Frankenstein by Mary Shelley


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“Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley is a novel published in 1818. It tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist who becomes obsessed with the idea of creating life.

What is Frankenstein by Mary Shelley about?

Frankenstein succeeds in his experiment and brings a creature to life, but upon seeing its hideous appearance, he is filled with horror and abandons his creation.

The creature, left to fend for itself, is rejected by society due to its monstrous appearance. It experiences loneliness, anger, and despair, and ultimately seeks revenge against its creator. The novel explores themes of ambition, the pursuit of knowledge, the consequences of playing god, and the responsibility of creators towards their creations.

The narrative is presented through a series of letters, diary entries, and the firsthand account of Victor Frankenstein and his creature. It delves into the moral and ethical implications of scientific advancement and the complexities of human nature. The novel raises questions about the boundaries of scientific exploration and the potential consequences of unchecked ambition.

“Frankenstein” is often considered a seminal work of Gothic literature and a precursor to science fiction. It continues to resonate with readers due to its exploration of themes such as identity, alienation, and the human desire for connection and acceptance.

How does “Frankenstein” explore the theme of identity?

“Frankenstein” explores the theme of identity primarily through the character of Victor Frankenstein and his creature. Victor’s pursuit of creating life and his subsequent abandonment of his creation reflect his desire to play the role of a god-like creator. However, when he sees the monstrous appearance of his creation, he is repulsed and disowns it. This rejection and abandonment deeply impact the creature’s sense of identity.

The creature, despite being created by Victor, struggles to find a place in society. It longs for acceptance and understanding but is met with fear, rejection, and isolation due to its appearance. The creature’s physical appearance becomes a defining factor in how it is perceived and treated by others, leading to a fractured sense of identity.

Furthermore, the creature’s yearning for a connection with others and a sense of belonging highlights its search for a purpose and meaning in life. It learns about humanity and the world by observing others, and it develops its own desires, emotions, and moral compass. This process of self-discovery and self-definition adds layers to the creature’s identity.

Victor, too, grapples with his own identity throughout the novel. He experiences guilt and remorse for his actions and becomes consumed by the consequences of his ambition. He wrestles with his responsibility as a creator and the impact of his choices on the lives of others. This internal struggle reflects the complexity of his identity and the moral implications of his actions.

Overall, “Frankenstein” explores the theme of identity by portraying the struggles of both Victor Frankenstein and his creature in defining themselves within society and grappling with the consequences of their actions. It raises questions about the formation of identity, the influence of external perception, and the impact of one’s choices on personal identity.

How does Victor’s abandonment of the creature affect its sense of identity?

Victor Frankenstein’s abandonment of the creature has a profound impact on its sense of identity. When the creature first comes to life, it is innocent and curious, eager to learn and understand the world around it. However, upon seeing its own reflection and realizing its monstrous appearance, the creature senses immediate rejection.

Victor’s act of abandoning his creation communicates a powerful message to the creature— that it is unwanted and unloved. This rejection shapes the creature’s perception of itself and its place in the world. It becomes acutely aware of its physical differences and the fact that it does not fit into human society.

The creature’s subsequent experiences of being shunned, attacked, and feared by humans further reinforce its feelings of isolation and otherness. It becomes desperate for companionship, longing for connection and acceptance. However, its efforts to interact with humans end in rejection and violence, further damaging its already fragile sense of identity.

As the creature faces repeated rejection, it begins to develop a complex mix of emotions, including anger, bitterness, and a yearning for revenge. It questions its own existence and its purpose in a world that rejects it. These internal struggles contribute to the fragmentation of its identity, as it grapples with reconciling its own desires for love and acceptance with the cruelty and rejection it has experienced.

In summary, Victor Frankenstein’s abandonment of the creature plays a significant role in shaping its sense of identity. The rejection and isolation it experiences as a result lead to a fractured identity, characterized by a longing for connection, a struggle with its appearance, and a deep-seated resentment towards its creator and humanity as a whole.

