What are the important topics in Frankenstein by Mary Shelley?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In my mind, the most important topics brought out in the work is Shelley's critique of Romanticism and the Enlightenment.  Married to a thinker of the former and a father of the latter, Mary Shelley is in a unique position to be able to see the flaws in each.  Her critique of the Enlightenment lies in Victor's belief that there can be no limitation to the scientific process, one that he is wedded to and where there is no external or internal check or line that should not be crossed.  A world in which science is limitless compels him to create the monster, and then run from his responsibility.  It is here where one can see a critique of the Romantic notion of being able to utilize one's freedom to escape in accordance to their own subjectivity.  Like a good Romantic figure, Victor listens to his own voice and runs from the monster, seeking isolation in the far reaches of the forest.  The result of abandoning the monster turns out to be a disastrous one in acknowledging his own subjectivity and acting on it.  The dangers of a limitless notion of science as well as pure acting on one's own subjectivity, critiques of both Enlightenment and Romanticism, become the most important points of the story.

Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Numerous issues are revealed in Shelley's Frankenstein.  The enotes Study Guide on the novel lists these themes:

  • Alienation and Loneliness
  • Nature vs. Nurture
  • Appearances vs. Reality
  • Duty and Responsibility
  • Justice vs. Injustice
  • Forbidden Knowledge
  • Science vs. Nature
  • Language
  • Multiple Personalities

Of these, I suggest the most important issues in the novel are:

Science vs. Nature:  This is at the heart of the work, and is timely when applied to Shelley's time period.  Science goes too far and is irresponsible.

Alienation and Loneliness:  both Victor and his monster, in the end at least, suffer alienation and loneliness.

Nature vs. Nurture:  left on his own, the monster, as he is referred to by Victor, truly becomes one. 

lyndaa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The idea of abandonment, which affected Victor Frankestein, is also an important topic since it motivates Victor to try to  continually find something or someone to fill the void. In his attempt to find happiness, Victor wants to create something "bigger than life" - however, in te process, creates the very thing that will destroy his life as well as others.

mkcapen1 | Student

Frankenstein is one of my favorite novels because it is very complex.  In the novel the important concepts include Victor's desire to play God and create a human.

Ambition versus consideration of others also is a concern in the novel as Victor was driven by his own desires with little thought of the outcome for the creature or his own family.

Whether it is right or not to bring a being into the world is an ethical question that the book addresses.

Other issues include; parental abandonment, social isolation from others, humanity versus depravity, nature versus nurture, fire and ice, and good versus evil.

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