefactors’; and he also wants to help them, but he can’t because of his appearance. The missing family member of the De Lacey’s is directly correlated with the missing family member of the Frankenstein’s.
The existence of the De Lace’s in the novel proves that Mary Shelly wanted to include the importance of a family and how being close in a family can make everyone happy. This happiness that Victor is trying so hard to pursue by creating the monster. Near the end of the novel, the Monster requests from Victor to create for him, a female counterpart. When the Monster says, ‘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 do demand it of you as a right which you must not refuse to concede’;(140). The Monsters longing for a person he can communicate with is very important. It signifies that he wants to be included in some kind of family situation as he has observed from before.
He wants a person who can understand the way he feels and why he feels this way. When a person usually has problems, he/she turns to family for help, but in the case of the Monster; he has no family and must ask his creator to make him one. Not a whole family, but a single person, who could be his companion for life.
The way the Monster needs a member is the same as Victor wanting to create a new member himself. By creating the female one, Victor is attempting to make a new family for the monster, but near the completion of the female monster, Victor decides to destroy it. He contemplates that making this female version of the Monster will allow the male one to be able to produce offspring’s and this he thought would be a horrendous idea. A lot of little monsters with superhuman powers running around. Not one family in this novel was complete. Even in the beginning when the Frankenstein family took in Elizabeth from the poor family, they were breaking up another family.
Although Elizabeth was not a part of that family to begin with, she was still taken from her original foster parents. ‘She was not her child, but the daughter of a Milanese nobleman. Her mother was a German, and had died on giving birth’;(34). The additional family member from early on might have given Victor the idea of bringing in his ‘own ‘;family member when his mother passed away.
Elizabeth was very precious to him and he cared for her tremendously. ‘No word, no expression could body forth the kind of relation in which she stood to me – my more than sister, since till death she was to be mine only’; (35). This phrase right here shows his feelings for her from early on in the novel. As the novel proceeds, his feelings remain unchanged. This kind of relationship was mutual between the both of them and since they were not really brother/sister it was okay for them to have this kind of relationship in the family. When the Monster starts killing his family members one by one, he makes Victor contemplate the idea of what it is like to be without a loved one. Although this message doesn’t actually get into Victor’s mind, he decides to create the female monster just to be rid of the male monster.
This selfish act by him, is really what causes Elizabeth, now his wife, to die. With the death of Elizabeth Victor loses him self to the act of revenge. He searches and attempts all possible ways to kill the Monster, but of course the Monster which he created is too powerful for him. ‘Scoffing devil! Again do I vow vengeance; again do I devote thee, miserable fiend, to torture and death. Never will I give up my search, until he or I perish; and then with what ecstasy shall I join my Elizabeth and my departed friends, who even now prepare for me the reward of my tedious toil and horrible pilgrimage’; (198). The Monster’s true intentions was to make his creator realize the need for a family, even for one that has been alone since creation. Every being deserves someone to love and someone to love them.In conclusion, the need for an extra family member was the reason Victor created the monster.
Through various examples throughout the novel, we can see that the need for family is greatly needed. If one is missing, the family is incomplete and must attempt to substitute that member with someone else. Many times, a substitute cannot be found and life must go on with what you have. The Monster in the end had no one and decided cease living and leave this place as an act of goodwill. This was most unfortunate because he never got to experience what living with a family or having anyone to love was like. As the creator, Victor should take full responsibility and provide his creation with these pleasures in life.
In the very end, the monster does regret putting his creator through the torment that he went through. Two wrongs do not make a right, but it seemed the only reasoning that could get through Victor’s stubborn head was to it this way. In the end we learn that family is the basis for which we can continue on and have happiness.