What are three major conflicts in Frankenstein?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The novel Frankensteinis rife with conflicts, mainly stemming from one soufe, which is Victor Frankenstein himself. This is because Victor's fixation with creating life became the driving force of his actions, and a particular whim that created a lot of collateral damage.

Three conflicts are:

Victor versus Victor:...

This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Throughout the novel we witness many facets of Victor's behavior. This shows that the man is not stable in the first place. When Victor wants something, he obsesses about it without thinking about consequences. When he finally achieves his goal of creating life, and he realizes the horrid aftermath of his activity, he falls into a deep depression and becomes ill.The creature he wished to create he ends up despising to a sickening point. He essentially sets himself up for failure.

Creature versus creator: In a conflict that mirrors our own existential debate with the higher powers that be, the creature and his creator are in consistent fights. For once, the creature comes to realize that his life is miserable, that he is unwanted by the world, and that he was merely an experiment gone wrong. Sadly, the creature is also  sentimental, feels empathy, and vies for love. The persecution that the creature and Victor engage into is essentially one wanting to destroy the other. It is actually a very tragic conflict.

Creature versus nature: The creature has to undergo his first days of life in solitude and discovering the world as he goes.

By degrees [...] a stronger light pressed upon my nerves, so I was obliged to shut my eyes. Darkness then came over me, and troubled me. 

Unfamiliar with the world, he has to forcibly defend himself from the elements, such as sunlight, darkness, fire, rain, heat, and coldness. He also faces hunger, exhaustion, the need for safety and, saddest of all, the scorn and hatred of the people. If being alone is bad, his kind of loneliness would have been unbearable.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What conflicts are presented in Frankenstein?

There are many conflicts present in Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein. Conflicts are presented in two different ways: internal conflict and external conflict. Internal conflict is the conflict which exists within a person or character (man verses self). External conflict is the conflict one faces with outside forces (man verses man, supernatural, and nature).

Internal Conflict

There are two main internal conflicts depicted within the novel. Both the creature and Victor face internal conflicts. Victor faces the internal crisis of bringing a dangerous being into the world. It is his desire to destroy the creature (given his personal feelings regarding his obligation to society and keeping them safe). The creature, on the other hand, conflicts with his own being. Given his obvious differences from others, the creature conflicts with his own existence (the whys and hows of who he is).

External Conflict

There are multiple external conflicts depicted within the novel. Not only does the creature face the frightened and aggressive society around him, he is forced to come to terms with the power of nature.

By degrees, I remember, a stronger light pressed upon my nerves, so that I was obliged to shut my eyes. Darkness then came over me, and troubled me; but hardly had I felt this, when, by opening my eyes, as I now suppose, the light poured in upon me again.

Given his lack of knowledge of nature, the creature fights against burning eyes, cold and heat.

Victor, on the other hand, conflicts with the creature (man verses man or supernatural--depending upon how one defines the creature). Victor, driven by the murder of William, Clerval, Justine, and Elizabeth, despises the creature.

“Devil,” I exclaimed, “do you dare approach me? and do not you fear the fierce vengeance of my arm wreaked on your miserable head?

As for the conflict of science verses nature, one example which illuminates this is found in chapter two. In this section, Victor is recalling the effects of a lightening strike on a tree. The lightening "utterly destroyed" the tree. Instead of being intrigued by the power of nature, Victor is intrigued by the scientific aspects which could be dissected because of the lightening strike.

Outside of this example, one could argue that another relevant example is the creature himself. The product of science, the creature is left to nature in order to learn and grow.

Everything is related in them which bears reference to my accursed origin; the whole detail of that series of disgusting circumstances which produced it is set in view.

Left on his own, the creature is required to fend for himself and learn about the ways of the world alone (surrounded only by nature).

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are some examples of conflict within the novel Frankenstein?

The key conflict in Frankenstein is the conflict between man and his creator. This is, of course, represented in a twofold manner: in the conflict between Victor Frankenstein and the creature he has given life to, and in the conflict between Victor Frankenstein and God himself. You might read the relationship between Frankenstein and the creature as a microcosmic representation of the relationship between man and God.

