Introduction of Frankenstein
The novel, Frankenstein, previously titled The Modern Prometheus, was written by Mary Shelley. It was first published in 1818. It is known as the epitome of the science fiction of the early 19th century, and also it set the stage for scientific passion among the scientists with caution to shun the seamy side of experiments. The novel revolves around the story of a young scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who becomes the victim of his own creation, a monster. The monster later attempts to take his own life, before wreaking havoc in the life of the scientist, and his family. The unique feature of this story is that Miss Shelley started it when she turned 18 and finished at the age of 20.
Summary of Frankenstein
The story of the novel begins with a seafarer, Robert Walton, writing letters to his sister about his adventures to the North Pole. During these letters, he recounts his confrontation with Victor Frankenstein traveling on the sled. When Walton comes across him, he is on the verge of death on those icy plains, but Walton hauls him on board and nurses him to recovery after which he recounts his fantasizing tale of creating the monster. Starting his fascinating story, Victor mentions his early life in Geneva, his idyllic childhood with his cousin Elizabeth Lavenza, his study at Ingolstadt University, his passion for natural sciences, and chemistry. Victor also talks about his desire the creating life during his research.
Recounting further, Victor tells him that he has spent hours daily for months on the creation of life, by combining different organs into one body which he had brought from a graveyard. One night he succeeds in infusing the spark of life in it. He, however, feels horrified to see the monster he has brought to life. Obsessed with the ugliness of this monster, he runs for his life, afraid of this looming shadow pursuing him everywhere. He visits his friend Henry to trick the monster but a fatal illness grips him for long. Soon he plans to visit Geneva to see his family and recover his health. Before leaving the university, he gets his father’s letter about the sad demise of his younger brother, William. Brokenhearted, he hurries back home and sees his brother’s dead body. Later, he learns that the monster had killed his brother by suffocating him.
To his horror, he comes to know that the innocent adopted girl, Justine Mortiz, is arrested and under trial for her alleged role in the murder of William. Despite her innocence, she faces execution, making Victor even more depressed. At heart, he terms himself responsible for these two deaths because of his creation of the monster. The more he thinks about this, the more he becomes disappointed. Finally, not finding solace at home, he turns to the mountains to pass his vacation to recover from this depression, when he comes across the monster while walking on a glacier. The monster confesses his crime, making pleas to Victor to understand his dilemma of living in isolation, hatred, and permanent loneliness. He argues that William has become the victim of his animosity toward Victor, as the monster does not want to live alone, and begs Victor to create a partner for him.
Victor refuses the monster’s request, he is even more terrified at the prospect of the second monster wreaking havoc on the earth. However, Victor does observe that the monster talks like any human with eloquence in his speech. He succeeds in bringing home the point to Victor that he needs a colleague to pass his life. However, not knowing what to do, Victor takes his leave, turns to his friend Henry, and visits England to collect information about the creation of life. Although he tries his best when staying at Orkneys, he again faces the ethical dilemma of creating another monster. When he peeps out of the window of his lab during these thoughts, he glances out of the window and sees the monster grinning at him. Here the monster believes that he is hopefully going to have a friend to talk to. But, Victor immediately destroys what he has created so far. This action throws the monster into a fit of rage, swearing to harm him during his wedding.
The revenge of the monster comes sooner rather than later when Victor loses his way and is washed ashore in the proximity of some unknown town. He immediately becomes a criminal after he finds himself arrested for the murder of his friend, Henry. In spite of Victor’s denial, he faces trial for Henry Clerval’s murder. It is apparent that Frankenstein’s monster had killed Henry out of revenge. Eventually, he is cleared and returns to Geneva. Victor continues to live in fear, though, his father arranges his marriage. Due to the constant fear in his mind about the monster appearing somewhere at night, and killing him, Victor becomes distant from almost everyone. Despite his cautious approach of making Elizabeth move away, he hears her screams when the monster finds her alone and kills her. Victor seeks his father’s help, but he too breathes his last in this grief. After a while, Victor vows to kill him to exact revenge for the death of his near and dear ones.
Soon Victor finds him in the north and almost reaches very close to him but the snow beneath them gives way, and a gap appears. Walton, then, appears to save Victor who narrates his story of the monster. The same story is recounted by Walton to his sister in all his letters. He also tells about Victor’s death and the mourning of the monster with his own story of suffering, loneliness, and repentance over his acts. Walton then leaves this world heading to the north, as he ends the story. In this amazing story, most people sympathize with Victor because he loses his family and friends when the Monster kills them. However, it must be observed that Victor created the monster and left him on his own. Hence, here, Victor can be blamed as the cause for everyone’s demise, which he also agrees with. The Monster however is desperate for companionship and felt rejected, which led him to commit the crimes. It is also debatable to know if the monster was indeed good as he claimed to be when kills a child out of revenge. The novel is a great way to understand why a few people commit crimes and what made them push themselves into the darkness.
