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Frankenstein

Mary Shelley

Analysis of Major Characters

Character List

Themes, Motifs & Symbols

Victor Frankenstein

Victor Frankenstein’s life story is at the heart of Frankenstein. A young Swiss boy, he grows up in Geneva reading the works of the ancient and outdated alchemists, a background that serves him ill when he attends university at Ingolstadt. There he learns about modern science and, within a few years, masters all that his professors have to teach him. He becomes fascinated with the “secret of life,” discovers it, and brings a hideous monster to life. The monster proceeds to kill Victor’s youngest brother, best friend, and wife; he also indirectly causes the deaths of two other innocents, including Victor’s father. Though torn by remorse, shame, and guilt, Victor refuses to admit to anyone the horror of what he has created, even as he sees the ramifications of his creative act spiraling out of control.

Victor changes over the course of the novel from an innocent youth fascinated by the prospects of science into a disillusioned, guilt-ridden man determined to destroy the fruits of his arrogant scientific endeavor. Whether as a result of his desire to attain the godlike power of creating new life or his avoidance of the public arenas in which science is usually conducted, Victor is doomed by a lack of humanness. He cuts himself off from the world and eventually commits himself entirely to an animalistic obsession with revenging himself upon the monster.

At the end of the novel, having chased his creation ever northward, Victor relates his story to Robert Walton and then dies. With its multiple narrators and, hence, multiple perspectives, the novel leaves the reader with contrasting interpretations of Victor: classic mad scientist, transgressing all boundaries without concern, or brave adventurer into unknown scientific lands, not to be held responsible for the consequences of his explorations.

The Monster

The monster is Victor Frankenstein’s creation, assembled from old body parts and strange chemicals, animated by a mysterious spark. He enters life eight feet tall and enormously strong but with the mind of a newborn. Abandoned by his creator and confused, he tries to integrate himself into society, only to be shunned universally. Looking in the mirror, he realizes his physical grotesqueness, an aspect of his persona that blinds society to his initially gentle, kind nature. Seeking revenge on his creator, he kills Victor’s younger brother. After Victor destroys his work on the female monster meant to ease the monster’s solitude, the monster murders Victor’s best friend and then his new wife.

While Victor feels unmitigated hatred for his creation, the monster shows that he is not a purely evil being. The monster’s eloquent narration of events (as provided by Victor) reveals his remarkable sensitivity and benevolence. He assists a group of poor peasants and saves a girl from drowning, but because of his outward appearance, he is rewarded only with beatings and disgust. Torn between vengefulness and compassion, the monster ends up lonely and tormented by remorse. Even the death of his creator-turned-would-be-destroyer offers only bittersweet relief: joy because Victor has caused him so much suffering, sadness because Victor is the only person with whom he has had any sort of relationship.

Robert Walton

Walton’s letters to his sister form a frame around the main narrative, Victor Frankenstein’s tragic story. Walton captains a North Pole–bound ship that gets trapped between sheets of ice. While waiting for the ice to thaw, he and his crew pick up Victor, weak and emaciated from his long chase after the monster. Victor recovers somewhat, tells Walton the story of his life, and then dies. Walton laments the death of a man with whom he felt a strong, meaningful friendship beginning to form.

Walton functions as the conduit through which the reader hears the story of Victor and his monster. However, he also plays a role that parallels Victor’s in many ways. Like Victor, Walton is an explorer, chasing after that “country of eternal light”—unpossessed knowledge. Victor’s influence on him is paradoxical: one moment he exhorts Walton’s almost-mutinous men to stay the path courageously, regardless of danger; the next, he serves as an abject example of the dangers of heedless scientific ambition. In his ultimate decision to terminate his treacherous pursuit, Walton serves as a foil (someone whose traits or actions contrast with, and thereby highlight, those of another character) to Victor, either not obsessive enough to risk almost-certain death or not courageous enough to allow his passion to drive him.

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Monster's Creation

by fritzalicious, August 14, 2012

The book doesn't specify if the monster was created by one man or several or how he was brought to life. I think we can safely guess that the monster was brought to life using electricity because it has such an influence on Victor. SPOILER ALERT. I would also say that is safe to say that the monster was probably created using more than one man because later on Victor tears apart/destroys the monster's companion before he completes her creation. These are just my thoughts and if anyone has anything else they would like to add please comment

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Monster

by madisonhatfield, August 15, 2012

When you say the the Monster was created by more than one man, do you mean that Victor was assisted by other people; or that the contents of the Monsters body were the product of more than one person?

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Answer

by SexyCucumber13, November 06, 2012

The contents of the body were made from different pieces in the graveyard.

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