In the gothic novel “Frankenstein”, Mary Shelley portrays the noticeable decline of the creator of the “monster”, Victor Frankenstein. His decline is both physical and mentally described by the author using language of a typical gothic novel. The main factors describing Victor’s descent are his health, troubled mind, changing relationships with family and friends and finally the main cause for all his troubles, the ambitions which he strives for. All these side effects from Frankenstein’s strive for knowledge and power could be related to the attitudes to science at the time.
The end of the 18th Century and the start of the 19th Century brought about a period of rapid scientific and technological advancements in Britain. The Industrial Revolution changed the face of manufacturing, a series of scientific breakthroughs promised to give man previously unimaginable powers over the natural world. Men and women’s attitude towards these improvements were uneasy; this was reflected in many ways such as art for example the painting by Joseph Wright, “Experiment On A Bird In An Air Pump”.
The start of the novel sees Victor in a utopia, living by his “mother’s tender caresses” and “father’s smile of benevolent pleasures” This portrays the perfection and heaven Frankenstein lived through in his early years, which also highlighted the peak in his health. The quotes convey images of tranquillity and clarity. This fantasy was never to continue as Shelley’s describes Victor’s ambitions which lead him to become subdued and wicked. Chapter 4 opens up the cracks in the fortress for Victor; it sees Victor travel to the University of Ingolstadt to study further for his strive for scientific knowledge.
This move sees Victor meet professors such as Waldman and Krempe who encourage him to study and give up the philosophical “nonsense” he has been reading. In this chapter Shelley tells of Frankenstein’s lack of sleep, in which he becomes “so ardent and eager that the stars often disappeared into the light of the morning”. By the end of this chapter signs of Frankenstein’s health diminishing come to light, he is said to be “oppressed by a slow fever every night” and “he becomes nervous to a painful degree”.
In Chapter 5 we begin to see his mind being manipulated, hallucinating over Elizabeth in his dreams “that had been my food and pleasant rest for so long a space were now a hell to me”. The diction chosen by Shelley in this section is quite religious portraying hell as a nightmare and heaven as a simple good rest. His health also dwindles as he has finishes the monster and his project is complete. Upon meeting his long lost friend Henry Clerval many statements are said about his “ill, thin and pale” appearance.
After this meeting Victor leads him back to his apartment and finding the monster has left on its own accord he lets out a fiendish, possessed laughter which shocks Henry. This event shows how Shelley wants Victor to be portrayed as something demonic and evil. Later in this chapter Victor’s health hits a low he falls into “a nervous fever confining him for months”. However his health is recovered by his best friend Henry who cares for him the whole time.
Chapter 9 portrays how mentally affected Frankenstein has become rather than his physical sufferings. Victor begins to feel ephemeral guilt over the deaths of his brother William and Justine Moritz, a maid. Shelley writes about how this “state of mind preyed upon his health”, which led to Victor seeking solitude in more remote areas, later on going to the valley of Chamonix where Mont Blanc is situated. This is purposely added in to portray the sublime in nature, an ever present theme in gothic novels.
Overall Chapter 9 goes about conveying Victor guilt and seeking more solace in nature. In Chapter 24 Shelley is furthermore keen to show Victor’s decline in health enduring “misery which nothing but the eternal sentiment of a retribution burning within my heart” when after the monster. This shows his decline in health which has fallen so greatly and how Frankenstein himself has turned into a savage animal. He is also said to be “cursed by some devil and carried about with him his eternal hell” and how he “prays for death.