Characters in Frankenstein
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Daughter of M. De Lacey and sister of Felix.
Agatha first appears anonymously (described only as "a young creature") in the Creature's narration (II:3:14):
I ate my breakfast with pleasure, and was about to remove a plank to procure myself a little water, when I heard a step, and, looking through a small chink, I beheld a young creature, with a pail on her head, passing before my hovel. The girl was young and of gentle demeanour, unlike what I have since found cottagers and farm-house servants to be. Yet she was meanly dressed, a coarse blue petticoat and a linen jacket being her only garb; her fair hair was plaited, but not adorned; she looked patient, yet sad.
She provides the Creature with his first experience of beauty (II:3:15):
The young girl was occupied in arranging the cottage; but presently she took something out of a drawer, which employed her hands, and she sat down beside the old man, who, taking up an instrument, began to play, and to produce sounds, sweeter than the voice of the thrush or the nightingale. It was a lovely sight, even to me, poor wretch! who had never beheld aught beautiful before.
The Creature first learns her name in II:4:9, as he learns the rudiments of language. Over time he comes to know her history: she once "had ranked with ladies of the highest distinction" (II:6:2), but after De Lacey's fall, she was imprisoned with her father (II:6:13). After five months in prison, the family was condemned to exile and found "a miserable asylum in the cottage in Germany," where the Creature first encounters her.
In her last appearance in the novel, she faints from terror upon beholding the Creature (II:7:38):
At that instant the cottage door was opened, and Felix, Safie, and Agatha entered. Who can describe their horror and consternation on beholding me? Agatha fainted; and Safie, unable to attend to her friend, rushed out of the cottage.
When the Creature returns to the cottage, the De Laceys have deserted it (II:8:7).
Father of Victor, Ernest, and William Frankenstein; husband of Caroline; uncle and adoptive father of Elizabeth.
Alphonse Frankenstein is a syndic (magistrate) of Geneva and comes from a long line of syndics. Victor describes his character and his devotion to public duty:
My father had filled several public situations with honour and reputation. He was respected by all who knew him for his integrity and indefatigable attention to public business. He passed his younger days perpetually occupied by the affairs of his country; and it was not until the decline of life that he thought of marrying, and bestowing on the state sons who might carry his virtues and his name down to posterity. (I:1:1)
The emphasis on duty is clear in all of his dealings with his son.
Alphonse dies of an apoplectic fit after hearing of the death of Elizabeth.
Daughter of M. Beaufort; mother of Victor, Ernest, and William Frankenstein; wife of Alphonse; aunt and adoptive mother of Elizabeth; mother surrogate to Justine Moritz.
Beaufort, in his decline into poverty and wretchedness, brings Caroline with him, and during his final illness, she ministers to him for ten months. Finally,
Her father died in her arms, leaving her an orphan and a beggar. This last blow overcame her; and she knelt by Beaufort's coffin, weeping bitterly, when my father entered the chamber. He came like a protecting spirit to the poor girl, who committed herself to his care, and after the interment of his friend he conducted her to Geneva, and placed her under the protection of a relation. Two years after this event Caroline became his wife. (I:1:5)
Caroline Frankenstein, after adopting Elizabeth, determines that she and Victor should marry. Before Victor leaves for his university, however, Elizabeth is stricken with scarlet fever, and as Caroline stays with her to care for her, she contracts the disease. Elizabeth recovers, but Caroline's fever is fatal. On her deathbed,
She joined the hands of Elizabeth and myself: "My children," she said, "my firmest hopes of future happiness were placed on the prospect of your union. This expectation will now be the consolation of your father. Elizabeth, my love, you must supply my place to your younger cousins. Alas! I regret that I am taken from you; and, happy and beloved as I have been, is it not hard to quit you all? But these are not thoughts befitting me; I will endeavour to resign myself cheerfully to death, and will indulge a hope of meeting you in another world." (I:2:2)
Frankenstein describes the Creature's creation:
I doubted at first whether I should attempt the creation of a being like myself or one of simpler organization; but my imagination was too much exalted by my first success to permit me to doubt of my ability to give life to an animal as complex and wonderful as man. The materials at present within my command hardly appeared adequate to so arduous an undertaking; but I doubted not that I should ultimately succeed. . . . As the minuteness of the parts formed a great hindrance to my speed, I resolved, contrary to my first intention, to make the being of a gigantic stature; that is to say, about eight feet in height, and proportionably large. (I:3:7)
Upon bringing his creation to life, however, he is terrified by its hideous appearance:
How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion, and straight black lips. (I:4:2)
Frankenstein rushes from the room and sees no more of his Creature until after William's death, when he encounters the Creature outside Geneva: "A flash of lightning illuminated the object, and discovered its shape plainly to me; its gigantic stature, and the deformity of its aspect, more hideous than belongs to humanity, instantly informed me that it was the wretch, the filthy dæmon, to whom I had given life" (I:6:22). Later the Creature meets Frankenstein on the Mer de Glace, and there narrates fully a third of the novel to his creator, describing his first sensations (II:3:1), his first encounter with a terrified observer (II:3:9), and his discovery of a shelter beside the cottage of the De Laceys (II:3:10).