Major Themes in Frankenstein
- Creation: The novel revolves around the theme of creation as the central point of focus for human beings. Despite his good education and reasonable scientific knowledge, Victor is after the creation of life after he is free from Ingolstadt. He creates his laboratory and tries to build a creature that becomes independent after he infuses the spark of life in it. This backfiring of his efforts take a heavy toll on him, killing his siblings, his wife, friends, and even costs the life of his distraught father. Although he tries to pacify the monster by creating his partner or mate, he leaves this project and runs after the monster to exact revenge for ruining his entire life.
- Theme of Alienation: The novel covers the theme of alienation through the situation of Victor as well as the monster. Victor goes for the creation of the monster through his creative power to end his isolation. The monster is alienated because of his grotesque looks and as a failed experiment. Hence, the monster goes after him and his family to end that feeling. Although at one point, he has coerced him into working for him to create a mate for him, Victor leaves it in the middle and runs after the monster. The narrator, Robert Walton also faces alienation, the reason that he writes long letters to his sister as reconciliation.
- Isolation: The theme of isolation is another major point of the novel that characters like Robert Walton, Victor, and especially the monster. Walton writes constant letters to his sister to end it, while Victor longs for his family reunion. The chase of the monster is in the rage for his being an obstacle to his reunion. The monster feels loneliness as he tries to become friendly toward the family where he has sought refugee from the world.
- Crossing Boundaries: The punishment of crossing the boundaries and limits is another central idea of the novel demonstrated through the obsessive zeal of Victor for his passion for the creation of life. This is an intervention in the divine. When he creates the monster, he becomes rather God-like and abandons his responsibility. Hence, the monster teaches him a lesson that he should not meddle with the realms that do not belong to him. He has to pay a heavy price for his folly of crossing the limits.
- Ambition: Victor is an ambitious person who proves that he can go to any limit to satisfy his negative passion. However, when he oversteps the boundaries, it shows that even an ambitious person commits a negative act, which can backfire in the shape of the monster, who kills his siblings and ruins his life.
- Injustice: Mary Shelley has demonstrated that when things go wrong, justice becomes injustice, and fair becomes foul. When Victor takes the first misstep, he has to see Justin going to gallows on the charges of murdering William, and despite knowing everything, he is unable to stop this. This injustice leads to another injustice that he creates the monster and then does not create a mate for him.
- Responsibility: The theme of individual and social responsibility has been highlighted through the unbridled character and invention of Victor that despite having the best of the education, he could not stop doing an unethical thing. It has been his responsibility to help others instead of creating monsters for them. That is why the thematic strand of responsibility lies at the heart of the novel.
- Natural Laws: The implicit thematic depiction of the laws of nature has been shown through the crossing of boundaries that Victor does by creating a monster instead of utilizing his knowledge for human welfare. That is why the misuse of natural laws ruins his family and his life.
- Parental Responsibility: Although Alphonse Frankenstein has fulfilled his responsibility of imparting the best education to his son, Victor, he forgets to instill ethical responsibility in him toward human beings. Hence, Victor creates the monster without thinking about social and moral consequences.
- Revenge: The theme of revenge has been demonstrated in two ways; the monster’s revenge from Victor in killing his siblings, and ruining his life, and Victor’s revenge from the monster by not creating a clone, and by chasing him to his death, which doesn’t occur.
Major Characters in Frankenstein
- Victor Frankenstein: Although Walton peeps through the character of Victor whenever he has a chance, this is Victor, who is the protagonist and main character. The son of Alphonse Frankenstein, he gets the best from Ingolstadt, the best university in Geneva. His passion for chemistry leads him to create the spark of life and infuse it in his monster created awkwardly in his lab. The rest of the story comprises of the price that he has to pay in the shape of the murder of his brother, hanging of their adopted child, Justine, the murder of his wife, the death of his father, and ultimately his own death by the end.
- The Monster: The creation of Victor Frankenstein, the monster takes the life of his own after Victor infuses in him that spark. However, what Victor fails to understand is that this life needs a social circle, a mate, and a society like human beings, feeling the lack of which the monster becomes revengeful and pleads his case to Victor for the creation of a mate. Although at one point, Frankenstein momentarily agrees to his pleas. Later, feeling disgusted, he rejects and faces retribution in the shape of the murder of his family members and the ruin of his family. The love-hate relationship of Victor and the monster continues until the monster comes to know the death of Victor and leaves for the northward to disappear forever, promising Robert that he will set himself on fire.
- Robert Walton: Robert Walton is the narrator and also the sympathizer of Victor Frankenstein. It is Walton who makes a moral judgment on whatever Victor has done. It could be that these are his personal feelings that he narrates to his sisters in his letters through the narrative of the monster and the great scientist.
