“The most important human endeavour is the striving for morality in our actions.”
He just may be the only thing keeping Victor Frankenstein from becoming a monster himself. Although there doesn’t seem to be an obvious antagonist in this story, it seems to me that Victor “antagonizes” his own story. Henry salvages Victor’s life by bringing him back to reality and “calling forth the better feelings of his heart”(Shelley 72). Victor is not a mean person, but he is selfish. He is the sole reason that the Monster is alive, and he takes no extreme measures to try and stop it, even though it is killing his friends and family members. Can you imagine creating something that defies all laws of nature and allow it to kill your family? As a sane person, this seems insane!This is where Henry comes in and adds some benevolence to the story. I don’t think it’s far fetched to say that Mr. Frankenstein is a little bit deranged, and Henry comes in and helps him gain back his sanity. Reflecting back, after Victor creates the Monster, he is relieved to see Henry. Upon seeing him, Victor states, “I grasped his hand, and in a moment forgot my horror and misfortune; I felt suddenly, and for the first time during many months, calm and serene joy” (Shelley 37). One could say that Henry serves as a breath of fresh air for Victor. I would say that Henry is his “knight in shining armour”. Imagine if the tables were turned though… imagine if Henry had fallen ill. Do you think Victor would have dedicated a year of his life to Henry?
Since Henry was first introduced, I have grown quite fond of him. He has passion for his studies, his is compassionate, kind, and an all around nice person. Henry is someone who I can relate to, he is someone who helps me feel the emotion of the story. Through all of the complex vocabulary used in the novel, Henry seems to pull me back into the reality of the story. He does the same for Victor, when he is distressed. Henry may not have a major role in the story, but he is a character that I wish I could have as a friend, someone who I aspire to be.
Furthermore, during the grim tale of Frankenstein and his ambition gone wrong, Henry seems to makes Victor’s qualities more apparent. In literary term this would be called a foil character. Victor describes Henry as being ” perfectly human, so thoughtful in his generosity, so full of kindness and tenderness amidst his passion”, which to me seems to be the exact opposite of Victor ( Shelley 23) . Henry’s contrast draws attention to Victor’s personality and highlights the differences between the two childhood friends. As Victor sinks deeper into depression, Henry seems to flourish with life. Clerval and Frankenstein both have ambition to be the best in their fields, but their differences accentuate Frankenstein’s wrongdoings. Henry has no interest in science, and merely wants to fulfill his life with the “moral relations of things”, which essentially means he wants to be a good person (Shelley 20). Victor, on the other hand is devoted to science and has a God complex. Because of such opposing personalities, it brought my attention to how important Henry is to Victor’s life. The etymology of the term foil comes from the practice of backing gems with foil to make them shine more brightly. This idea effectively worked on me and allowed me to look deeper into Frankenstein . Then again, because of all of Victor’s selfish acts, it brought my attention to “the foil” behind the gem (Victor Frankenstein) and his importance.
The reward of taming ambition and working on one’s moral character is seen by the success of Clerval and his enjoyment of life while Frankenstein continues to stagger in his own misery. In light of all of Henry’s good deeds and his opposing characteristics to those of Victor, to me it seems that Henry Clerval is Victor’s “Good Samaritan”, which is “a person who gratuitously gives help or sympathy to those in distress” (Dictonary.com). Despite the fact that he shows up little in Frankenstein, he as an immense role in Victor’s life, Hence the title.
“A Quote from Albert Einstein.” Goodreads, Goodreads, www.goodreads.com/quotes/287852-the-most-important-human-endeavor-is-the-striving-for-morality.
Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com, www.dictionary.com/browse/good-samaritan.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Penguin Publishing Group, 2013.