A Total Loss of Hope
Through Victor’s seeing himself in Henry Clerval, we see that he has lost all hope of happiness and believes his life to be beyond repair. The two have met up in Europe in order to journey together before Victor is to marry Elizabeth. However, this is just a facade so that he can actually retrieve the necessary tools and components to create a second monster. Though Victor is on a mission, the two make time to stop at the relevant sites across Europe to gain knowledge and experience the culture. As they travel down the Rhine, Victor admits “I smiled at the enthusiasm of my friend and remembered with a sigh the period when my eyes would have glistened with joy to behold the scenes which I now viewed. But the recollection of those days was too painful; I must shut out all thought to enjoy tranquility, and that reflection alone is sufficient to poison every pleasure” (Shelley 180). Victor wishes that he still had the ability to be happy, to appreciate nature and be joyful, like Henry can. He is filled with too much sorrow to even think about those days and there is nothing that can bring him pleasure anymore. He “remembered with a sigh” that previous part of his life in which he could be happy, yearning to experience that once again. Building on top of that, he says “I saw an insurmountable barrier placed between me and my fellow-man; this barrier was sealed with the blood of William and Justine, and to reflect on those events filled my soul with anguish. But in Clerval I saw the image of my former self; he was inquisitive and anxious to gain experience and instruction” (Shelley 182).
Not only is Victor experiencing deep sorrow, but now it is deemed insurmountable. He no longer feels a connection to any of mankind, and feels hopeless to do anything about it. His hidden guilt for the deaths of William and Justine rendered him unable to find happiness or return to who he was before their deaths. Victor has seemingly lost all hope and looks back with regret, wishing he could find pleasure in life once more. In Henry Clerval, Victor sees the good which had once inhabited himself. The thirst for knowledge and the curiosity to gain new experiences in Henry are what ultimately led to Victor’s obsession and loss of hope. At first, his seeing himself in Henry Clerval solely portrays his loss of hope for his life, and his inability to find happiness anymore. However, the second time that Victor sees himself in Henry, it seems more definite, as if Victor’s life can never be changed and he will never find happiness. While Victor saw himself in Henry, his ultimate death was symbolic of his complete loss of hope. Henry’s death cemented Victor’s misery and confirmed the inability for him to ever find happiness. Will Victor ever be able to live with himself and find hope or happiness? Or have the deaths of his closest friends and family made that impossible?