Frankenstein

by: Mary Shelley

Frankenstein

The world was to me a secret which I desired to divine.

Frankenstein explains why science was so appealing to him. He is driven by a desire to discover secrets, but that is not the only way in which he is a secretive character. He works to create the Monster in secret, and he doesn’t tell anyone about the Monster until he is on his deathbed. At least two of the Monster’s victims, Justine and Elizabeth, might have lived if Frankenstein had not kept the Monster’s existence a secret.

I know that while you are pleased with yourself, you will think of us with affection, and we shall hear regularly from you.

Frankenstein’s father warns him that if he grows distant from his family, he should take it as a sign that he’s not happy with himself. Frankenstein suggests that the root of alienation is self-hatred. Frankenstein’s alienation is something he shares with the Monster, who is also alone, and also experiences self-hatred, so much so that he kills himself.

Unless I had been animated by an almost supernatural enthusiasm, my application to this study would have been irksome

Throughout his story, Frankenstein tries to persuade Walton that he is not to blame for the Monster’s crimes. He insists that he thought he was doing the right thing when he created the Monster, but sometimes he seems to realize that his argument is not entirely convincing. In order to explain the nights he spent in “vaults and charnel-houses,” Frankenstein suggests that there was something “supernatural” about his enthusiasm for studying corpses. In other words, it wasn’t his fault.

A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs.

Before creating the Monster, Frankenstein imagines that his relationship with the Monster will be even closer than the relationship of father and child. This suggests that Frankenstein knew he was doing something terrible when he abandoned the Monster. However, he refuses to apologize to the Monster or to admit responsibility for the Monster’s suffering.

I suddenly left my home, and bending my steps towards the near Alpine valleys, sought in the magnificence, the eternity of such scenes, to forget myself and my ephemeral, because human, sorrows.

Frankenstein loves the natural world, and often finds comfort in the beauty of nature. However, he takes his love for nature too far. By trying to discover the secrets of life and death he creates the Monster. His trip to the Alpine valleys also goes too far: he ends up in a “sea of ice” where the Monster can ambush him.

There can be no community between you and me; we are enemies.

Frankenstein’s insistence that there “can be no community” between him and the Monster is highly ironic: in a sense, the Monster and Frankenstein are the only community either of them has. The Monster is the only person who knows Frankenstein’s secret, and Frankenstein is the only person who will listen to the Monster’s story. The setting underscores this point: they are alone in the mountains, far from any other people.

As the memory of past misfortunes pressed upon me, I began to reflect upon their cause—the monster whom I had created, the miserable daemon whom I had sent abroad into the world.

Frankenstein is determined to argue that the Monster is responsible for all the novel’s suffering. However, even as he makes this claim, he undermines it, acknowledging that the “cause” of his misfortunes is something he himself “created.” Frankenstein never fully settles the question of who is to blame for the Monster’s crimes: the reader is left to consider the truth for herself.

He believes that, when in dreams he holds converse with his friends and derives from that communion consolation for his miseries or excitements to his vengeance, they are not the creations of his fancy, but the beings themselves.

Near the end of the novel, after we have heard Frankenstein’s story, Walton tells us that Frankenstein believes his dead friends talk to him in his dreams. This underlines one of the novel’s central themes: the importance of having companions. Frankenstein cannot bear being without his family and friends. It’s making him mad.

Like the archangel who aspired to omnipotence, I am chained in an eternal hell.

Frankenstein compares himself to Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost. He recognizes that, like Satan, he is guilty of too much ambition. Ambition is Frankenstein’s fatal flaw, but he cannot give it up. Even his determination to destroy the Monster at all costs is a kind of ambition. By comparing himself to Satan, Frankenstein also reveals a similarity to the Monster, who often compares himself to Satan.

Yet why do I say this? I have myself been blasted in these hopes, yet another may succeed.

These are Frankenstein’s last words. Throughout his conversations with Walton, he has warned Walton about the dangers of ambition, but at the last moment he takes his warning back. This shows that Frankenstein has not really learned or changed as a result of his experiences.