Discuss how significant thematic concerns have been noted through the close study of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Science verses Nature

Given the novel was written by a Romantic author, Mary Shelley, the inclusion of nature was of the utmost importance. By the end of the novel, readers see the true power of nature. Covertly influenced by Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," the novel proves that nature is far more powerful than mankind and his (or her) pursuit of science.

Multiple Personalities

This theme tends to be one of the most controversial. While some critics have argued that Shelley's novel is a first-person narrative of Mary Shelley's non-fiction life, others state that the use of the multiple narrative proves to be far more sound. While the novel (in whole) is narrated solely by Walton, many readers forget this fact given the intensity of both Victor's and the Creature's tales. One could also argue that both Walton and the Creature function as different sides to Victor (Walton the part desiring to change the world for the better, and the Creature could (for different readers) represent either Victor's dark side or inner child).

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein offers engaged readers a close study of multiple themes encompassed in the novel. Enotes theme page on the novel offers the following as the most significant themes presented in the text: Alienation and Loneliness, Nature verses Nurture, Appearances and Reality, Duty and Responsibility, Justice verses Injustice, Forbidden Knowledge, Science verses Nature, and Multiple Personalities.

Alienation and Loneliness

Textually, this theme becomes apparent through both Victor's and the Creature's isolation. While Victor chooses to separate himself from the world (mostly seen during his experimentations), alienation is forced upon the Creature, as a result of Victor's abandonment. The Creature, hideous to look at, is shunned and attacked by all who come in contact with him.

Nature verses Nurture

This theme is mostly seen through the question if the Creature is evil based upon his nature or if his lack of nurture has forced his evil nature. One could question that if Victor had embraced his creation, would it (he) have come out differently? In fact, readers do see proof to this. The two times the creature seeks out companionship, he is attacked and driven away (with the De Laceys and when he saves the little girl).

Appearance verses Reality

Most poignantly, this is again seen in the characterization of the Creature. Given that many immediately judge the Creature upon his physical appearance, all do not realize the true warmth and compassion he possesses. In reality, he is a being whom simply wishes to be loved and accepted.

Duty and Responsibility

Here, Victor rules the world of duty and responsibility. In this case, Victor questions what his duty and responsibility to the Creature really is. For example, it is his duty to take care of the Creature. He created it (him); he should be responsible for (it) him. Duty is a moral commitment to something or someone; whereas, responsibility is a condition of one acting on his or her own will. Given Victor's moral responsibility for being the "father" of the creature, he should take care of him. That said, he (acting on free will) chooses to abandon it (him).

Justice verses Injustice

This theme is mostly seen in the trial of Justine. She has been charged with the murder of William Frankenstein. Victor, knowing that his creature murdered William, fails to seek true justice for Justine. Instead, he allows her to be hanged for a murder she did not commit. He could have named himself responsible, and Justine would have been found innocent and lived.

Forbidden Knowledge

Perhaps one of the most significant themes in the text, this idea is wholly represented through Victor's creation of the Creature. According to Christian ideology, God is the only one whom can truly create life. Victor, seeking the knowledge of how to reanimate life, finds success with the reanimation of life. Victor, like Adam and Eve, pays for his quest with his life (and the lives of many others).

Continued on the next post.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team