After unintentionally driving the De Laceys from him, he vows vengeance on humanity, and especially on his creator: "I, like the arch fiend, bore a hell within me; and, finding myself unsympathized with, wished to tear up the trees, spread havoc and destruction around me, and then to have sat down and enjoyed the ruin. . . . I declared everlasting war against the species, and, more than all, against him who had formed me, and sent me forth to this insupportable misery" (II:8:3). He goes to seek Frankenstein, and on the way encounters and murders William (1818:II:31).
At the end of his long narrative, the Creature demands that Frankestein create for him a mate (II:8:36), a task Frankenstein at first refuses. But the Creature's eloquence prevails:
If I have no ties and no affections, hatred and vice must be my portion; the love of another will destroy the cause of my crimes, and I shall become a thing, of whose existence every one will be ignorant. My vices are the children of a forced solitude that I abhor; and my virtues will necessarily arise when I live in communion with an equal. I shall feel the affections of a sensitive being, and become linked to the chain of existence and events, from which I am now excluded. (II:9:14)
Frankenstein agrees to create a female, and travels with Clerval to Great Britain, where he begins his work.
But Frankenstein, fearing the propagation of "a race of devils" (III:3:2), reneges on his promise, and destroys his half-finished creation (III:3:4). The furious Creature declares,
Slave, I before reasoned with you, but you have proved yourself unworthy of my condescension. Remember that I have power; you believe yourself miserable, but I can make you so wretched that the light of day will be hateful to you. You are my creator, but I am your master; obey! (III:3:11)
Vowing, "I shall be with you on your wedding-night" (III:3:15), the Creature rushes away. When Frankenstein is framed for the murder of Clerval, he realizes it is the Creature's doing (III:4:9). Misunderstanding the import of the Creature's resolution to be with him on his wedding night, he leaves his bride Elizabeth defenseless to the Creature's murderous assault (III:6:7). Victor pursues the Creature, who leads him northward across Europe into the Arctic, leaving inscriptions to taunt his creator (III:7:10).
Finally Frankenstein is picked up by Walton, who is uncertain about his story until, after Frankenstein's death from exhaustion, the Creature appears aboard ship and laments over his body (III:WC:35). He justifies his actions to Walton—"I pitied Frankenstein; my pity amounted to horror: I abhorred myself. . . . I knew that I was preparing for myself a deadly torture; but I was the slave, not the master of an impulse, which I detested, yet could not disobey"—and declares his intention to "seek the most northern extremity of the globe," there to immolate himself and find rest in death.
An Irish fisherman and witness against Victor Frankenstein for the murder of Clerval (III:4:2).
Cousin, adopted sister, and eventually wife of Victor Frankenstein (in the first edition of 1818; in the third edition of 1831, she is a foundling).
