Clerval’s story runs parallel to Frankenstein’s, illustrating the connection between Frankenstein’s outsized ambition and the more commonplace ambitions of ordinary men. Clerval is first described as a boy who loved “enterprise, hardship and even danger, for its own sake.” Like Walton, Clerval shares Frankenstein’s desire to achieve great things at any cost.

Also like Frankenstein, Clerval makes a discovery at university. Clerval believes he has found “the means of materially assisting the progress of European colonization and trade” in India. Frankenstein suggests a parallel between Clerval’s discovery and his own creation of the Monster when he argues that colonialism is the work of ambitious men like him. Without ambition, he says, “America would have been discovered more gradually; and the empires of Mexico and Peru had not been destroyed.”

Frankenstein’s friendship with Clerval also shows the importance of companionship in the novel. Frankenstein draws strength and comfort from having a friend who shares his experiences and feelings: “Excellent friend! how sincerely you did love me, and endeavor to elevate my mind until it was on a level with your own!”