Manfred and Victor and the Dark Depths of Solitude
“Solitude is painful when one is young, but delightful when one is more mature.” So are the words of the great Albert Einstein, and, in many cases, is quite true. However, for some, this may not be so. Look no further than Lord Byron’s dramatic poem Manfred and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s eerie novel Frankenstein to see the ill effects solitude can have as one grows older. Throughout both of these pieces, both the characters of Manfred and Victor Frankenstein seemingly neglect society and human interaction, and in consequence are met with the fatal consequences.
Both Manfred and Victor seem to have an arrogance about them that separates them from their fellow people. Manfred states early in Byron’s piece, “My spirit walk’d not with the souls of men,/Nor look’d upon the earth with human eyes;/The thirst of their ambition was not mine,/The aim of their existence was not mine;…/I had no sympathy with breathing flesh” (Byron 726). From the beginning we see that Manfred seems to have no care for human interaction, going as far to say that he has no sympathy and feels “degraded” (726) when being compared with them. It should be noted that Manfred is on a mission for forgiveness from someone, or something, for the mysterious guilt he suffers at the loss of his loved Astrata. This guilt comes with the territory, though. With Manfred’s views on his fellow species, it should be inferred that no connection could be made with any one of any kind, and if there were, it would not last. This is exactly the case with Astrata, and due to his own solitude, Manfred eventually dies alone, without ever knowing if he is forgiven or not.
Victor, on the other hand, has a different sort of arrogance leading to his solitude. Growing up in a lenient household and not forced to certain studies, Victor stumbled upon the works of Cornelius Agrippa, among others, whom his father scolded him for reading, calling it “sad trash” (Shelley 22). Later on, while attending school, M. Krempe also acknowledges the absurdity of what Victor is reading, saying, “You have burdened your memory with exploded systems, and useless names” (28). While Victor didn’t necessarily disagree, he listened to neither his father or teacher, and went ahead and studied what he desired.
Victor becomes so secluded with his work, his “cheeks grown pale with study and his person emaciated with confinement” (34), that he forgets the human connection he had with people. “I wished, as it were, to procrastinate all that related to my feelings of affection until the object, which swallowed up every habit of my nature, should be completed” (35). He refuses to send letters, forgets about his home life, and when Henry Clerval comes to visit, becomes almost a mad man after being isolated, and experiencing his creation, for so long. In the end, Victor’s monster ends up killing his younger brother William, and after wrongly being accused of murder, Justine, the Frankenstein’s servant, is also put to death. All this due to Victor’s isolation from society, and the unguided thoughts that controlled his mind and led to the creation of something ‘inhuman.’
Both of these characters seemed to have lost the human connection that brings a society together, and without this they suffered the consequences of being on the outside of society.
Byron, Lord. “Manfred,” The Longman Anthology of British Literature. 5th ed. Damrosch, David, and Kevin J.H. Dettmar.New York: Pearson Education Inc., 2010. 712-47. Print.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Susan J. Wolfson. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein: or, The modern Prometheus. 2. ed. New York [u.a.: Pearson Longman, 2007. Print.
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