Among the complex characters in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein and the creature are especially notable and have readily discernible, tragic flaws. Robert Walton also shows considerable complexity, but his flaws prove manageable rather than fatally destructive. Victor’s primary flaw is hubris, or excessive pride, which he expresses by trying to play God. The creature blames Victor for all his problems, including his unbearable loneliness. While his main flaw is the insatiable desire for revenge against Victor, this is compounded by his lack of self-control. As these two characters function as foils, they share obsessive tendencies.
Walton plays a key role as a sounding board for Victor’s tales. Walton also has been driven by ambition, but in his case this drove him away from human society in a quest for adventure and discovery. The fates of Victor and the creature have a sobering effect on Walton, who calls off his expedition and heads home.
Mary Shelley explores the negative effects of both emotion and reason that go unchecked by practical and moral controls. Victor confesses that he became obsessed with learning the secrets of existence and trying to master the beginning and end of life itself. Victor’s pride in his achievements overtook him so completely that he twisted logic to support his desires. Shelley implies that absence of self-moderation was the essence of what he imparted to the creature. While strangers looked upon him as a monster, the creature proved himself fundamentally human by acting out his all-too-human flaws. One of those was the inability to accept responsibility for his actions, but instead to hold Victor accountable for all the miseries he experienced and inflicted on others.