Symbols in Frankenstein

Symbols Examples in Frankenstein:

Chapter I 1

"Every one loved Elizabeth. The passionate and almost reverential attachment with which all regarded her became, while I shared it, my pride and my delight...."   (Chapter I)

Elizabeth’s character can be interpreted as the embodiment of the innocence and purity that Frankenstein wishes he could have. Frankenstein has demonstrated a level of darkness as well as an interest in the occult, tendencies which will only become stronger as the novel goes on. Elizabeth is the antithesis of these characteristics. Instead, she stands for all that is pure and good.

"I shunned the face of man; all sound of joy or complacency was torture to me; solitude was my only consolation—deep, dark, deathlike solitude...."   (Chapter IX)

Frankenstein’s guilt has affected him so strongly that he tries isolating himself from others, seeking solace in solitude. Given the importance of light and lack of light in the novel, his isolation being described as “dark, deathlike” solitude is important. Frankenstein actively removed himself from society to deal with his guilt, but without his family or others, he struggles alone without any form of support, creating self-perpetuating cycles of guilt and grief.

"I tried, therefore, to dress my food in the same manner, placing it on the live embers...."   (Chapter XI)

Notice how the creature quickly learns how to use tools and sustain himself with the fire. This interaction with the fire symbolizes the birth of his intelligence. It also alludes to the story of Prometheus in which humanity’s civilization and knowledge was able to grow after the titan god gave them forbidden fire.

"I learned from your papers that you were my father, my creator..."   (Chapter XVI)

Remember that when he fled, the creature clothed himself in one of Victor’s coats. In the coat, Victor had stashed notebooks explaining the scientific process he used to create his monster. These are the “papers” to which the creature refers. Since these papers are the creature's creation story, these notebooks can be seen as a type of Bible.

"forked and destroying tongues. ..."   (Chapter XVI)

This description of the fire may be symbolic for the devil’s tongue. In the biblical story of Genesis, Satan disguises himself as a snake with a forked tongue and convinces Eve to eat an apple from the forbidden tree of knowledge by talking to her. The forked tongues of the fire symbolize the creature’s transition from innocence to malevolence. This is the moment in which the monster falls from his status as a benevolent creature.

"At one time the moon, which had before been clear, was suddenly overspread by a thick cloud,..."   (Chapter XX)

The symbolism of the moon as a mark of the feminine recurs in this moment. Just as the moon becomes occluded by clouds, Frankenstein sinks the basket containing the parts of the female creature down into the depths of the sea.

"the sun had set, and the moon was just rising from the sea;..."   (Chapter XX)

In many mythological traditions, the duality of the sun and moon symbolizes the duality between the male and female sides of humanity. It is thus fitting that the moon is rising as Frankenstein sets to work on Frankenstein’s female companion.