- Alphonse Frankenstein: Father of Victor, Alphonse proves that he is a responsible father who has taken great care of not only his blood children but also that of the adopted one, for he fights for justice for the adopted girl, Justine Moritz. He has to face the tragic loss of his son, the loss of the adopted girl, and then the loss of his daughter-in-law on account of his son’s passion for the creation of life, yet he does not complain.
- Elizabeth Lavenza: Although she appears in the novel after a long pause, she proves a lifeline for Victor after the death of his mother and plans to marry to bring joy to old Alphonse. However, the monster does not let Victor fulfill his wish of marrying her and kills her in the bedroom on her wedding night.
- Henry Clerval: As Victor’s friend, Henry Clerval, a polyglot, stands with Victor throughout his university career and in the post-university period. His proximity to Victor makes the monster kill him which proves rather painful for Victor.
- William Frankenstein: He is the younger brother of Victor and becomes the victim of his brother’s creation of the monster. The most tragic thing also happens after his murder that Justine is framed for his murder and hanged thereof.
- Justine Moritz: An adopted girl, Justine Moritz is the servant of the Frankenstein family but is considered their pet. She also becomes the victim of Victor’s creation, the monster, and is framed for murdering William.
- Caroline Beaufort: Caroline is the wife of Alphonse and mother of both Frankenstein boys. She adopts Elizabeth and takes care of Justine but does not live long to see the animosity that the monster harbors toward the Frankenstein family.
- De Lacey, Felix, and Agatha: These minor characters do not play a significant role but assists the monster and appear to be critical in making him feel how family life is beneficial.
Writing Style of Frankenstein
Living during the Romantic Period, it was but natural for Mary Shelley to write in the same strain and vein. Therefore, Frankenstein demonstrates the romantic traits in its writing style and narrative voices. Walton, the monster, and his creator, Victor, all share almost the same intensely emotional poetic, and romantic view of life and adopt almost the same style in their expressions. Therefore, diction becomes poetic when all three of them speak or narrate the events. However, some descriptive passages and narratives show the usual style of a simple narration.
Analysis of Literary Devices in Frankenstein
- Action: The main action of the novel comprises the creation of the monster by Victor Frankenstein. The rising action occurs when Victor succeeds in infusing a spark of life in the monster. However, the falling action occurs when his experience backfires, and the monster starts killing his loved ones out of spite.
- Allegory: Frankenstein shows the use of allegory in the story as it seems the story of the Christian belief about the beginning of life on the earth. However, the rest of the story shows that the intentions of Victor are not good, therefore, they backfire. He thinks of himself as God which is not right.
- Antagonist: Although initially, it seems that Victor is the main antagonist of Frankenstein as he is engaged in the creation of life. However, later it turns out that his experiment has succeeded but his creation has not come up to his expectations and has turned against him. Therefore, the monster proves to be the real antagonist of the novel. This, however, is debatable.
- Allusion: There are various examples of allusions given in the novel. The first allusion is the title of the novel that alludes to Prometheus, a Greek god. Zeus condemns him for betraying him, which becomes the reason of his suffering. It seems that Victor has also invited the same condemnation. The second is the illusion of P. B. Shelly’s poem titled “Mutability.” There is another reference to “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” by S. T. Coleridge, which is also a good allusion. The mention of Pandemonium is an allusion from Paradise Lost by John Milton.
- Conflict: The are two types of conflicts in the novel. The first one is the external conflict that starts between the creator, Victor Frankenstein, and the creation, the monster. This conflict takes the life of both of them. The other conflict is the mental and internal conflict that goes on in the mind of Victor about the issues that his siblings and relations have had to face the consequences of his recklessness.
- Characters: Frankenstein presents both static as well as dynamic characters. The young man, Victor Frankenstein, and the narrator, Robert Walton are two dynamic characters. However, the rest of the characters do not see any change in their behaviors such as Justin Mortiz, William Frankenstein, Henry as well as Caroline.
- Climax: The climax takes place when Victor comes to learn about the murdering spree of his creation. When he kills Elizabeth, it proves the end after which he starts chasing the monster.
- Foreshadowing: There are many foreshadows in the novel that suggests the creation of the monster and the impacts of this creation on the life of Victor in general and his relatives in specific. For example,
i. Curiosity, earnest research to learn the hidden laws of nature, gladness akin to rapture, as they were unfolded to me, are among the earliest sensations I can remember. (Chapter-2)
ii. It was a strong effort of the spirit of good, but it was ineffectual. Destiny was too potent, and her immutable laws had decreed my utter and terrible
iii. Thus strangely are our souls constructed, and by such slight ligaments are we bound to prosperity or ruin. (Chapter-2)
All of these sentences point to something ominous going to happen.