The Frankenstein family adopted Elizabeth, and Caroline Frankenstein early planned that Elizabeth should be Victor's future wife. Frankenstein describes her character at length:
She was docile and good tempered, yet gay and playful as a summer insect. Although she was lively and animated, her feelings were strong and deep, and her disposition uncommonly affectionate. No one could better enjoy liberty, yet no one could submit with more grace than she did to constraint and caprice. Her imagination was luxuriant, yet her capability of application was great. Her person was the image of her mind; her hazel eyes, although as lively as a bird's, possessed an attractive softness. Her figure was light and airy; and, though capable of enduring great fatigue, she appeared the most fragile creature in the world. While I admired her understanding and fancy, I loved to tend on her, as I should on a favourite animal; and I never saw so much grace both of person and mind united to so little pretension. (I:1:9).
Although Elizabeth does not share Frankenstein's alchemical interests, she is educated with him; and when Caroline Frankenstein dies of scarlet fever contracted from Elizabeth, it is Elizabeth who takes over the maternal duties of the Frankenstein family. During Frankenstein's residence in Ingolstadt, Elizabeth writes regularly, and it falls to her to describe Justine's background. Both Frankenstein and Elizabeth are active in Justine's unsuccessful defense.
On Victor's return to Geneva, Alphonse Frankenstein returns to his late wife's plan, that Victor and Elizabeth should marry. Victor agrees, but postpones the wedding until after he has completed his task. When he destroys the half-finished female creature (III:3:4), the Creature vows, "I will be with you on your wedding-night!"(III:3:15)—a threat Frankenstein imagines is directed against himself ("I carried pistols and a dagger constantly about me," (III:5:30).
The two are married after the death of Clerval and Frankenstein's imprisonment and long illness. On their wedding night, however, Frankenstein leaves the room, and hears a scream above. He returns to find Elizabeth "lifeless and inanimate, thrown across the bed, her head hanging down, and her pale and distorted features half covered by her hair" (III:6:8).
Younger son of Alphonse and Caroline Frankenstein; brother to Victor and William.
Victor Frankenstein describes his younger brother:
Ernest was six years younger than myself, and was my principal pupil. He had been afflicted with ill health from his infancy, through which Elizabeth and I had been his constant nurses: his disposition was gentle, but he was incapable of any severe application. (I:1:27).
His health improves, however, during Victor's long absence at Ingolstadt. In the first edition Elizabeth and Alphonse propose that he should become a farmer—"the least hurtful, or rather the most beneficial profession of any" (I:5:2). By the time of the 1831 edition Ernest has become more extroverted. Elizabeth reports: "He is now sixteen, and full of activity and spirit. He is desirous to be a true Swiss, and to enter into foreign service" (1831:I:6:2).
Ernest is the only Frankenstein to survive the novel.
Son of the blind M. De Lacey and brother of Agatha.
It is through Felix's conversation and language tutoring to Safie that the Creature learns to speak and read. As he becomes more proficient in the language, he learns Felix's story: he had fallen in love with Safie and arranged her father's escape from prison (II:6:9), but, betrayed by her father (II:6:13), he finds his family imprisoned and Safie taken out of his reach. The De Laceys flee to "a miserable asylum in the cottage in Germany" (II:6:15).
Felix is never aware of the Creature until he returns to the cottage to find his father in the Creature's presence. Fearing for his father's safety, he "darted forward, and with supernatural force tore me from his father, to whose knees I clung: in a transport of fury, he dashed me to the ground and struck me violently with a stick" (II:7:38). The Creature flees; on his return, he discovers that the De Laceys have abandoned the cottage.
Felix seems to have served as a role model for the Creature, who reverts to his betrayal by him in speaking to Walton: "Am I to be thought the only criminal, when all human kind sinned against me? Why do you not hate Felix, who drove his friend from his door with contumely?" (III:WC:43).
Friend and schoolfellow of Victor and Elizabeth from childhood; murdered by the Creature.
Victor describes him as an only child, "the son of a merchant of Geneva, an intimate friend of my father. He was a boy of singular talent and fancy" (I:1:11). Clerval is almost a family member in the Frankensten household: when Victor complains that "My brothers were considerably younger than myself," he notes, "but I had a friend in one of my schoolfellows, who compensated for this deficiency" (I:1:11), and Victor includes Clerval in his account of his "domestic circle" because "he was constantly with us" (I:1:13). The two are united by "the closest friendship" (1831:I:2:2).