What are examples of how the creature’s physical appearance affects its identity?

The creature’s physical appearance in “Frankenstein” significantly affects its identity in several ways:

  1. Rejection and Isolation: The creature’s grotesque and monstrous appearance immediately elicits fear and repulsion from those who encounter it. It is relentlessly rejected by society, treated as an outcast, and isolated from human companionship. The creature’s appearance becomes a barrier to forming meaningful connections, leading to a profound sense of loneliness and alienation.
  2. Self-Perception: The creature’s own perception of itself is heavily influenced by its physical appearance. When it first sees its reflection, it is devastated by its monstrous features. It recognizes its own otherness and understands that it is fundamentally different from humans. The creature’s appearance shapes its self-image and contributes to a negative view of itself.
  3. Desire for Acceptance: Despite its terrifying exterior, the creature yearns for acceptance and connection. It is driven by a deep desire to be understood, loved, and accepted by others. The stark contrast between its physical appearance and its inner longing for acceptance creates a profound internal conflict within the creature’s identity.
  4. Role of Beauty and Ugliness: The novel explores the theme of beauty and ugliness and their impact on identity. The creature’s hideous appearance is juxtaposed with the beauty and grace of nature, highlighting the stark contrast between external appearance and inner character. The creature’s physical ugliness becomes a defining factor in how it is perceived and treated by others, shaping its identity and sense of self-worth.
  5. Potential for Violence: The creature’s physical appearance also plays a role in how it reacts to its circumstances. As it faces repeated rejection and experiences the cruelty of humanity, it develops a deep-seated anger and resentment. The creature’s appearance acts as a catalyst for its violent acts, as it seeks revenge against Victor and others who have wronged it. This connection between its appearance and its actions adds another layer to its identity, blurring the lines between victim and perpetrator.

Overall, the creature’s physical appearance profoundly impacts its identity, leading to a sense of isolation, self-perception, desire for acceptance, and the potential for violence. It grapples with the consequences of being judged solely based on its external features, highlighting the themes of appearance versus essence and the complexity of identity.

How does the creature’s physical appearance contribute to its sense of identity and self-worth?

The creature’s physical appearance in “Frankenstein” significantly contributes to its sense of identity and self-worth in several ways:

  1. Alienation and Otherness: The creature’s hideous and monstrous appearance sets it apart from humanity. Its physical features are grotesque and repulsive, making it instantly recognizable as different and abnormal. This stark contrast between itself and others deepens its sense of alienation and otherness. The creature becomes acutely aware that it does not fit societal norms of beauty and is excluded from human interactions, which erodes its self-worth.
  2. Rejection and Isolation: The creature’s appearance leads to consistent rejection and isolation from society. People react with fear, disgust, and hostility upon seeing it, which reinforces the notion that it is inherently undesirable and unworthy of connection. The creature’s inability to find acceptance and companionship due to its physical appearance intensifies its feelings of worthlessness and fuels its isolation.
  3. Comparative Judgment: The creature’s self-worth is influenced by the stark contrast between its appearance and the beauty it observes in others. It sees the physical attractiveness of humans and longs to possess the same qualities. The creature’s inability to meet these standards of beauty further diminishes its self-esteem and reinforces the belief that it is inherently flawed and unworthy.
  4. Internalization of Society’s Perception: Over time, the creature internalizes society’s negative perception of its appearance, integrating it into its own self-image. The constant rejection and dehumanization it experiences lead it to believe that it is, indeed, a monster. The creature’s self-worth becomes deeply entwined with its physical appearance, resulting in a diminished sense of its own value as a being.
  5. Desperation for Validation: Despite society’s rejection, the creature yearns for validation and recognition of its humanity. It craves acceptance and understanding, hoping to prove that it possesses qualities beyond its appearance. The constant yearning for validation highlights the creature’s struggle to establish a positive self-identity and find a sense of self-worth.

