by: Mary Shelley

Plot Analysis

The major conflict in Frankenstein revolves around Victor’s inability to understand that his actions have repercussions. Victor focuses solely on his own goals and fails to see how his actions might impact other individuals. The monster functions as the most stark reminder of how Victor has failed to take responsibility for his actions in defying the laws of nature. The first signs of the conflict appear when Victor throws himself into his studies at the University of Ingolstadt, neglecting his family and fiancée. The conflict deepens when, having “succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life,” Victor becomes obsessed with creating a monster. He does not stop to think about what the experiences of that monster might be like, nor is he fazed by the fact that he ignores his family to pursue his work. He is so obsessed with his ambition that he does not consider anything else. The rising action of his reckless quest to create life comes to a peak when, immediately after animating the monster, he reacts with horror and disgust and runs from the room. This incident illustrates the conflict between Victor and moral responsibility: he has been responsible for making the monster and bringing him to life, but when he doesn’t like the result, he simply rejects it.

The tension increases when Victor learns of the death of his brother William and the false accusation against Justine. The murder creates another situation in which Victor can choose to act, or fail to take responsibility. He heightens the conflict by allowing Justine to be executed, rather than disclosing what he knows about the monster. The conflict is heightened further when the monster meets up with Victor amidst the mountain peaks and tells him the story of all the suffering he has experienced, as well as his loneliness and alienation. The meeting between the monster and his creator is another moment where Victor could potentially turn away from his selfish path. The plot suggests potential resolution when Victor reluctantly agrees to fashion a mate for the monster in exchange for the two of them going somewhere remote.

However, the conflict is reignited when Victor is too disgusted to carry out this plan and destroys the female monster before completing it. Yet again, he doesn’t think about what this reckless choice will mean, even though the monster vows revenge. Victor is genuinely surprised when his friend Henry Clerval is killed, and then again when his fiancé Elizabeth is also murdered, despite the monster’s explicit statements that he is now dedicated to making Victor’s life a living hell by depriving him of everyone he loves. The murder of Elizabeth shifts the conflict into its final stage, in which Victor vows to hunt down and kill the monster in revenge for all of the deaths. This vow partially resolves the conflict in that it gives the monster what he wants: he now has the total attention of his creator, and the fates of the two individuals are interlocked.

After Victor pursues the monster around the world, he arrives in the Arctic and encounters Walton, bringing the story full-circle back the point at which the narration switched from Walton to Victor. Victor’s travels have exhausted him so much that he dies aboard the ship after relaying his tale, his role in the story fulfilled. The novel climaxes with Walton finding the monster in the room, gazing at Victor’s dead body and weeping. Victor never acknowledges the role he played in creating the chaos and tragedy that resulted in the deaths of several innocent people, as well as the torment of his creation. Unlike Victor, the monster expresses remorse and self-loathing, suggesting that he ultimately has become more “human” than his creator. Walton finally gets to see and hear the monster from his own perspective, and he is able to feel “a mixture of curiosity and compassion.” The falling action of the novel quickly concludes with the monster explaining his plan to kill himself, then setting off alone to carry out his plan.