Themes in Frankenstein
Isolation: Segregation from both familial and societal relationships recurs throughout Frankenstein. Both Victor Frankenstein and his creature suffer from societal rejection—Frankenstein because of his single-minded focus on his experiments, and the creature because of his monstrous appearance. The creature’s attempts to integrate with society—seen through his learning to speak, read, and reach out to De Lacey—end in disaster. Both Frankenstein and his creature, after becoming fully alienated from others, are unable to enjoy familial attachments due to each other’s actions. When Frankenstein refuses to finish creating a female creature, the creature takes revenge on Frankenstein by killing Frankenstein’s wife, Elizabeth, marking them both as equally alone in the world. The ending scene sees the creature, upset at realizing that Frankenstein’s death has severed his only remaining link to humanity, drifting away into the ocean, as alone for his final moments has he has ever been.
Ambition and Fallibility: Ultimately, Frankenstein’s ambition leads to his downfall and death. At the beginning of the novel, we see a proud scientist, enamored with his godlike power; by the end, he is warning Walton against seeking similar gratification in his quest to explore the Arctic. Clearly Frankenstein believes his ambition is not longer a beneficial motivator; it has instead led to the death of all those he cares about. He has come to terms with his fallibility—he is not a god, simply a man who made a terrible mistake.
Romanticism and Nature: Frankenstein is considered a romantic novel, a literary movement that arose in reaction to the scientific, rational ideals of the Enlightenment. Romanticism values emotion and a connection with nature; these values, too, can be seen throughout the novel. Frankenstein goes against nature’s laws with his reanimation of dead flesh and is punished for his transgression and blind ambition toward scientific advancement; the creature enjoys his most hopeful days in the woods, havi
Themes Examples in Frankenstein:
Letter I 2
" 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. ..." See in text (Letter I)
Walton’s ardent curiosity mirrors Frankenstein’s own thirst for knowledge. Both characters desire to uncover mysteries never before accessible to humanity, and in doing so place themselves at great risk. Shelley’s narrative serves to show how a thirst for knowledge for knowledge’s sake can lead to dangerous discoveries and consequences.
"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...." See in text (Letter I)
Walton’s statement reveals his stubbornness and strong desire to pursue knowledge. As the story advances, Shelley introduces characters that have qualities similar to Walton’s; this creates doppelganger relationships between Walton and those other characters, and at the same time, raises the question of whether the pursuit of knowledge is good or bad.
Letter II 2
"fixed as fate..." See in text (Letter II)
Walton’s ambition—to explore the Arctic—mirrors Frankenstein’s single-minded pursuit of creating life, no matter what the consequences. The two characters are mirror images of each other at the beginnings of both of their stories, which is why Frankenstein decides that Walton is the perfect audience for his tale. The notion of a fixed fate or destiny is a key theme throughout the narrative. Frankenstein often bemoans his circumstances as if he is a victim of a predetermined fate.
"I cannot describe to you my sensations on the near prospect of my undertaking. It is impossible to communicate to you a conception of the trembling sensation, half pleasurable and half fearful, with which I am preparing to depart...." See in text (Letter II)
Being unable to explicitly describe his sensations that are “half pleasurable and half fearful,” Walton is experiencing the sentimental sublime, an overwhelming and often inexplicable amount or level of emotion and a major element in Romanticism. Descriptions of nature are often used to represent such experiences. This element will repeatedly show up throughout Frankenstein, situating the text as a Romantic novel.
Letter III 2
"What can stop the determined heart and resolved will of man?..." See in text (Letter III)
Walton is confident and faithful that he and his crew shall triumph. This question is rhetorical—he does not expect an answer from his sister. However, Shelley does provide an answer, which is implicitly suggested through his description of the weather and the threatening ice: Nature has the power to stop the “determined heart and resolved will.”
"the very stars themselves being witnesses and testimonies of my triumph...." See in text (Letter III)
Walton’s passion to conquer nature through making discoveries is strong. Instead of addressing his crew that is traveling with him, he personifies the stars, calling them “witnesses” and “testimonies” of his achievement; it is as if those stars, elements of nature, have already been “conquered” by Walton, having to serve as his “witnesses” and to support his expedition. In this way, Walton is underestimating the power of nature. As the story progresses, the prideful desire to conquer nature will be revealed in other characters and develop into a major theme.