After parting from Clerval on his departure for Ingolstadt, Victor does not see his friend until after the creation of the Creature: he arrives just in time to care for Victor in his first insane fever (I:4:17).
After Frankenstein's recovery, Clerval convinces his father to allow him to join Frankenstein at the university, studying classical and Eastern languages:
Clerval was no natural philosopher. His imagination was too vivid for the minutiae of science. Languages were his principal study; and he sought, but acquiring their elements, to open a field for self-instruction on his return to Geneva. Persian, Arabic, and Hebrew, gained his attention, after he had made himself perfectly master of Greek and Latin. (I:5:14)
In the 1831 edition, this course of study is significantly altered in its purpose:
He came to the university with the design of making himself complete master of the oriental languages, as thus he should open a field for the plan of life he had marked out for himself. Resolved to pursue no inglorious career, he turned his eyes toward the East, as affording scope for his spirit of enterprise. (1831:I:6:14)
Much later, Clerval accompanies Frankenstein on what is to be a two-year tour of Europe (III:1:11). The two part in Scotland, when Victor begins work on a mate for the Creature. After he destroys his new creation, Frankenstein is arrested for the murder of Clerval (III:4:9), apparently killed by the Creature as punishment for Frankenstein's unwillingness to complete his work.
Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Ingolstadt whose instruction Victor Frankenstein resists.
Krempe, discovering Frankenstein's fondness for alchemists in their first interview, bursts out contemptuously, "Have you really spent your time in studying such nonsense?" (I:2:9). Frankenstein relates his impression of his new teacher:
M. Krempe was a little squat man, with a gruff voice and repulsive countenance; the teacher, therefore, did not prepossess me in favour of his doctrine. (I:2:12)
Later, though, when Frankenstein begins to apply himself to his studies, he admits, "I found even in M. Krempe a great deal of sound sense and real information, combined, it is true, with a repulsive physiognomy and manners, but not on that account the less valuable" (I:3:1).
Servant to the Frankenstein family and a particular friend of Elizabeth.
Elizabeth relates how Justine came to join the Frankenstein household:
Madame Moritz, her mother, was a widow with four children, of whom Justine was the third. This girl had always been the favourite of her father; but, through a strange perversity, her mother could not endure her, and, after the death of M. Moritz, treated her very ill. My aunt observed this; and, when Justine was twelve years of age, prevailed on her mother to allow her to live at her house. (I:5:3)
Justine became a favorite of both Victor and his mother, and from them received an education.
She is accused of the murder of William (I:6:31), is convicted on circumstantial evidence (I:7:12), and, although thought innocent by the entire Frankenstein family, is executed for the crime.
"Intimate friend" of Alphonse Frankenstein (I:1:2); father of Caroline, who becomes his wife.
Victor Frankenstein relates that Beaufort,
from a flourishing state, fell, through numerous mischances, into poverty. This man, whose name was Beaufort, was of a proud and unbending disposition, and could not bear to live in poverty and oblivion in the same country where he had formerly been distinguished for his rank and magnificence. Having paid his debts, therefore, in the most honourable manner, he retreated with his daughter to the town of Lucerne, where he lived unknown and in wretchedness. (I:1:2)
His seclusion shelters him even from Alphonse Frankenstein, who finds him only with difficulty. The reunion is not a happy one; destroyed by grief, Beaufort is reduced to utter inaction and is confined to bed for ten months, at the end of which he dies. His daughter, Caroline, who had watched over him during his sickness, is devastated by his death. At this time, Alphonse "came like a protecting spirit to the poor girl, who committed herself to his care, and after the interment of his friend he conducted her to Geneva, and placed her under the protection of a relation. Two years after this event Caroline became his wife" (I:1:5).
Father of Agatha and Felix.
The Creature first observes De Lacey from the inside of his sty: "In one corner, near a small fire, sat an old man, leaning his head on his hands in a disconsolate attitude" (II:3:15). He further describes the
old man, who, taking up an instrument [a guitar], began to play, and to produce sounds, sweeter than the voice of the thrush or the nightingale. . . . The silver hair and benevolent countenance of the aged cottager, won my reverence. (II:3:15)
The Creature is likewise struck by his "silver hairs and a countenance beaming with benevolence and love" (II:3:17).
