Much of the narrative of Shelley's spellbinding novel involves moral dilemmas with which Victor Frankenstein wrestles and which he usually fails to act ethically. Here are two of his moral dilemmas:
After Victor finds himself immersed in his frenetic pursuit of creating life, violating the law by using cadavers, he attempts to assuage his conscience by telling himself he could eventually be able to renew life to those who die,
A new species would bless me as its creator and source, many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. (Ch.4)
1. However, when his creature comes to life, "breathless horror and disgust" fills Victor's heart. Repelled, he flees his creature and races to his bedchamber to seek "forgetfulness." The next day when Victor finds that his "enemy" has fled, he is elated. But when he returns to Geneva after the death of his younger brother William, Victor does not confess;
Fear overcame me; I dared not advance, dreading a thousand nameless evils that made me tremble, although I was unable to define them. (Ch. 7)
Knowing that he is responsible for the death of his own brother does not convince Victor that he should reveal the truth; instead, he hides his nefarious deed of creating a malformed creature whom he has abandoned, leading to the death of his innocent brother William. Victor acts irresponsibly and immorally because his reticence sacrifices Justine, who is convicted of William's murder.
2. Later in the narrative, Victor encounters his creature, who relates how he has lived. The creature tells Victor that he will go away forever if Victor will create a female for him, a partner to love and keep him company.
For the first time, also, I felt what the duties of a creator towards his creature were, and that I ought to render him happy before I complained of his wickedness. These motives urged me to comply with his demand. (Ch.10)
But, in Chapter 18, Victor wrestles with his conscience; as his father speaks of his son's marriage to Elizabeth, Victor faces a moral dilemma:
Alsas! to me the idea of an immediate union with my Elizabeth was one of horror and dismay. I was bound by a solemn promise, which I had not yet fulfilled, and dared not break; or if I did, what manifold miseries might not impend over me and my devoted family! (Ch. 18)
Again, however, Victor first protects himself, and he places a loved one in danger because he does not create a female for his creature. For, during his act of creation, he
...knew that a thousand fearful accidents might occur, the slightest of which would disclose a tale to thrill all connected with me with horror.(Ch. 18)
Further, in his arrogance, Victor believes that he can marry Elizabeth by using his friend Clerval to "stand between [him] and the intrusion of [his] foe."