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.
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.