The Creature soon discovers De Lacey is blind (II:4:3), and as he learns language, he learns about the family. He learns first their names and familial relations: "I learned also the names of the cottagers themselves. The youth and his companion had each of them several names, but the old man had only one, which was father. The girl was called sister, or Agatha; and the youth Felix, brother, or son" (II:4:9). Later he learns their story:
The name of the old man was De Lacey. He was descended from a good family in France, where he had lived for many years in affluence, respected by his superiors, and beloved by his equals. His son was bred in the service of his country; and Agatha had ranked with ladies of the highest distinction. A few months before my arrival, they had lived in a large and luxurious city, called Paris, surrounded by friends, and possessed of every enjoyment which virtue, refinement of intellect, or taste, accompanied by a moderate fortune, could afford. (II:6:2)
Safie's father is the cause of their ruin: Felix's plot to save the father of his beloved and his betrayal by him result in the imprisonment and exile of the De Lacey family. The family settles in Germany (although they are French speakers) and lives in poverty.
The Creature, hoping to make his presence known to the family, decides to begin with old De Lacey, whose blindness will prevent him from being horrified by him (II:7:13). The Creature begins to relate his story and his hopes of finding a friend, when Felix returns to the cottage, and drives the Creature from it. When he returns later, the family has abandoned the cottage.
Sister of Robert Walton and the recipient of the letters that constitute the novel. Although her brother's confidante, she disapproves of his expedition (the first sentence of the novel, [I:L1:1]).
Irish magistrate who charges Victor Frankenstein with the death of Clerval (III:4:1).
When Frankenstein falls into another fever, this one lasting two months, Kirwin nurses him back to health until Victor's father arrives (III:4:36). Afterwards, Kirwin, convinced of Frankenstein's innocence, serves as his defense (III:4:44).
Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Ingolstadt, with a specialty in chemistry, and instructor of Victor Frankenstein.
Unlike Krempe, whom Frankenstein finds intellectually and physically repulsive, Waldman proves a kind and understanding teacher. Frankenstein describes him:
This professor was very unlike his colleague. He appeared about fifty years of age, but with an aspect expressive of the greatest benevolence; a few grey hairs covered his temples, but those at the back of his head were nearly black. His person was short, but remarkably erect; and his voice the sweetest I had ever heard. (I:2:25) His lecture on the history of chemistry shows more sympathy for the alchemists who had excited Frankenstein's imagination, and from that time on, Frankenstein looks to him as a mentor and a "true friend" (I:3:1).
It is Waldman who interests Frankenstein in modern chemistry (I:2:27).
An English ship's captain on an arctic expedition in search of the Northeast Passage to the Pacific Ocean. Rescuing Victor Frankenstein at sea, he is the recipient of the narrative of Victor's life.
Robert Walton writes the series of letters to his sister, Margaret Saville, that constitute the novel.
Daughter of a Turkish merchant, adopted by the De Lacey family.
The Creature watches Safie's arrival at the cottage, admiring her "countenance of angelic beauty" (II:5:4), and noting her cheering effect on Felix. He soon notices that as she "appeared to have a language of her own, she was neither understood by, or herself understood, the cottagers" (II:5:6); the Creature resolves to use this to his advantage, learning the French language by overhearing Safie's language lessons.
As the Creature learns a language, he learns the shared story of Safie and the De Laceys. Safie was the daughter of a Turkish merchant resident in Paris and a Christian Arab, enslaved by the Turks, who had raised her as a Christian (II:6:8). Her father's arrest (on unspecified political grounds) leads Felix to vow to free him, and this attracts Safie to him. The night before his scheduled execution, he frees the Turk and conducts him to Leghorn with Safie. The Creature notes that "The Turk allowed this intimacy to take place," not wishing to lose Felix's help (II:6:12). But when the De Lacey family is imprisoned for assisting in his escape, "the treacherous Turk, for whom he and his family endured such unheard-of oppression, on discovering that his deliverer was thus reduced to poverty and impotence, became a traitor to good feeling and honour, and had quitted Italy with his daughter" (II:6:15).