We can see this very clearly in the sections of the book in which the Creature expresses his own thoughts, particularly his distress as to why he was created only to feel so rudderless and without purpose. The Creature is something that should never have been born, but, Frankenstein having created him, he feels that Frankenstein has a duty of care—he should create a companion for him and care about his wellbeing. This mirrors the Biblical creation story, in which God creates a companion for the man he has made and then the two creatures rebel against him.

The problem is that Victor is not God. Victor himself is in conflict with God and nature: he is desperate to prove himself capable of bending the laws of nature by creating life, but at the same time, he is conflicted internally about the value of what he has made. When he first sees the creature, its hideous visage seems a visual representation of the corrupt and perverted nature of what he has done. The creature is a mirror of Victor's own nature. God made man in his own image; so, if the creature is made in Victor's image, what does this say about the nature of Victor's soul? Victor is afraid to answer this question, and his relationship with the creature suffers for it.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are some examples of conflict within the novel Frankenstein?

Man vs. Man

The most obvious man versus man conflict in Frankenstein is, of course, between the creature and Victor Frankenstein.  The creature both loves and hates Frankenstein; he longs for acceptance, but resents the Victor's abandonment of him after his creation.  After Victor destroys the creature's intended mate, he swears revenge with the evil promise that he will be with Victor on his wedding night.  After the creature murders Elizabeth, Frankenstein vows to stop him at all costs, even to the ends of the earth. 

Man vs. Himself

Victor has more than a few of these moments throughout the novel.  One such moment that stands out is when Victor agrees, after hearing the creature's pitiful and lonely story, to make him a mate.  Victor feels compelled to aid the creature as his Creator, but as he works on making a female, he begins to question the wisdom in making another monster.  He worries that it might unleash "a race of devils [...] on the earth" (Ch. 20).  Plagued by guilt and recrimination, Victor abruptly destroys his work in progress.

Man vs. Nature

Victor's creation of the monster itself is an act of man versus nature.  He defies the laws of nature and reanimates dead tissue.  In the moment of creation, Victor reacts with horror at what he has done.

Victor's search through the arctic on his quest to destroy the creature definitely constitutes as man versus nature; the cold, icy conditions and Victor's growing illness challenge his progress.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the conflict in the novel Frankenstein?

In the novel Frankenstein many conflicts arise. However, throughout the entire novel, the conflict between Victor (the creator) and his creation remains. For example, a conflict arises between Victor and the creature in determining who is the actual monster.

By first glancing at novel, many might assume that the creature is the monster, due to his inhuman creation and the description of his appearance.  As the novel unfolds, the creature is described as hideous and horrifying. Many fear him and runaway from the monster. Furthermore, the monster also eventually becomes a murder.

On the other hand, upon further analysis, Victor also appears monstrous. Victor created the monster and then, abandoned him without food, instruction, or a family to teach him about the world or morals. Despite that Victor himself has a privileged background, he leaves his creation in these unfortunate circumstances. Also, Victor neglected the advice of his teachers to pursue his own forbidden learning to gain prestige and power.  After he created the monster, Victor himself states:

I was seized by remorse and the sense of guilt, which hurried me away to a hell of intense tortures, such as no language can describe.

As a result, the readers are left with this great conflict to decide who really is the monster. Is it the creature who was left abandoned without morals, nourishment, or anyone to provide for him, or is it his creator who made him for his own selfish desires and abandoned him?

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How is spiritual conflict presented in Frankenstein?

Frankenstein provides for a spiritual conflict in two ways.  First, Victor is analogous to God.  One of the prevalent themes explores the consequences of "playing God."  Surely, Victor has created a man in his own image from discarded parts of dead bodies, or "dust".  He then makes wild decisions as to the use of science for purposes beyond the human realm.

Next, the creature, in his portion of the story, relates being influenced by "Paradise Lost" and considers himself first as Adam, a man without a race or culture or history.  Later, the creature considers himself more Satan, a demon tossed away from the love of God forever.  He has been cast out of heaven and forced to wander alone, just like the creature.  Of course, the creature is not the devil, but his capacity to become evil grows each day. 

The novel seems to suggest that life without God is tumultous at best, but that human beings should never attempt to do what is in the realm of only God.

Last Updated on