The role of sickness in Frankenstein

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  • Post last modified:November 20, 2019

 Discuss the role of sickness in the novel. Victor often seems to fall ill after traumatic events. Is this a means of escape, and, if so, is it effective? Is there another explanation for his recurring illness?

The recurring illness of Victor signifies several things and one of them is the burden on his conscience. The macabre events and settings in the novel are themselves sickening and Victor lives in a world of corpses. Apart from that, so many sickening things happen in the novel. From the beginning to the end, the novel is filled with sick air.  Victor Frankenstein and his creature do sick things and Victor himself keeps falling ill now and then. His sickness is not just physical but also psychological. Often he grows sick of what he is doing and then falls ill traumatized by the outcome.  His sickness can also be seen as a means to purge the foul air that has collected inside his soul. He is trying to fashion a creature from the organs of dead beings. That’s quite a deadly and horrific, rather a demonic thing to do.

Even Victor, unless he was motivated by the outcome of his experiment would have found it difficult and traumatizing. He knows people would consider him mad but bringing dead people alive was a feat no one had ever achieved. However, he ends up creating a monster and being aware of what an ugly monstrosity he has created, makes him feel sick and fills him with remorse. His sickness is like a physical reaction to the things he is doing. His conscience does not allow him to do these things but his mind cannot stop thinking of the outcome and he continues. At last, he is horrified to see the monster he has built. He has a frightful night where the monster haunts him in his dreams and his heart is so weakened that he ends up falling badly ill. However, this sickness can also be interpreted as an outcome of his attempt to go against the laws of nature. Bringing a corpse alive is unholy and sinful and therefore his sickness is a punishment from God and a chance for repentance. However, it also provides an escape from his misery. Whenever he falls ill, he moves to some solitary place to avoid people and society.

Victor’s recurring illness is also a sign of his soul questioning the morality of his actions. What he is doing, is not acceptable for even his own soul. The monster he has created kills his dear ones. Again, it comes to meet him and persuades him to create a mate. Victor is persuaded, might be out of fear but when he tries to repeat the experiment, he starts weighing the morality of his actions. He closes the experiment which makes the monster furious at him. Victor again falls ill when he discovers that his friend Henry has been murdered. The marks of the monsters’ claws were on his dead body. He is shocked and struck by remorse.

Badly shocked, he again falls ill. It shows that for him there is no forgiveness and he is going to lead an unpleasant life or die soon. Throughout the novel, his recurring sickness signifies that he has done something very evil for which God and nature will punish him.  He is not dying but something has been crushing his soul. It is his remorse at having caused so many deaths. His experiment had a deadly outcome and now he cannot reverse it. Towards the end, his condition keeps growing worse and by the end when he dies, his heart is weighed down with guilt. Just like the creature he made, has been leading a fugitive’s life, trying to escape society and his own conscience. His illness offers him a chance to rethink if he has chosen the right path. However, it is certainly not effective because he cannot escape his fate and his punishment. His illness cannot help him get rid of his remorse because sooner or later he is back in the mess he has created for himself.

Abhijeet Pratap

Abhijeet has been blogging on educational topics and business research since 2016. He graduated with a Hons. in English literature from BRABU and an MBA from the Asia-Pacific Institute of Management, New Delhi. He likes to blog and share his knowledge and research in business management, marketing, literature and other areas with his readers.