An Examination of Victor's mother
CAROLINE Beaufort-Frankenstein had to die. It is impossible not to believe that Victor Frankenstein’s story would be incredibly different if: 1) Mrs. Frankenstein was a stronger figure in his childhood; and 2) had remained alive. A mother would never have let her son venture off for six odd years without so much as a word, even a mother who is as indulgent and preoccupied as Mrs. Frankenstein seems. Concerns would have arisen when letters went unanswered while Victor slaved away like a mad scientist. From the beginning, Mrs. Frankenstein, the domestic queen so-to-speak in the eighteenth century home, was responsible for the upbringing and education of her children. Yet, Victor informs Walton that his “studies were never forced..[m]y parents were indulgent” (21), that his “dreams were..undisturbed by reality” (23). On the whole, Victor recollects a home life that is not structured by loving, yet disciplining parents; in fact, the image is of a childhood in which he was allowed to read and believe in books by pseudo-scientists that had been confirmed quacks. Certainly, there was opportunity for remonstrance and guidance by Mrs. Frankenstein.
Mrs. Frankenstein is made to be significant, not because of her presence, but through her absence. William’s death is made possible only because a doting mother was not present; Elizabeth Lavenza, for all her worth, is too young to have suddenly inherited three children to look after. She was simply unable to keep track of everyone and maintain her own individuality. Likewise, the conditions under which Justine was unjustly killed in answer to William’s murder would never have arisen with Mrs. Frankenstein still alive. The little talisman that bore Mrs. Frankenstein's image would never have been thought a motive for theft, because William would not feel compelled to take the reminder of his mother, nor would Elizabeth have felt it so dear to carry with her always if the real Mrs. Frankenstein was in their lives. Even if the creature had still found a way to wreak this havoc and William should still die, Mrs. Frankenstein would never have stood for Justine's trial and execution.
Mrs. Frankenstein seems to take on "projects" in the form of young girls, and this appears to be her favorite preoccupation. Perhaps what attention and interest she fails to show in her son's own education and upbringing is stolen by the two known "projects" that she devotes herself to, Justine Moritz and Elizabeth Lavenza. It is a shame that Victor does not get like attention from Mrs. Frankenstein because the two girls are exemplary by all accounts. It is his mother's death which, to some extent, the reader is led to believe created the fervor for building a super-human - to stave off the disease and death which took away his mother. This appears to be the one significant contribution Caroline Frankenstein made in the formation of the man who would unleash horror upon his family. The story of Victor Frankenstein and his creation is laid out beneath the shadow of his mother, a woman who left him two brothers, a devoted fiancee, a indulgent father, and a neurosis which could only be satisfied by conquering the forces of life and death. The story hinges upon these characters as they stand without the influence and presence of Mrs. Frankenstein. Perhaps this is a mirror Mary Shelley's own experience, albeit it may have been only a subconscious projection of what damage the loss of a mother may bring. For Victor, the future happiness upon which he banked is stripped from him, and whether cognizant of it or not, Shelley portrays the absence of a mother as a defining factor in his sad decline.