- Hyperbole: The novel shows the use of hyperboles at several places. For example,
i. These visions faded when I perused, for the first time, those poets whose
effusions entranced my soul and lifted it to heaven. (Chapter-1)
ii. But it was augmented and rendered sublime by the mighty Alps, whose white and shining pyramids and domes towered above all, as belonging to another earth, the habitations of another race of beings. (Chapter-9)
iii. The abrupt sides of vast mountains were before me; the icy wall of the glacier overhung me; a few shattered pines were scattered around; and the solemn silence of this glorious presence-chamber of imperial nature was broken only by the brawling waves or the fall of some vast fragment. (Chapter-10)
- Imagery: Imagery means to use of five senses such as in the below examples.
i. It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of
my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the
instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the
the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. (Chapter-5)
ii. As the night advanced, a fierce wind arose from the woods and quickly
dispersed the clouds that had loitered in the heavens; the blast tore along like a mighty avalanche and produced a kind of insanity in my spirits that burst all bounds of reason and reflection. (Chapter-16)
iii. As I looked on him, his countenance expressed the utmost extent of malice
and treachery. I thought with a sensation of madness on my promise of creating another like to him, and trembling with passion, tore to pieces the thing on which I was engaged. (Chapter-20)
iv. I felt the cheering warmth of summer and heard the rustling of the leaves and the warbling of the birds, and these were all to me, I should have wept to die; now it is my only consolation (Chapter-24).
The first example shows images of sound, the second one of nature and the third one shows the images of a person. Mark the use of the sense of touch, sound, and sight.
- Metaphor: Frankenstein shows good use of various metaphors. Below are the examples:
i. Wealth was an inferior object. (Chapter-2)
ii. I threw myself into the chaise that was to convey me away. (Chapter-3)
iii. These feelings dictated my answer to my father. (Chapter-18)
iv. I was cut off from my chief article of maintenance. (Chapter-24)
- Mood: The novel shows an inquisitive mood in the beginning but soon turns into a lovely and charming conversation. This gives way to a somber and serious mood when Victor starts his narrative and becomes tragic as well as lugubrious when his siblings become victims of the monster’s wrath one by one.
- Motif: The most important motifs of the novel are familial love, wrong choices, interference in nature, revenge, and kindness.
- Narrator: The novel is narrated by Robert Walton, a seafarer who relates this tale to his sister through his letters.
- Personification: Personification means attributing human acts and emotions to non-living objects. For example,
i. Thus far I have gone, tracing a secure way over the pathless seas, the very stars themselves being witnesses and testimonies of my triumph. (Chapter-1)
ii. My swelling heart involuntarily pours itself out thus. (Chapter-1)
iii. Harmony was the soul of our companionship, and the diversity and contrast that subsisted in our characters drew us nearer together. (Chapter-2)
iv. …my heart swelled with exultation and hellish triumph…(Chapter-17)
v. A fiendish rage animated him as he said this. (Chapter-18)
All of these examples show different emotions, passions, and things personified as if they have a life of their own.
- Protagonist: Victor Frankenstein is the kind of protagonist of the novel. He comes into the novel from the very start when Robert Walton mentions him in the letters and captures the interest of the readers until the last page. However, it is also important to note that he is also an antagonist for breaking the rule of nature and setting the monster in the path of revenge.
- Rhetorical Questions: The novel shows good use of rhetorical questions at several places. For example:
i. Could I enter into a festival with this deadly weight yet hanging round my neck
and bowing me to the ground? (Chapter-18)
ii. And if these were my sensations, who can describe those of Henry? (Chapter-18)
iii. They might even hate each other; the creature who already lived loathed his own deformity, and might he not conceive a greater abhorrence for it when it came before his eyes in the female form? (Chapter-20)
This example shows the use of rhetorical questions posed by different characters and narrators such as Robert Walton and Victor Frankenstein to themselves.
- Theme: A theme is a central idea that the novelist or the writer wants to stress upon. The novel shows the titular thematic strands the creation, hatred, family love, conjugal bliss, revenge, hatred, loneliness, and need for a partner.
- Setting: The setting of the novel shows different areas of Switzerland, Europe, the Arctic Ocean, and the United Kingdom.
- Simile: The novel shows good use of various similes. The below are the examples:
i. It was, in fact, a sledge, like that we had seen before. (Introduction)
ii. He came like a protecting spirit to the poor girl. (Chapter-2)
iii. The saintly soul of Elizabeth shone like a shrine-dedicated lamp in our peaceful home. (Chapter-2)
iv. No one can conceive the variety of feelings which bore me onwards, like a hurricane, in the first enthusiasm of success. (Chapter-4)
The first simile compares the sledge/sled to something they knew, the arriving person to the spirit, the soul of the girl to a lamp, and the feelings to a hurricane.