Letter IV 3
"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...." See in text (Letter IV)
Once again Frankenstein warns Walton about the moral limits of knowledge, referring to the fruit of his own scientific pursuits as a serpent that stung him. This represents an expression of the theme of hubris, the sin of excessive pride and the desire to wield godlike power.
"Unhappy man! Do you share my madness?..." See in text (Letter IV)
Frankenstein immediately recognizes the path Walton is pursuing and tries to offer a warning. He blames his state of instability and ruin on the “madness” of pursuing knowledge. Such a warning provides readers with insights into Frankenstein’s past as well as an instance of foreshadowing, for the dangerous pursuit of knowledge is one of the novel’s core themes.
"One man's life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which I sought;..." See in text (Letter IV)
While Walton is not clear about the nature of his own pursuit, he readily tells Frankenstein about his desire “for the acquirement of knowledge.” The pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, as well as the limits of such a pursuit, is one of the novel’s central themes.
Chapter I 1
"heaven-sent, and bearing a celestial stamp in all her features...." See in text (Chapter I)
Like many other romantics, Frankenstein characterizes Elizabeth as a supernatural or otherworldly divinity. Elizabeth embodies the literary trope in which a love object is elevated in order to align human feeling with sublime experiences beyond human capacity. This description demonstrates Victor’s and Elizabeth’s innocent, pre-fallen states, which will be destroyed as the novel goes on. Victor places Elizabeth on a pedestal from which she will fall.
Chapter II 1
"I feel exquisite pleasure in dwelling on the recollections of childhood, before misfortune had tainted my mind..." See in text (Chapter II)
This is one of the rare moments in which we witness Victor perceive knowledge as “misfortune” or a negative element in his life. He enjoys reflecting on his childhood because he longs for the innocence he once had. “Tainted” suggests that gaining knowledge pollutes one’s mind, further emphasizing how obtaining knowledge can be bad and how one cannot unlearn what they’ve learned. This raises the question of whether knowledge acquisition is good or bad in the context of the Enlightenment.
Chapter III 3
"I was now alone...." See in text (Chapter III)
Frankenstein laments not only the loss of his mother, but also the companionship of his close friends, Clerval and Elizabeth. Notice how this longing mirrors Walton’s desires for a friend in Letter II. Because, as Frankenstein puts it, he has an “invincible repugnance to new countenances”—meaning a profound disgust for attempting to make new friends—he is able to dedicate himself to his work.
"Chance—or rather the evil influence..." See in text (Chapter III)
Again we see Frankenstein attempting to mitigate his responsibility for his future actions. Here he refers to coincidence using divine references, like “evil” and “angel,” to make its force seem more powerful than he. After Frankenstein’s meetings with his professors, he resolves to prove that he can upstage them. He wants Walton to believe that it is chance, not ambition, that leads to his creature. He wants to be seen as a victim of chance and bad luck rather than the creator of his own fate and responsibilities.
"“my firmest hopes of future happiness were placed on the prospect of your union...." See in text (Chapter III)
Frankenstein’s mother speaks this line, but it is relevant to Frankenstein himself, who will later see his chance at a happily married life with Elizabeth ripped away from him by his vengeful creature. Notice that the prospect of happiness hinges on companionship rather than isolation, a struggle faced by both Frankenstein and the creature that both ultimately lose.
Chapter IV 7
"Learn from me, if not by my precepts..." See in text (Chapter IV)
Frankenstein returns to the present in order to beg Walton to embrace daily life instead of recklessly seeking fulfillment and satisfaction in discovery and science. Shelley again shows readers how the two men are similar, including their obsession with knowledge and glory. However, notice how words like “dangerous” and “allow” suggest that ambitious men, like Frankenstein, are ultimately doomed for their hubris.
"A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me..." See in text (Chapter IV)
We now clearly see Frankenstein’s arrogance and ambition. While in retrospect he knows that life and death are too complicated to be manipulated by science, in this moment he lacks wisdom to see the truth behind his blind ambition. Light and dark appear again, representing knowledge and ignorance as well as good and evil. Frankenstein wishes to bring light (knowledge) into the world, but he cannot control it and, as we’ll see, he doesn’t know how to properly deal with his creation or the consequences of his actions.
"how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge..." See in text (Chapter IV)
Frankenstein tells Walton that he will not reveal the secret to creating life. Instead, he offers a warning, which extends as a caution to all readers, that all knowledge comes at a price. This theme continues to be explored throughout Frankenstein and has been popular in other tales throughout literary history, perhaps most famously in works which explore the Faust myth, such as Goethe’s Faust.
