“I trembled excessively; I could not endure to think of, and far less to allude to, the occurrences of the preceding night. I walked with a quick pace, and we soon arrived at my college. I then reflected, and the thought made me shiver, that the creature whom I had left in my apartment might still be there, alive, and walking about. I dreaded to behold this monster; but I feared more that Henry should see him” (Shelley, pg. 57).
In the preceding passage, I believe that Shelley is dealing with the theory of secrecy and its consequences. Victor is terrified by the thought of his monster, and is even more frightened by the thought that Henry may discover his secret. Victor’s number one concern seems to be keeping the creation of his monster a secret; Victor is so concerned, he won’t even confide in his best friend. Secrecy plays a major role in Frankenstein, as it becomes a central characteristic of Victor.
One of the first instances in which the theory of secrecy comes into play, occurs when Victor first begins his project of creating his monster. He spends countless hours alone working on his project, not telling anyone of his actions. He becomes so involved in the secrecy of his project that he fails to stay in contact with his family. In the effort to keep his work a secret, Victor becomes a recluse. One conclusion about Shelley’s theory of secrecy that can be drawn from this example is that secrecy can often isolate a person from others. In order to keep a secret as big as Victor’s, it is very likely that one would have to isolate themselves from others in the same way Victor did.
After his monster comes to life, Victor runs away for the night and wants nothing to do with the creature. He is terrified by his creation; he can’t stand the thought of it. When his friend Henry arrives, Victor refuses to tell him of the monster he created. Keeping this secret is so important to Victor that he refuses to tell his close friend. This secret drives Victor to illness, and Henry is left to care for him. This instance shows that keeping a secret as big a Victor’s, may cause a person to become ill, or drive themselves crazy. What if Victor had confided in his friend about the secret? Henry would have likely consoled his friend, and Victor may not have become ill. Perhaps this shows Shelley’s belief that confiding in someone close is better than keeping something so terrible to yourself.
Victor fully believes that the monster is responsible for the death of his brother, William. However, Victor is so determined to keep his secret that he refuses to speak up. The consequence of this inaction is that Justine is executed for William’s murder. Even though Victor knew Justine was innocent, he still could not bring himself to reveal his secret. This really shows how much Victor wanted no one to know of the monster. I believe that Shelley may be trying to illustrate that keeping a secret as immense as Victor’s, may have unforeseen consequences that make secrecy no longer worthwhile.
As the reader digests Victor’s narrative, it is important to evaluate the impact that secrecy still has on him. Victor has likely still told no one his story before Robert. It is likely that Victor is very pleased to have this chance to get his secrets off his chest. In telling his narrative, Victor is finally able to release all of his pent up feelings to someone. This may act as a form of therapy for Victor. His secret has destroyed his life in so many ways; it may likely be a blessing for Victor to finally confess it to someone who is now close to him.
In conclusion, Shelley’s theory of secrecy plays a central role in Frankenstein. Victor’s secret has greatly altered his life for the worse. He seems to be greatly dissatisfied with life; he almost seems like he is ready to die. Secrecy shapes the character that Victor has become. This theory of secrecy may be applied to our own lives; we can learn through the downfall of Victor’s character. Many adverse effects are likely to come about if one keeps a secret that is a huge as Victor’s. It would likely be better for someone’s peace of mind to confide in someone who is close, than keep a dark secret hidden inside themselves forever.
Shelley, Marry. Frankenstein. New York: Dover Publication, Inc. 2009.