At a Glance
- Both Victor Frankenstein and the Creature are victims of isolation. At first, Victor's isolation is self-imposed, a result of his intense scientific study. Later, the Creature's rage at being made an outcast leads him to isolate Victor by means of violence and intimidation.
- Nature and its subversion are important themes in Frankenstein. Victor breaks the laws of nature when he raises the Creature from the dead. His arrogance results in chaos and destruction.
- Nothing is quite what it seems in Frankenstein. Though the Creature may look monstrous, he is a thoughtful, sympathetic creature driven to violence by circumstance rather than nature.
Victor Frankenstein is a brilliant, rational, and self-centered man who comes to understand the importance of friendship, family, and love. His monster is brutal and destructive but also rational and eloquent and longs for affection and companionship. Although these two at times seem antithetical, their characters also complement one another.
Frankenstein's creation of the monster is a supreme rational and imaginative effort, as he himself explains: "My imagination was vivid, yet my powers of analysis and application were intense; by the union of these qualities I conceived the idea and executed the creation of a man." After the monster's creation, the union between Frankenstein's imagination and intellect disintegrates. Like Hamlet, he is plagued by doubt and inaction: he decides to destroy the monster yet pities him; he decides to make a female monster but destroys her; he knows the monster is plotting revenge, but mistakenly assumes he is the target.
The monster, too, is a strange combination of unbalanced intellect and emotion. As the product of Frankenstein's reason, he represents reason in isolation. Yet, he tells Walton, "my heart was fashioned to be susceptible of love and sympathy." When first the De Laceys reject him in horror and then Frankenstein refuses him any kind of companionship, the monster's tender emotions turn to poisoned selfishness and envy. Even revenge brings him only frustration and misery, "wasting in impotent passions." While the monster destroys Frankenstein's hopes, he does not satisfy his own desires.
Besides the unresolvable clash between intellect and emotions, analysis and imagination, Shelley's Frankenstein bears other traces of Romantic thought, although questioned rather than wholly accepted. Nature with its variety for the Romantics provided a source of wonder and a source of healing for man. In his deepest distress Frankenstein seeks to draw vitality from his surroundings. His fiancee Elizabeth encourages him, "Observe . . . how the clouds . . . render this scene of beauty still more interesting. Look also at the innumerable fish that are swimming in the clear waters . . . What a divine day! How happy and serene all nature appears!" Yet nature's joys are impermanent. Just when the mountains cause Frankenstein's heart to swell with joy, the monster appears; just after Elizabeth...
(The entire section is 2,677 words.)