Outer characterization

Victor Frankenstein is the main character in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The novel is even named after him. When readers first meet him, he has just been rescued from the Arctic sea ice. Captain Robert Walton describes how “his limbs were nearly frozen, and his body dreadfully emaciated by fatigue and suffering” (p.26). Walton later states: 

I never saw a more interesting creature; his eyes have generally an expression of wildness, and even madness, but there are moments when, if any one performs an act of kindness towards him […], his whole countenance is lighted up, as it were, with a beam of benevolence and sweetness that I never saw equaled. (p. 27)

This immediately suggests Frankenstein’s sympathetic and unsympathetic qualities. It also tells us that he has gone through many difficulties. 

When Frankenstein begins his narrative, he quickly explains that he is from Geneva, Switzerland, and that he was born to a wealthy and loving family. He is 17 when his mother dies and he goes to university in Ingolstadt. 

Readers do not learn much about Frankenstein’s physical appearance, but we learn that he is constantly falling ill. He explains early on that his obsession with creating life causes him bodily illness: “My cheek had grown pale with study, and my person had become emaciated with confinement.” (p. 55)

Inner characterization

Two of Victor Frankenstein’s key characteristics are his desire for knowledge and his ambition. He discovers a love for learning at an early age: 

The world was to me a secret which I desired to divine. Curiosity, earnest research to learn the hidden laws of nature, gladness akin to rapture, as they were unfolded to me, are among the earliest sensations I can remember. (p. 38)

Here, Frankenstein reveals his fundamenta...

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