A man named Victor Frankenstein, who develops an obsession with the human body, builds a creature from the limbs of dead bodies. The creature escapes and begins to destroy the life of Victor, in which Henry Clerval consoles him. But in the end the monster also kills Henry along with almost all of Victor’s closest friends and family. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the abolition of Victor’s homosexual feelings that are shown through his relationships with the monster and Henry Clerval in turn represent that hidden feelings ultimately lead to destruction and chaos. The process and formation of the monster shows the progression of Victor’s homosexual lust. Early in the gothic novel, “one of the phenomena which had peculiarly attracted his attention was the structure of the human frame” (Shelley 50). His fascination with the human body is an illusion played by his mind so it seems he is curious but not for the actual reasons, one of them which is that he himself is gay.
His “curiosity” causes him to illegally dig graves in order to build this creation, which is implied from the body parts that he uses. These parallel the fact that being gay is “illegal” in 1700s in Europe. The digging of the graves symbolizes his homosexual desires and how they both must be kept secret. Similarly to if he were outted, he would also be arrested and punished if he was to be found of digging. As Victor is creating his with “limbs… in proportion… features that are beautiful… work of muscles” (Shelley 58), he is subconciously choosing all of the traits and qualities that his ideal man would have. The reader can clearly infer that the monster is Victor’s perfect speciman by the way he is shown, but the words that he uses to describe his creation subtly suggests that he is attracted to him. While the monster is the side of Victor that is hidden and shameful, Henry Clerval is the side that bring him joy when is in a feeling of glum. Henry Clerval, one of Victor’s only friends and confidante, is used by Shelley to bring Victor up to a joyful state.
Even with all of the commotion that is brought up by the murder of William, Victor is made once again happy by Clerval, who “rejoiced in his gaiety, and sincerely sympathized in his feeling” (Shelley 71). This wording that is used by Shelley leads the reader to begin thinking about Victor’s homosexual feelings towards anyone, but especially towards Henry. Her choice of “gaiety” instead of typical words used to express happiness show that he may be gay for Henry. When he is with Henry, all his worries seem to go away as shares his feelings, representing that he is comforted by his presence.
Clerval often presents himself when Victor is in isolation since his inability to accept that he is gay causes him to do so. Shelley often places the two of them alone, making reference once again to the hidden aspect of it all. She shows that the gathering of two possibly gay men would be shunned in the public, so she writes them as being with no one else but each other for the times that they are together. A while after Clerval and Victor had gotten together, the latter describes how “Clerval called forth the btter feelings of his heart… to love the aspect” (Shelley 71).
Once again, Shelley uses such strong words relating to attraction to suggest that they could be something more than friends. No one else is able to make Victor feel better and possibly love than Henry. As no one is able to do this, Victor’s life is turned quite upside down as the monster destroys his life. Even though the monster seemed to be what Victor’s fantasy was, he is proved to be wrong as it is grotesque and unable to be socially accepted. The mishap of the monster in turn causes it to seemingly destroy Victor’s life. The rejection from Victor’s brother, William Frankenstein, causes the monster to kill the boy.
Since the monster represents the homosexual desires of Victor, Shelley has the monster kill off William in order to show that it is ruining his life. William portrayed that fact that if Victor had come out to his family, then he would have gotten rejected and been “dead” to the family. The cause of William’s death was the rage from the monster, which subtly represent the opression of homosexuality in the 1700s in Europe. The death of William caused a ripple effect in which Justine is also killed, indirectly by the monster. As the monster’s wish of a mate being created by Victor is not met, he kills Henry Clerval as a punishment for Victor. This is the final nail in the coffin for Victor, as Henry is the one that he cared most about and was the closest to. When he sees the corpse of Henry he “gasped for breath; and throwing myself on the body” (Shelley 181). This reaction is odd since usually when someone dies, the loved ones do not touch the dead body, and especially not hug.
This is the last time that Victor will see his friend and possible gay lover, and it symbolizes that he has completely shut off the homosexual side of him, and that it has caused destruction in his life. In Frankenstein, Mary Shelley purposely writes of the journeys of both Victor and the monster in order to show that his secrets ended up destroying his life. Mary Shelley lived during a time where there was little to no representation of homosexuality in culture. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, was a women’s rights activist, which in modern day would include LGBTQ rights. The novel can be seen as a calling for LGBTQ rights and that it sheds light on it.