"Darkness had no effect upon my fancy..." See in text (Chapter IV)
In order to study life, Frankenstein must also have knowledge of death. We learn how he was sheltered as a young boy from supernatural tales and horrors by his family. Notice how such things are associated with darkness, which reinforces the dichotomy between light and dark, good and evil.
"A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me...." See in text (Chapter IV)
Victor’s ambition is constantly fueling his sense of pride. He not only wants to be notable for his studies and discoveries within humanity, but he also wishes to create a new species that would worship him. This desire is reflected in the language Shelley uses here, which bears strong resemblance to phrases from the Christian biblical tradition.
"I beheld the corruption of death succeed to the blooming cheek of life..." See in text (Chapter IV)
This description reflects the intertwined relationship of life and death. Specifically, it highlights the fact that in the end, death overcomes life. At the same time, this description reveals Victor’s narrow view on life and death. To him, death is a form of corruption, which is bad and ugly, whereas life is like a blooming cheek that suggests youth, good health, and beauty. It is this perspective that motivates Victor to eventually disturb the natural relationship between life and death by creating life.
"a churchyard was to me merely the receptacle of bodies deprived of life, which, from being the seat of beauty and strength, had become food for the worm...." See in text (Chapter IV)
Here, the churchyard, often considered a beautiful and religious place, is stripped of such associations and depicted as food for worms. This metaphor emphasizes not only the death and decay of human life, but also Nature’s power; the human body, once deprived of life, is fed on by worms, which are part of Nature’s work of art.
Chapter V 2
"But I was not the witness of his grief; for I was lifeless, and did not recover my senses for a long, long time...." See in text (Chapter V)
In an intriguing thematic reversal, Frankenstein is rendered “lifeless” as a result of having given life to his creature. After the creature is animated, Frankenstein experiences a loss, a fall from wholeness and a resulting need for redemption. This fall resembles the Edenic fall from grace depicted in the Book of Genesis. In his studies and efforts to construct the creature, Frankenstein was driven by an idealized vision. The reality of his efforts proves to be far darker and more complex than he had imagined. This arc from purity into complication, from idealism into reality, from light into darkness, is the archetype of the fall.
"and I threw myself on the bed in my clothes, endeavouring to seek a few moments of forgetfulness. But it was in vain: I slept, indeed, but I was disturbed by the wildest dreams...." See in text (Chapter V)
Frankenstein mistakenly believes that he can escape the horror of his creation through sleep. For Frankenstein, going to bed is akin to going into denial. This reaction is similar to an episode in Dostoyevsky’s 1866 novel Crime and Punishment. After committing a murder he had justified to himself, Raskolnikov, the novel’s protagonist, attempts to escape his feelings of guilt through sleep. For both Raskolnikov and Frankenstein, sleep offers no solace. Guilt proves to be a recurrent theme throughout the rest of Frankenstein.
Chapter VII 3
" I, the creator..." See in text (Chapter VII)
While Victor may not see himself as a God, obvious comparisons such as this one suggest that Shelley intended to portray him as one. This statement is also another reference to the novel’s subtitle, “The Modern Prometheus,” since Prometheus was the creator of humankind in Greek mythology.
"whom the night before I had seen blooming and active in health, stretched on the grass livid and motionless..." See in text (Chapter VII)
The phrase “the night before” emphasizes the temporal nature of human life. William was active and healthy, and now he is dead. Shelley’s use of this phrase shows this sharp contrast between life and death and reminds us that everything can change in an instant.
"By degrees the calm and heavenly scene restored me..." See in text (Chapter VII)
This description and others in this chapter reinforce the Romantic element of nature’s sublime and the effects it has on the human soul. In Victor’s case, there is irony; Victor has offended Nature, yet he can only find true consolation in his interaction with her.
Chapter VIII 2
"the first hapless victims to my unhallowed arts...." See in text (Chapter VIII)
These words foreshadow the coming tragedies throughout the rest of the novel. Though Justine and William are the first innocents dead at the hands of both Frankenstein and his creature, they will not be the last. Notice also how Frankenstein subtly shifts blame from himself to his creature—his “unhallowed art”—who he brought to life through dark processes. The word choice of “unhallowed,” meaning “unholy” or “profane,” shows that Frankenstein thinks of his creature in hellish terms.
