In Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, the death of William Frankenstein, although he is not a major character, plays an essential role in the novel. His death signifies the creature’s transition from peace in finding a companion to destruction and hatred of mankind.
William represents the creature’s first victim. This begins when the creature realizes that his creator abandoned him, and all he knows is that he is lonely and wants to eliminate that loneliness he is feeling. At this point in the creature’s lifetime, he doesn’t understand the meaning of hatred and destruction yet. When the monster first discovers William, he was to “seize him and educate him” as his “companion and friend” and says that he “should not be so desolate in this peopled earth” (Shelley 89). At this moment, the creature is going to kidnap William and keep him for his companionship to dismiss the loneliness he is feeling. The creature is not only lonely but lacks knowledge as well, therefore he doesn’t understand the concept of youth this early in the novel, because Victor never taught him anything and perceives William as just a small human instead of a little boy. Although the creature was going to construct William as a companion, the monster soon learns that William belongs to his enemy, Victor Frankenstein, to which the creature “swore eternal revenge” for abandoning him (Shelley 90). Thus making William the creature’s first victim. This was the turning point for the creature, as he “gazed on his victim and his heart swelled with triumph; clapping his hands” and then said, “I can too create desolation; my enemy is not vulnerable; this death will carry despair to him, and a thousand other miseries shall torment and destroy him” (Shelley 90). This quote that the creature speaks, shows his transition from peace and loneliness to destruction and revenge against a man.
Not only does William’s death represent the shift in the creature’s internal feelings about the man but it also signifies the death of beauty and innocence found in William. In the novel, William is illustrated as “sweet laughing blue eyes, dark eyes-lashes, and curling hair” (Shelley 37). Shelley portrays William as a “beautiful child” for she wants the readers to see him as almost perfection (Shelley 89). William does not only represent beauty, Shelley introduces us to him to show us that if William was not to have died, but he would also have been the complete opposite of Victor. Although Shelley does not tell us this straightforward, she uses the description of William in Elizabeth’s letter to Victor to get her point across to the reader. For example, throughout the novel, Shelley illustrates Victor as ill many times, but in regards to Elizabeth’s letter, William’s cheeks are “rosy with health” (Shelley 37).
The death of William Frankenstein shows a substantial contribution to the transition of Frankenstein’s creation, this transition being from peace to destruction and revenge. Not only does William represent the creature’s first victim and the act of violence, but also, his death symbolizes the expiration of beauty and innocence found within him. Without Shelly’s demonstration of William’s death, we wouldn’t understand the meaning behind the sudden shift in the creature’s feelings and actions towards not only Victor Frankenstein, but man as a whole.