Foils and Family

Although we have discussed the idea of the monster being Frankenstein’s foil, no other comparisons have been made for the monster. In the following post, I intend to show how Elizabeth serves as a foil to the monster as well.

In a sense, both Elizabeth and the monster are similar characters, since their fathers abandoned them. Apart from that, the similarities between the two end. Unlike the monster, Elizabeth was adopted by a family, Frankenstein’s father “my father did not hesitate… accompany the little Elizabeth to her future home” (Shelly 66), leaving her with someone to care for her. This small difference then causes a contrasting split in the development of Elizabeth and the monster. While Elizabeth blissfully enjoys being sheltered and guided, the monster must struggle through constant bereavement and misjudgment. Even the education of the two is dissimilar, since Elizabeth was “educate[d]” (Shelly 65) by Frankenstein’s father, while the monster was educated by “ Paradise LostPlutarch’s Lives, and the Sorrows of Werter” (Shelly 142). In the case of the monster, he also had no guidance on how to interpret the works he read, leading him to have an unrealistic perception of the world. With all this in mind, the end results come to no surprise, Elizabeth being a “lively” “benevolent” girl– that is up until Frankenstein leaves –while the monster goes on to become, well, a monster. So in the end, the adopted orphan triumphed over the rejected orphan.

Retrospectively, a new foil to the monster arises, Elizabeth, who also helps in emphasizing Shelly’s stance on the importance of family and family values. As we have already discussed, as Frankenstein distances himself from his family he becomes more pessimistic and maniacal, or more monstrous, since he has no one who can condole or guide him. So it comes to no surprise that the monster parallels these unfortunate attributes.

3 comments
  1. The disparity between the monster and Elizabeth shows the importance of nurture in molding a being. Although both the monster and Elizabeth were abandoned by their father, the way they were raised and environment they were exposed to caused them to develop as opposites. The monster, receiving no generosity or companionship developed to be bitter and wretched. On the other hand, Elizabeth was given much love and compassion, and grew up to be the complete opposite of the monster. The difference between these two characters shows the significant role of nurture in molding a personality.

  2. I agree completely that Elizabeth serves as a contrast to the character of the monster. Her course of life is there to show the potential goodness one can have if nurtured properly. It thus emphasizes how the monster is destructive and leads a negative course of life due to the lack of love. When the monster asks Frankenstein for a companion and for a female counterpoint, he does not get this wish. Elizabeth ultimately asks Frankenstein the same request through her letter confessing her love for him, and contrary to the answer the monster receives, Frankenstein grants her her request by marrying her. Elizabeth is able to gain love, while the monster is not.

  3. Wow. Christian I believe you are getting at something important by comparing Elizabeth with the monster. I can also see the importance of family and companionship, as this is what gives the story. The two characters definitely go through different paths that shape their fates. Now, I am interested in why Shelley could have created this foil because it could be a connection to another important theme that we have not discussed. Or maybe she only wants to show the importance of family which she has covered with just the monster’s life experiences. Either way this observation is quite interesting.

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