Student Question

Choose 3 significant quotations from Frankenstein that reveal character, reflect theme, advance plot, illustrate symbolism, or demonstrate conflict.

Expert Answers

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that passion which afterwards ruled my destiny . . . like a mountain river . . . swelling . . . it became a torrent which, in its course, swept away all my hopes and joys.

This first quotation, from Chapter 2, reveals an important aspect of Frankenstein's character, that aspect being his tragic flaw. Frankenstein's tragic flaw is his unquenchable desire, or "passion," for knowledge. This "passion" is so overwhelming and all-consuming as to "rule (his) destiny" and destroy "all (his) hopes and joys." This quotation is also of course important as regards the theme of knowledge. One of the morals of the story is that knowledge, or at least too much knowledge, can be destructive. It is ultimately Frankenstein's relentless pursuit of knowledge that results in the birth of the creature.

Nature decayed around me, and the sun became heatless; rain and snow poured around me; mighty rivers were frozen; the surface of the earth was hard and chill, and bare, and I found no shelter.

This second quotation is taken from Chapter 16, and is an example of a quotation which contains symbolism and which also helps to develop the plot. Shelley here uses the weather to symbolize the creature's hopelessness and misery. The sun, usually symbolic of light and warmth, is here "heatless," reflecting the dearth of warmth or affection left in the creature's life. The "snow" and the "frozen rivers" emphasize this idea, reflecting how emotionally cold and unloved the creature feels. This quotation also helps to develop the plot, because this coldness felt by the creature represents a turning point or volta. The creature first tried his best to be kind and to be good, but was rejected and feared. Everyone he met treated him with disdain. It was this rejection, this cold, "hard and chill" rejection by humanity, which drove the creature to become monstrous.

When I reflected on his crimes and malice, my hatred and revenge burst all bounds of moderation.

This third quotation, from Chapter 9, speaks to the conflict between Frankenstein and the creature. The former hates the latter, and the extent of his hatred is emphasized by the alliterative phrase, "burst all bounds of moderation." Frankenstein can not contain his hatred for the creature. There is a certain irony in this hatred because the "crimes and malice" which Frankenstein blames on the creature are really of his own making. If Frankenstein had not made the creature and then abandoned it, then there would have been no "crimes and malice" at all. One might also infer that the creature is merely an extension of Frankenstein. Frankenstein's conflict with the creature is really a conflict with the monstrous part of himself.

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