"I had none to support me..." See in text (Chapter VIII)
Close to the end of her life, Justine finds herself alone, without allies, and isolated from society and family, which is the case for many of the novel’s characters before their deaths. All she has left is her faith in God, so the threat of damnation is what leads her to confess. She’d rather confess to a crime she didn’t commit than face divine judgment for that crime.
Chapter IX 4
"I was a wreck— but nought had changed in those savage and enduring scenes...." See in text (Chapter IX)
Frankenstein draws a comparison between himself and the natural world around him. While much has happened to change and cause him grief, the mountains, valleys, and the natural world remain unchanged from his childhood. On the one hand, Shelley uses this moment to demonstrate the lasting power and strength of the natural world, which makes human concerns insignificant in comparison. However, this line also reveals Frankenstein’s hubris: he has changed, he is a wreck, and so he is frustrated that the natural world has not changed as well.
"but now misery has come home, and men appear to me as monsters thirsting for each other's blood...." See in text (Chapter IX)
Elizabeth considers herself responsible for William’s death, and she carries that guilt with her. That moment marked a loss of innocence for Elizabeth. Now that Justine has been executed, and that Elizabeth knows in her heart that Justine was not guilty, Elizabeth continues to be corrupted, no longer remaining the happy and innocent person she once was. This sentence marks this transition in her worldview.
"I wished to see him again, that I might wreak the utmost extent of abhorrence on his head, and avenge the deaths of William and Justine...." See in text (Chapter IX)
Frankenstein’s desire for revenge manifests during his despair at the loss of William and Justine. His response to what he considers the creature’s betrayal of him mirrors the creature’s response to Frankenstein’s initial betrayal: both creator and creation seek to isolate themselves in order to carry out their revenge.
"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...." See in text (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.
Chapter X 3
"“We rest; a dream has power to poison sleep. We rise; one wandering thought pollutes the day. We feel, conceive, or reason; laugh or weep, Embrace fond woe, or cast our cares away; It is the same: for, be it joy or sorrow, The path of its departure still is free. Man's yesterday may ne’er be like his morrow; Nought may endure but mutability!”..." See in text (Chapter X)
These lines represent the second half of Percy Shelley’s poem “Mutability,” which was first published in 1816, the year Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. The content of the poem does not appear to have a direct correlation with the developments of the story at this point. That being said, it is moving to hear the creature deliver a beautifully constructed and wise reflection on the nature of human existence. The central idea of the poem is that the only constant in life is inconstancy. This idea that the temperament of the soul is always changing and fleeting is pertinent to Frankenstein, whose restless reflections have carried him through extreme emotional highs and lows.
"Remember, that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed...." See in text (Chapter X)
The creature reaches for biblical references to understand his relationship to Frankenstein as well as his place in the world. He recognizes that he is not related to Frankenstein in the way that Adam was related to the Christian God. Whereas Adam had to sin in order to be driven into suffering, the creature was cast into suffering from the moment of his introduction to the world. The creature equates such a fate to that of “the fallen angel,” Lucifer, whom he believes was cast out of grace “for no misdeed.” While the creature is mistaken in that, by most accounts, fallen angels were seen as guilty of pride, he is right to question why he was cast out of grace so quickly. The fall from grace is an archetypal pattern that occurs for most of the characters in the novel.
"Alas! why does man boast of sensibilities superior to those apparent in the brute; it only renders them more necessary beings...." See in text (Chapter X)
Frankenstein laments the mixed blessing of human consciousness. Our superior sensibilities, as Frankenstein puts it, offer us a richer and more complex experience of the world. There are, of course, problems our consciousness presents—the knowledge of death, the capacity for guilt, and the search for meaning—which cause us to suffer and which make humans less “necessary beings” than animals. The burden of this spark of consciousness becomes an important theme as the novel progresses.
Chapter XI 2
"Pandæmonium..." See in text (Chapter XI)
It is interesting that the creature chooses to compare his homey hut to Satan’s Pandemonium. This might suggest that the creature thinks of himself as a type of wicked creature, such as a devil. The creature sees his first days as similar to burning on a lake of fire—a punishment fit for the devil who rebelled against God. However, at this point in the story the creature has not done anything befitting of this extreme punishment. Rather, his creator abandoned him to a world that believes his is terrifying and hideous. This allusion to Milton demonstrates the creature’s self-hatred and Frankenstein’s cruelty to his creation.
