Search Menu

Contents

Themes

page 1 of 2

Themes

Themes

Themes

Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.

Dangerous Knowledge

The pursuit of knowledge is at the heart of Frankenstein, as Victor attempts to surge beyond accepted human limits and access the secret of life. Likewise, Robert Walton attempts to surpass previous human explorations by endeavoring to reach the North Pole. This ruthless pursuit of knowledge, of the light (see “Light and Fire”), proves dangerous, as Victor’s act of creation eventually results in the destruction of everyone dear to him, and Walton finds himself perilously trapped between sheets of ice. Whereas Victor’s obsessive hatred of the monster drives him to his death, Walton ultimately pulls back from his treacherous mission, having learned from Victor’s example how destructive the thirst for knowledge can be.

Sublime Nature

The sublime natural world, embraced by Romanticism (late eighteenth century to mid-nineteenth century) as a source of unrestrained emotional experience for the individual, initially offers characters the possibility of spiritual renewal. Mired in depression and remorse after the deaths of William and Justine, for which he feels responsible, Victor heads to the mountains to lift his spirits. Likewise, after a hellish winter of cold and abandonment, the monster feels his heart lighten as spring arrives. The influence of nature on mood is evident throughout the novel, but for Victor, the natural world’s power to console him wanes when he realizes that the monster will haunt him no matter where he goes. By the end, as Victor chases the monster obsessively, nature, in the form of the Arctic desert, functions simply as the symbolic backdrop for his primal struggle against the monster.

Monstrosity

Obviously, this theme pervades the entire novel, as the monster lies at the center of the action. Eight feet tall and hideously ugly, the monster is rejected by society. However, his monstrosity results not only from his grotesque appearance but also from the unnatural manner of his creation, which involves the secretive animation of a mix of stolen body parts and strange chemicals. He is a product not of collaborative scientific effort but of dark, supernatural workings.

The monster is only the most literal of a number of monstrous entities in the novel, including the knowledge that Victor used to create the monster (see “Dangerous Knowledge”). One can argue that Victor himself is a kind of monster, as his ambition, secrecy, and selfishness alienate him from human society. Ordinary on the outside, he may be the true “monster” inside, as he is eventually consumed by an obsessive hatred of his creation. Finally, many critics have described the novel itself as monstrous, a stitched-together combination of different voices, texts, and tenses (see Texts).

Secrecy

Victor conceives of science as a mystery to be probed; its secrets, once discovered, must be jealously guarded. He considers M. Krempe, the natural philosopher he meets at Ingolstadt, a model scientist: “an uncouth man, but deeply imbued in the secrets of his science.” Victor’s entire obsession with creating life is shrouded in secrecy, and his obsession with destroying the monster remains equally secret until Walton hears his tale.

Whereas Victor continues in his secrecy out of shame and guilt, the monster is forced into seclusion by his grotesque appearance. Walton serves as the final confessor for both, and their tragic relationship becomes immortalized in Walton’s letters. In confessing all just before he dies, Victor escapes the stifling secrecy that has ruined his life; likewise, the monster takes advantage of Walton’s presence to forge a human connection, hoping desperately that at last someone will understand, and empathize with, his miserable existence.

Test Your Understanding with the Themes Quiz

Take a quiz on this section
Test Your Understanding with the Themes Quiz

TAKE THE QUIZ
+
#

THEMES QUIZ

Who actively wishes that the monster had never been created?
Victor and Elizabeth
Victor and the monster
Test Your Understanding with the Themes Quiz
TAKE THE QUIZ

Themes QUIZ

+
Test Your Understanding with the Themes Quiz
TAKE THE QUIZ

More Help

Previous Next
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

12 Comments

78 out of 435 people found this helpful

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?

2 Comments

79 out of 127 people found this helpful

Answer

by SexyCucumber13, November 06, 2012

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

6 Comments

45 out of 82 people found this helpful

See all 49 readers' notes   →

Buy on BN.com and save!

Frankenstein (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Frankenstein (SparkNotes Literature Guide Series)