In Frankenstein, to what extent is Victor presented as a tragic hero?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Aristotle, in Poetics, defined the characteristics of the typical tragic hero. According to the text, a tragic hero possessed the following characteristics: noble statue, great (but not perfect), falls partially because of personal choice, possesses a tragic flaw (hamartia), and gains awareness about self (through his or her fall).

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein proves to characterize the protagonist (Victor) as a tragic hero. 

Victor possess noble stature.

I AM BY BIRTH a Genevese; and my family is one of the most distinguished of that republic.

Victor is great, but not perfect. He is able to reanimate life, but not without being highly upset about the outcome.

How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form?

Victor's fall is his own fault. The choice he makes to reanimate life is his own. Though the "hero's misfortunate is not wholly deserved. The punishment exceeds the crime" (Hibbison, Virginia Community College). In fact, it is his obsession with reanimation which fuels his life (at the expense of his own health and relationship with his family).

Victor's tragic flaw is his ambitious nature. He, in the end, realizes that his ambition was his downfall (which speaks to the other characteristics of the tragic hero--gaining of self-awareness through his fall). Victor's realization comes far too late. Fortunately, for Walton, Victor passes on the knowledge of the poisonous nature of ambition.

Seek happiness in tranquillity and avoid ambition.

In the end, one can identify the characteristics of the tragic hero within the character of Victor Frankenstein.


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