Victor Frankenstein is the protagonist of Frankenstein. His goal is to achieve something great and morally good, which will secure him a lasting reputation. In pursuit of this goal, he creates the Monster, but his pursuit of his goal also causes his conflict with the Monster. Because of his outsized ambition to achieve greatness, Frankenstein cannot tolerate the flaws of the being he has created. When the Monster demands that Frankenstein make him a female companion, Frankenstein’s goal of achieving greatness brings him into conflict with the Monster. He can’t bear the thought that his actions might ruin his future reputation: “I shuddered to think that future ages might curse me as their pest.” Frankenstein does not learn from his experiences. He dies trying to destroy the Monster because he is still pursuing greatness. Just as he initially sees the creation of the Monster as the key to lasting fame, Frankenstein later believes the destruction of the Monster will protect his future reputation: “You may give up your purpose, but mine is assigned to me by Heaven, and I dare not.” He dies having achieved his first ambition, to create life, but believing he has failed to achieve his second ambition, which was to destroy the life he created.

Another possible protagonist of Frankenstein is the Monster himself. Throughout the novel, the Monster pursues connection and human contact. His quest for connection drives the plot, as other characters react to his attempts to forge relationships. Once the Monster realizes he will never have a friend or mate, he is driven by the desire for revenge against his creator, Frankenstein. In pursuing revenge, the Monster continues to drive the plot, killing everyone Frankenstein loves and causing Frankenstein to chase him across the globe. Unlike Frankenstein, the Monster changes over the course of the novel. He comes to see the error of his ways and express remorse for his actions. Also unlike Frankenstein, who dies still pursuing his goal of destroying the Monster, the Monster dies because he can’t live with who he is and what he has done. Self-knowledge leads the Monster to believe his life no longer has value.