In summary, the creature’s physical appearance significantly contributes to its sense of identity and self-worth by fueling its alienation, rejection, and isolation, as well as by perpetuating society’s judgment and standards of beauty. The creature internalizes society’s negative perception, leading to a diminished self-image and a desperate quest for validation and acceptance.

How does the creature’s longing for connection and acceptance contribute to its actions and decisions?

The creature’s longing for connection and acceptance in “Frankenstein” influences its actions and decisions in several significant ways:

  1. Search for Companionship: The creature’s intense desire for connection drives its actions and decisions throughout the novel. It seeks companionship and attempts to establish relationships with others, hoping to find acceptance and understanding. For example, it observes the De Lacey family from afar and longs to be part of their lives, believing that they will see beyond its physical appearance and appreciate its inner qualities.
  2. Acts of Kindness: In its pursuit of acceptance, the creature performs acts of kindness and benevolence. It saves a young girl from drowning and helps a poor family by secretly providing them with food and firewood. These actions stem from the creature’s longing to be seen as more than a monster and to prove its capacity for goodness and compassion. It hopes that these acts will elicit the acceptance and gratitude it yearns for.
  3. Desperation and Despair: As the creature experiences repeated rejection and realizes the extent of society’s prejudice against it, its longing for connection intensifies. The desperation for acceptance pushes the creature to extreme measures. It becomes increasingly desperate and despairing, which affects its decisions and leads it to contemplate actions that it initially finds abhorrent.
  4. Retribution and Revenge: The creature’s deep sense of isolation and the pain caused by rejection eventually transform its longing for connection into a desire for revenge. It holds Victor Frankenstein responsible for its suffering and vows to make him understand the depth of its pain by inflicting harm upon him and his loved ones. The creature’s acts of violence are driven, in part, by its need to be acknowledged and to have its suffering recognized.
  5. Withdrawal and Isolation: The constant rejection and failure to find acceptance take a toll on the creature’s psyche. As it faces disappointment after disappointment, it gradually withdraws from society and isolates itself. This withdrawal is a response to the overwhelming pain of rejection and a defense mechanism to shield itself from further emotional harm.

In summary, the creature’s longing for connection and acceptance profoundly shapes its actions and decisions. It drives the creature to seek companionship, perform acts of kindness, but also leads to desperation, despair, and a desire for revenge. The intense yearning for acceptance influences the creature’s behavior as it navigates a world that rejects and isolates it.

Letter 1

To Mrs. Saville, England.

St. Petersburgh, Dec. 11th, 17—.

You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings. I arrived here yesterday, and my first task is to assure my dear sister of my welfare and increasing confidence in the success of my undertaking.

I am already far north of London, and as I walk in the streets of Petersburgh, I feel a cold northern breeze play upon my cheeks, which braces my nerves and fills me with delight. Do you understand this feeling? This breeze, which has travelled from the regions towards which I am advancing, gives me a foretaste of those icy climes. Inspirited by this wind of promise, my daydreams become more fervent and vivid. I try in vain to be persuaded that the pole is the seat of frost and desolation; it ever presents itself to my imagination as the region of beauty and delight. There, Margaret, the sun is for ever visible, its broad disk just skirting the horizon and diffusing a perpetual splendour. There—for with your leave, my sister, I will put some trust in preceding navigators—there snow and frost are banished; and, sailing over a calm sea, we may be wafted to a land surpassing in wonders and in beauty every region hitherto discovered on the habitable globe. Its productions and features may be without example, as the phenomena of the heavenly bodies undoubtedly are in those undiscovered solitudes. What may not be expected in a country of eternal light? I may there discover the wondrous power which attracts the needle and may regulate a thousand celestial observations that require only this voyage to render their seeming eccentricities consistent for ever. I shall satiate my ardent curiosity with the sight of a part of the world never before visited, and may tread a land never before imprinted by the foot of man. These are my enticements, and they are sufficient to conquer all fear of danger or death and to induce me to commence this laborious voyage with the joy a child feels when he embarks in a little boat, with his holiday mates, on an expedition of discovery up his native river. But supposing all these conjectures to be false, you cannot contest the inestimable benefit which I shall confer on all mankind, to the last generation, by discovering a passage near the pole to those countries, to reach which at present so many months are requisite; or by ascertaining the secret of the magnet, which, if at all possible, can only be effected by an undertaking such as mine.

