Alphonse Frankenstein Character Traits & Analysis

Instructor: Clayton Tarr

Clayton has taught college English and has a PhD in literature.

In this lesson, we will examine the character of Alphonse in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Although Alphonse is a relatively minor character, we will explore the ways in which he might affect the plot.

The Frankenstein Family

The Frankensteins are a rich and powerful family who reside in Geneva, Switzerland. They are part of a long line with influential ties to the area. There are four children in the family. The oldest boy, Victor, is ambitious and impetuous and goes off to university to study. It is there that he becomes obsessed with giving life to dead matter. The youngest boy, William, is the creature's first victim, and the middle boy, Ernest, is the only member of the family to survive in the novel. Elizabeth, whom Victor eventually marries, was adopted by the family either as a cousin or as a gypsy orphan, depending on the version of the novel. The parents are Alphonse and Caroline. We will explore Alphonse in more detail throughout this lesson.

Alphonse's Past

Victor describes his father as ''respected by all who knew him for his integrity and indefatigable attention to public business.'' We learn that all his business affairs prevented Alphonse from marrying at a young age, so he had his family in the ''decline of life.'' One of Alphonse's friends named Beaufort became impoverished and Alphonse sought Beaufort out to help him regain his former standing in life. When Alphonse finally finds his friend, he sees pure misery and sickness. Beaufort's daughter, Caroline, attends to her father, but he eventually dies. Caroline, who ''possessed a mind of an uncommon mould,'' falls for Alphonse, who ''came like a protecting spirit to the poor girl.'' In the end, we must keep in mind that Alphonse is at least middle aged when he marries Caroline, who is a young woman. In spite of the age difference, the pair are devoted to one another. Alphonse quits his government work, and they travel around Europe. Victor is the first born, and they later adopt Elizabeth because Caroline had always wanted a girl.

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