Themes

Nature as a revitalist

The comforting and soothing qualities of nature revitalize the characters. This romantic theme is present though out the novel as both Victor and the monster return to nature to be comforted. Nature seems to sooth both characters and this is strange because Victor is a man of science and the monster is most defiantly unnatural.

"About this time we retired to our house at Belrive. This change was particularly agreeable to me. The shutting of the gates regularly at ten o'clock, and the impossibility of remaining on the lake after that hour, had rendered our residence within the walls of Geneva very irksome to me. I was now free. Often, after the rest of the family had retired for the night, I took the boat, and passed many hours upon the water" (62). *Dover-Thrift ed.

Call of Duty

There is a sense of duty and responsibility in creating something as important as a life. Victor, almost as a parent, births a creature then fails to take responsibility for the life he has created. He does not realize that his actions of creation have consequences. Victor fails in his duty to care for the life he has created. Because the monster is not loved or cared for he unleashes a string of violent acts on his creator's family. Victor, like a father has a duty to care for the life he created and consequently he lost all he truly cared for.

"I expected this reception," said the daemon. "All men hate the wretched; how, then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things! Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature, to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us. You purpose to kill me. How dare you sport thus with life? Do your duty towards me, and I will do mine towards you and the rest of mankind. If you will comply with my conditions, I will leave them and you at peace; but if you refuse, I will glut the maw of death, until it be satiated with the blood of your remaining friends" (68). *Dover-Thrift ed.

 

Nature vs. Science (the natural vs. the unnatural)

Throughout the novel, there is this constant battle between science and nature, that is, the unnatural and the natural. Victor's creation represents science, or the unnatural. Frankenstein's creation of this monster throws nature into a state of imbalance, which causes the eventual destruction of Victor and his entire family. Also, as this is a frame tale, Victor's loss in the battle between nature and science is shown to be a warning for Walton as he too probes dangerously close to discovering nature's secrets.

"It's 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 forever" (16).

"You seek for knowledge and wisdom , as I once did; and I ardently hope that the gratification of your wishes may not be a serpent to sting you, as mine has been" (31).

Repetition of the use of Heaven

Throughout the novel, Shelley makes constant references to the ethereal. She describes Elizabeth as being ethereal in many different passages. Also, certain scenes of nature are described as being heavenly such as mountains, etc. The "heavenly" is used to describe that natural, and the good

"Even broken in spirit as he is, no one can feel more deeply than he does the beauties of nature. The starry sky, the sea, and every sight afforded by these wonderful regions, seems still to have the power of elevating his soul from earth. Such a man has a double existence: he may suffer misery and be overwhelmed by disappointments, yet, when he has retired into himself, he will be like a celestial spirit, that has a halo around him, within whose circle no grief or folly ventures" (30).

"[Elizabeth's] brow was clear and ample , her blue eyes cloudless, and her lips and the moulding of her face so expressive of sensibility and sweetness that none could behold her without looking on her as of a distinct species, as being heaven-sent, and bearing a celestial stamp in all her features" (36).

 

Inside vs. Outside

Throughout this tale, one of the prominent themes was inside vs. outside . That is, instead of judging by the character and goodness of the man, many characters- especially Victor Frankenstein's creation- were judged by outward appearances. This story is loaded with the concept that people will draw conclusions based on the looks of others and will not be persuaded against their notions unless proven otherwise (and sometimes not even then). From Frankenstein's mother choosing Elizabeth because she was blonde with blue eyes to Frankenstein's meeting of M. Krempe, Shelley stresses the seemingly importance of looks as an appropriate means of judgment. Rarely did she stray away from this ideal way of thinking. The creation of Frankenstein was beheld with hatred and disgust by all, not excluding his own creator, without a care for his feelings and emotions.

"...I beheld the wretch- the miserable monster whom I had created. He held up the curtains of the bed; and his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me. His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks. He might have spoken, but I did not hear; one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain me, but I escaped... Oh! no mortal could support the horror of that countenance" (57).

Passion

Passion plays a large role in this story. Almost every major character had an obsession that he or she allowed to drive their existence. Caroline Frankenstein thrived from visiting those less fortunate than herself. Henry Clerval obsessed with things of the romantic realm such as the arts and literature. Elizabeth had a zeal for life itself. What drove the title character, Victor Frankenstein, was a desire and craving for knowledge of the unknown. The creature's one driving desire was to be loved and accepted. The story of Frankenstein revolves around the thirst to have more, the need to fill the void within oneself.

" Elizabeth was of a calmer and more concentrated disposition; but with all my ardour, I was capable of a more intense application, and was more deeply smitten with the thirst for knowledge." This quote speaks of passion, of an unaltered need for an understanding greater than could be imagined".

 

Social Acceptance and Belonging

A major theme in Frankenstein is the issue of social acceptance and belongingness. In the novel, Frankenstein's creature is created and immediately after, left alone to fend for himself. He alone learns how to control and understand his senses, impact his environment, and skills such as reading. It is also around this time that the creature begins to observe human behavior and social structure, made possible by a tiny hole in the wall of the De Lacey house that allowed the creature to watch the family engage in their daily routines. During the time the creature spent watching the De Lacey family, he learns from them and also analyzes his own situation in life: "Fatherless and motherless, the monster struggles to find his place in human society, struggles with the most fundamental questions of identity and personal history. Alone, he learns to speak, to read, and to ponder "his accursed origins." All the while, he suffers from the loneliness of never seeing anyone resembling himself" (NLM lines 5-6). After reading Frankenstein's journal, the creature realizes he is all alone in the world. The creature does not belong to any group and has no family. It is later through the realization that the creature will never be accepted among humans that prompts him to demand a female counterpart from Victor. Without a counterpart, the creature engages in violence as a means of lashing out. The two most primal instincts for any animal are sex and vengeance. If one cannot be fulfilled, the other must. As we see throughout the novel, the creature continues to lash out against Victor and human society because he is not accepted by humanity and has no other means of satisfying his belongingness needs that he so desires

"'Satan has his companions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him; but I am solitary and abhorred'"

-The Creature (93) Dover-Thrift ed.

 

Queer Theory

Another major theme in Frankenstein deals with queer theory. In queer theory, the text in Frankenstein is examined from a different standpoint. In the novel, there exists a relationship between Victor and the creature. In queer theory, the male hero, in this case Frankenstein, is in a close, usually murderous affiliation to another character of the same sex, which in this case is the creature. In the theory, the two characters usually are connected mentally, or share the similar thoughts and feelings. Some people, like James McGavran, even think that Frankenstein created his creature to satisfy a homosexual desire: "For James Holt McGavran, Victor is driven to create a giant male who would adore him because of his own unconscious "homoerotic desire" - desire that turns quickly to panic" (Schor 58). Schor believes that Victor has unconscious homoerotic desires that he tries to fulfill in the creation of his creature, and this does have some validity. The quote spoken by Victor proves that he wants recognition, but why from a male? Why also does Victor create the male creature of such gigantic proportions? It could not just of been for the minuteness of the parts because the monster is not too much bigger than a normal human being. Also, the queer theory can give an explanation as to why Victor kept putting off the wedding between Elizabeth and himself. Perhaps Victor had unconscious homosexual desires that made him uncomfortable at the thought of marriage to Elizabeth .

"A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me"

-Victor Frankenstein (32) *Dover-Thrift ed.

 

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