Safie, averse to the thought of living in Turkey, fled her father and traveled to Germany to stay with the De Laceys. As the Creature notes of their cottage, "The presence of Safie diffused happiness among its inhabitants" (II:7:10). The Creature's last sight of her is as she flees the cottage in horror upon discovering him with old De Lacey (II:7:38).
Son of Alphonse and Caroline Frankenstein; brother to Ernest and William; cousin, adoptive brother, and later husband to Elizabeth; childhood friend of Henry Clerval; student of Krempe and Waldman.
Rescued from an ice-floe in the Arctic Ocean (I:L4:6), Frankenstein narrates the complete novel to Robert Walton. Born in Geneva, Victor is educated at the University of Ingolstadt in chemistry. There his researches bring him to discover the secret of life, and he constructs and animates a giant being (I:3 and I:4). Appalled by his ugliness, Victor flees, and upon returning to his lodgings finds the Creature gone. He suffers a nervous collapse and is nursed back to health over several months by Clerval, who has also come to the university to study.
A year-and-a-half pass, then Victor receives a letter from his father announcing the death of his youngest sibling, William, and summoning him home. On the way he encounters his Creature on the outskirts of Geneva (I:6:22) and realizes that the Creature has been agent of William's death. Upon his arrival, however, he is greeted with news of the arrest of Justine Moritz for the deed. Justine is tried and, convicted on circumstantial evidence, is executed. Recognizing his responsibility, Victor sinks into a deep depression.
Hoping to recover the family's former sense of well-being, Alphonse proposes a trip to the valley of Chamounix beneath Mt. Blanc. (In the 1831 edition Victor undertakes this tour by himself.) Upon the glacier known as the Mer de Glace, Victor suddenly encounters his Creature (II:2:5) and is forced to listen to the story of the Creatures' existence up to that point, a narration that takes up the central third of the novel. The Creature appeals to Victor to create a mate for him, and Victor reluctantly promises to do so.
Returning to Geneva, Victor asks of his father that his nuptials with Elizabeth be postponed until he has had a chance to travel. His real purpose for his trip to England is to gain further knowledge before creating a second being. Clerval accompanies him on this trip, but they part in Scotland; Victor settles in the remote Orkney Islands and sets to work. He is racked with second thoughts and, upon discovering the Creature observing his efforts, destroys the being he was creating. The Creature vows revenge, telling Victor that he will be with him on his wedding night. Victor sets off for the Scottish mainland, but a strong wind carries his boat to the northern coast of Ireland, where he is arrested for a murder just committed, that of his friend Clerval. This event precipitates a second collapse of health; he is brought back to health after the arrival of his father.
Acquitted on the grounds that he had arrived in Ireland after Clerval's death, Victor returns to Geneva to marry Elizabeth. On the night of their marriage the Creature's vow that he would be with Victor on this night translates into the murder of his bride. Alphonse suffers a fatal stroke, and Victor sets off to enact his own revenge on the Creature, traveling first to Marseilles, then across the Mediterranean Sea to Russia and across its vast expanse to the frozen Arctic Ocean. There, after a break-up of the ice, Victor finds himself stranded and incapable of further pursuit, but he is rescued by Walton. When Walton, under threat of a mutiny, determines to abandon his expedition and return to England, the exhausted and now purposeless Victor dies (III:WC:31). The Creature returns to the ship, where Walton encounters him lamenting his creator's death.
Youngest son of Alphonse and Caroline Frankenstein; brother to Victor and Ernest.
Victor Frankenstein describes William in the novel's first chapter:
William, the youngest of our family, was yet an infant, and the most beautiful little fellow in the world; his lively blue eyes, dimpled cheeks, and endearing manners, inspired the tenderest affection. (I:1:27)
While Frankenstein is at Ingolstadt, Elizabeth provides this account of "darling William":
he is very tall of his age, with sweet laughing blue eyes, dark eye-lashes, and curling hair. When he smiles, two little dimples appear on each cheek, which are rosy with health. He has already had one or two little wives, but Louisa Biron is his favourite, a pretty little girl of five years of age" (I:5:7).
William is murdered by the Creature, who discovers that he is a relation of Frankenstein (II:8:29), and Justine Moritz is framed for the murder (I:6:31).