The significance of Henry Clerval

It’s obvious that Henry Clerval serves as a foil character for Victor Frankenstein. Clerval is almost the complete opposite of Victor and this is made evident throughout the entire story. Especially in Volume 3 we see more of Clerval and the contrasting emotions of the two. Victor is sad and depressed for almost, if not all, of the last volume, while Clerval is able to marvel and experience happiness by all the sights and places the two visit on their journey. As Victor says, “The delight of Clerval was proportionally greater than mine.” (170). Throughout this entire last volume we constantly see Clerval experiencing happiness, while Victor feels guilt for the loss of his family and pressure to fulfill his goal of finding the monster he created.

Clerval is extremely significant in the life of Victor, as the two have known each other since childhood. In the story Victor completely deviates from telling his story to Walden in order to talk of how great Henry Clerval is as a friend and person. Victor states that, “the voice of Henry soothed me.” He calls him his, “beloved friend” (166) When Henry realizes that he has gone on a tangent he states, “Pardon this gush of sorrow; these ineffectual words are but a slight tribute to the unexampled worth of Henry…I will proceed with my tale.” (167) It’s clear that Henry was important to Victor and the main reason Victor was able to experience moments of happiness through his depression and illness.

Clerval was also there as the Foil character, as mentioned earlier, to contrast and emphasize even more that emotion of Victor. The fact that Henry was mentioned by Victor so many time in the last volume, made Clerval’s death that much more significant and difficult not just for Victor, but for the reader as well. It’s interesting that Shelly had Clerval die, Victor’s last true companion that he could depend on because Elizabeth was just as emotional as Henry. I think that Shelly did this just to show how horrible Victor’s life became and just how much the creation of this monster truly ruined his life.


  1. I definitely agree that Henry serves as a foil character to Victor. Henry’s differences highlight the most important parts of Victor’s character. Shelley uses these differences to emphasize Victor’s gloominess and sadness. I also agree that Shelley made Henry die to show how much damage his creation cost him.

  2. I think you make an excellent point here. I really like how you focused so much on Henry because I definitely think he is significant as well, but I hadn’t thought of it in so much detail. I think you’re right about him being a foil character, because it all highlights Victor’s depression much more. I think the fact that Henry’s death seems to affect Victor much more than his mother’s is also a huge thing. Although, that might be due to the fact that his mother was sick and Henry died because of Victor. But still, it’s something to consider.

  3. It may be a stretch, but could this contrast relate to what the two studied at college. While Frankenstein read into the sciences, Clerval studied foreign languages. Also, the disparity between their appreciations of nature seems to emphasize their contrast. Considering how Clerval admires every aesthetic of nature, while Frankenstein pushes his admiration to the side.

    1. To go along with what Christian has written here, it’s also important to recognize that Clerval has been a businessman. He’s used to practical things in a way that Victor never has been.

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