These reflections have dispelled the agitation with which I began my letter, and I feel my heart glow with an enthusiasm which elevates me to heaven, for nothing contributes so much to tranquillise the mind as a steady purpose—a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye. This expedition has been the favourite dream of my early years. I have read with ardour the accounts of the various voyages which have been made in the prospect of arriving at the North Pacific Ocean through the seas which surround the pole. You may remember that a history of all the voyages made for purposes of discovery composed the whole of our good Uncle Thomas’ library. My education was neglected, yet I was passionately fond of reading. These volumes were my study day and night, and my familiarity with them increased that regret which I had felt, as a child, on learning that my father’s dying injunction had forbidden my uncle to allow me to embark in a seafaring life.

These visions faded when I perused, for the first time, those poets whose effusions entranced my soul and lifted it to heaven. I also became a poet and for one year lived in a paradise of my own creation; I imagined that I also might obtain a niche in the temple where the names of Homer and Shakespeare are consecrated. You are well acquainted with my failure and how heavily I bore the disappointment. But just at that time I inherited the fortune of my cousin, and my thoughts were turned into the channel of their earlier bent.

Six years have passed since I resolved on my present undertaking. I can, even now, remember the hour from which I dedicated myself to this great enterprise. I commenced by inuring my body to hardship. I accompanied the whale-fishers on several expeditions to the North Sea; I voluntarily endured cold, famine, thirst, and want of sleep; I often worked harder than the common sailors during the day and devoted my nights to the study of mathematics, the theory of medicine, and those branches of physical science from which a naval adventurer might derive the greatest practical advantage. Twice I actually hired myself as an under-mate in a Greenland whaler, and acquitted myself to admiration. I must own I felt a little proud when my captain offered me the second dignity in the vessel and entreated me to remain with the greatest earnestness, so valuable did he consider my services.

And now, dear Margaret, do I not deserve to accomplish some great purpose? My life might have been passed in ease and luxury, but I preferred glory to every enticement that wealth placed in my path. Oh, that some encouraging voice would answer in the affirmative! My courage and my resolution is firm; but my hopes fluctuate, and my spirits are often depressed. I am about to proceed on a long and difficult voyage, the emergencies of which will demand all my fortitude: I am required not only to raise the spirits of others, but sometimes to sustain my own, when theirs are failing.

This is the most favourable period for travelling in Russia. They fly quickly over the snow in their sledges; the motion is pleasant, and, in my opinion, far more agreeable than that of an English stagecoach. The cold is not excessive, if you are wrapped in furs—a dress which I have already adopted, for there is a great difference between walking the deck and remaining seated motionless for hours, when no exercise prevents the blood from actually freezing in your veins. I have no ambition to lose my life on the post-road between St. Petersburgh and Archangel.

I shall depart for the latter town in a fortnight or three weeks; and my intention is to hire a ship there, which can easily be done by paying the insurance for the owner, and to engage as many sailors as I think necessary among those who are accustomed to the whale-fishing. I do not intend to sail until the month of June; and when shall I return? Ah, dear sister, how can I answer this question? If I succeed, many, many months, perhaps years, will pass before you and I may meet. If I fail, you will see me again soon, or never.

Farewell, my dear, excellent Margaret. Heaven shower down blessings on you, and save me, that I may again and again testify my gratitude for all your love and kindness.

Your affectionate brother,
R. Walton


Frankenstein. French Wikipedia, 2023

Frankenstein on Gutenberg