"He turned on hearing a noise; and, perceiving me, shrieked loudly, and, quitting the hut, ran across the fields with a speed of which his debilitated form hardly appeared capable...." See in text (Chapter XI)
Notice that the creature does not harm the first person with whom he comes in contact. The old man’s fear of the creature’s appearance drives him out of his house, not the creature himself. This event touches on the theme of beauty in this novel. The creature’s lack of beauty causes society to treat him like a monster; from this treatment, he becomes a monster.
Chapter XII 4
"“I had admired the perfect forms of my cottagers—their grace, beauty, and delicate complexions: but how was I terrified when I viewed myself in a transparent pool! ..." See in text (Chapter XII)
Despite the creature’s admiration and compassion for the De Lacey family, he remains separate and isolated due to his monstrous appearance. By demonstrating that the creature is capable of kindness, Shelley complicates the romantic notion that beauty is good and ugliness is evil.
" I found that these people possessed a method of communicating their experience and feelings to one another by articulate sounds. ..." See in text (Chapter XII)
Education is a key theme throughout the narrative. Victor is usually described as a man of learning. Here, however, the creature is shown to engage in learning language by observing the De Lacey family. This moment foreshadows later learning when the creature begins to read and comprehend more complex ideas.
"“A considerable period elapsed before I discovered one of the causes of the uneasiness of this amiable family: it was poverty; and they suffered that evil in a very distressing degree. ..." See in text (Chapter XII)
As the creature observes the De Lacey family, he grows and discovers the nature of humanity. This moment shows the creature’s burgeoning understanding of class. The creature’s compassion for the suffering of the De Laceys demonstrates that he is capable of kindness and empathy. We are unable to view the creature as wholly evil, as Frankenstein does, but instead realize that he shares many of the same wants as humans—chiefly the twin desires for companionship and love. In speaking of the De Laceys’ poverty, readers also can draw comparisons to Frankenstein’s privileged upbringing. Unlike his creature, Frankenstein seems wilfully ignorant of poverty and class difference.
"If such lovely creatures were miserable, it was less strange that I, an imperfect and solitary being, should be wretched. Yet why were these gentle beings unhappy?..." See in text (Chapter XII)
From this statement we see that the creature initially believes that beauty and companionship are the only requirements for happiness. Under this metric, he believes he must be the most unhappy creature of them all since he possesses neither. However, upon further examination of the De Lacey family, the creature learns of other afflictions that may hinder human happiness.
Chapter XV 6
"You raise me from the dust by this kindness;..." See in text (Chapter XV)
The creature expresses the idea that kindness and human empathy give rise to being. Without human connection, the creature struggles to establish a sense of self, and feels that he is on the level of dust. The fundamental need for connection is one of the novel’s central themes.
"Autumn passed thus. I saw, with surprise and grief, the leaves decay and fall,..." See in text (Chapter XV)
In this subtle passage, the creature comes to acknowledge another aspect of the fall from grace: the knowledge of mortality. Though he does not make his realization explicit, when the creature witnesses the decay of the leaves he comes to understand the inescapable passage of time and the necessity of death.
"But it was all a dream; no Eve soothed my sorrows, nor shared my thoughts; I was alone...." See in text (Chapter XV)
The creature imagines that his suffering and loneliness might be alleviated by a romantic partner. At the conclusion of Milton’s Paradise Lost, Adam and Eve cope with their fallen state through companionship. In his fallen state, the creature has no such companion.
"Increase of knowledge only discovered to me more clearly what a wretched outcast I was...." See in text (Chapter XV)
The manner in which the creature’s education—his “increase of knowledge”—deepens his anxieties reflects the archetypal fall from grace. In the biblical story of Eden, Adam and Eve eat the fruit of knowledge, triggering their fall from grace and subsequent expulsion from the garden. Knowledge—of one’s nature and mortality, of one’s capacity for both good and evil—is the source of every fall.
"Many times I considered Satan as the fitter emblem of my condition; for often, like him, when I viewed the bliss of my protectors, the bitter gall of envy rose within me...." See in text (Chapter XV)
In his reading of Paradise Lost, the creature considers which fallen figure he most nearly resembles. He does not associate with Adam, for Adam was made beautiful and was given a home. The creature then feels a closer association to Lucifer, who is, like him, gripped by envy and bitterness. In many ways, however, Victor Frankenstein is more akin to Lucifer than his creature. While Frankenstein has committed the satanic sin of pride by imitating the divine act of creation, his creature has done no such act. While Victor and the creature would both consider themselves to be wholly different from each other, the question of how each resembles Lucifer provides one way for considering how they are also alike.
"What did this mean? Who was I? What was I? Whence did I come? What was my destination? These questions continually recurred, but I was unable to solve them...." See in text (Chapter XV)
The creature is distinctly human in his capacity to question his own existence. The larger questions of meaning he poses are indelible riddles which underlie the human experience. According to many readings of the Book of Genesis, humanity’s self-consciousness—our tendency to ask broad questions of meaning—are a central feature of our fallen state.
Chapter XVI 4
"My daily vows rose for revenge..." See in text (Chapter XVI)
While the creature was previously focused on obtaining love and acceptance from humanity, now all he cares for is revenge. His love has turned to hatred because of his isolation and rejection.
"I felt emotions of gentleness and pleasure, that had long appeared dead, revive within me...." See in text (Chapter XVI)
Notice how the world of humanity causes the creature fear and dread while the world of nature allows him to feel gentle pleasure. Humanity’s harshness is once again reinforced as nature is portrayed as a restorative force.
"when I reflected that they had spurned and deserted me, anger returned, a rage of anger..." See in text (Chapter XVI)
Notice that the creature feels anger about being deserted and rejected. This reinforces the theme of isolation as a cause of the creature’s monstrous nature.
"I could with pleasure have destroyed the cottage and its inhabitants, and have glutted myself with their shrieks and misery...." See in text (Chapter XVI)
Notice that this is the moment in which the creature has his first thoughts of violence and murder. Remember that it was provoked by the family’s reaction to his physical form and his feelings of isolation and rejection. Isolation and rejection cause his cruel vengeance.
Chapter XIX 1
"I saw an insurmountable barrier placed between me and my fellow-men..." See in text (Chapter XIX)
Clerval serves as a foil to Frankenstein, actively participating in society with the enthusiasm of a younger Frankenstein. However, we can see that guilt and obsession have taken over Frankenstein, and he now seeks isolation and barriers between himself and society, only engaging with others when necessary. This isolation deprives him of a support system, which only compounds his troubles.
Chapter XX 2
"How mutable are our feelings, and how strange is that clinging love we have of life even in the excess of misery!..." See in text (Chapter XX)
The theme of mutability, notably introduced in Chapter X, recurs in this reflection by Frankenstein. Throughout the novel, Frankenstein is gripped by “mutable… feelings”: heights of intellectual fervor, explosions of rage, sleepless guilt-ridden nights. In some ways, emotional mutability is a cornerstone of the romantic movement, whose artists and writers sought truth in interior moods and reflections, rather than in rational calculation.
"I was now about to form another being, of whose dispositions I was alike ignorant; she might become ten thousand times more malignant than her mate,..." See in text (Chapter XX)
In this scene, Frankenstein takes a more ethically conscientious approach to the creation of new life than he did during the making of his first creature. Here, he takes into account how unpredictable his first creature has turned out, and then imagines the even more disastrous possible outcomes of making a new creature. Once again, Frankenstein is toying with fate and chance.
Chapter XXI 1
"“Have my murderous machinations deprived you also, my dearest Henry, of life? Two I have already destroyed; other victims await their destiny: but you, Clerval, my friend, my benefactor—”..." See in text (Chapter XXI)
When Victor sees the body of his friend, he cries out in grief over not only Henry’s death but also Victor’s role in that death. This exclamation implicates him in a murder that he did not actually commit. However, because he brought the creature to life and denied him a mate, Frankenstein is liable for the horrible actions that the creature commits. This moment touches on the theme of family: Frankenstein is culpable for his creation’s actions in much the same way that the creature makes Frankenstein’s family culpable for Frankenstein’s actions.
Chapter XXIV 2
"To you first entering on life, to whom care is new and agony unknown, how can you understand what I have felt and still feel?..." See in text (Chapter XXIV)
As Frankenstein nears the end of his personal account, he issues a rare address to his direct audience, Walton. Frankenstein’s sentiment reaches back across the boundary between innocence and experience. Having fallen from grace, Frankenstein recognizes that the youthful Walton cannot truly understand his story.
"I am satisfied: miserable wretch! you have determined to live, and I am satisfied...." See in text (Chapter XXIV)
The creature’s statement here indicates that its plans for revenge are complete. Frankenstein has decided to continue living in order to pursue the creature. This makes Frankenstein as isolated and tormented as the creature itself, which was its plan for revenge all along.