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A Summary and Analysis of 'Frankenstein' That Deserves a Read

Frankenstein: Summary and Analysis
Frankenstein is a simple yet complex piece of literature, which many find it difficult to understand.
Penlighten Staff
Last Updated: Feb 8, 2018
The names in this story have been carefully chosen. The name 'Victor' is an allusion to Milton's Paradise Lost, in which God is the 'Victor'.
Frankenstein is an amazing story not just because of its story, but also because it is a science-fiction novel to be written, that too by an 18-year-old girl. It was later rewritten and published a couple of years later in 1831.
Till date, Frankenstein holds a special place in literature as well as movies. So much so that the story of Frankenstein has inspired over 130 films, beginning with the silent movie Frankenstein in the year 1910. But if you compare the movie to the book, you will realize that the story is nothing like the movies.
The monster is not green nor does he have bolts sticking out of his neck or head. In fact, though he is a hideous antagonist, the monster's characteristics are sensitive, and in a twisted way, it enables the reader to be sympathetic towards him.
Summary
The novel opens with Robert Walton in search of a new passage from Russia to the Pacific via the Arctic Ocean. A few weeks later, he comes up on a half-dead man floating on icy waters. This man was Victor Frankenstein, the protagonist of this story.

Victor begins to narrate Walton his tragic story. He (Victor Frankenstein) grew up in Geneva, Switzerland. Since a young age, he was a quick learner and intrigued by science. Just before he left to go and study at the University of Ingolstadt, his mother was struck by scarlet fever. She contracted this fever from his adopted sister Elizabeth. His mother succumbed to the illness, while Elizabeth survived. Losing his mother worked as an impetus that drove him to dedicating two years in a research and practicing alchemy, electricity, natural philosophy (physics), and chemistry.

He managed to make himself a corpse from mangled parts of bodies. His research and study paid off when he brought his creation to life. However Victor was disgusted by his own creation. He quickly realized that he had made a hideous monstrosity, which was 8-feet tall, had yellow eyes, skin that barely concealed the blood vessels, and has muscles underneath it. Guilt struck, and disgusted on seeing this abomination he had created, he ran away and took shelter in a tavern near his university. On the other hand, the monster was saddened by the rejection of his creator and wandered the countryside in search of him.

Victor found shelter in a tavern near his university, where he fell ill and lived there for a couple of months, where he was nursed back to health by his friend. When he returned home, Victor learned that his brother had been murdered. On a visit to the crime scene, Victor saw the monster fleeing the scene, which led him believe the monster to be his brother's murderer. Victor followed the monster deep into the mountains. Finally on catching up with the monster, Victor heard his side of the story. The monster narrated that after being rejected by Victor, he came into the woods, fleeing from the local people. This is where he encountered a family, from whom he learned to speak and read. He also saw his own reflection in a pool of water and realized how hideous he was. Nonetheless, he approached the family with an intention of befriending them. But instead of hearing his side, they were frightened by him and fled their home. Angry and enraged, he burned down their cottage.

The Monster turned to Victor and asked him to make him a mate. He begged Victor that every living creature has the right to be happy, and promised him to take his mate and vanish into the wilderness and never be seen again. Fearing for his family's life, Victor agreed. On his way back, Victor was vexed by fears of being followed by the monster. While making the monster's mate, Victor feared of them procreating, so he destroyed his female creation, as the monster watched him through the window. Enraged on seeing this, the monster confronted Victor and vowed to be with him on his wedding night. His rage, however, got the better of him and he killed Henry Clerval (Victor's childhood friend), leaving his corpse on Victor's land.

On finding Clerval's body, Victor was put behind bars, where he suffered a mental breakdown in prison. He was soon acquitted and returned home to his father.

As Victor prepared for his upcoming nuptials with Elizabeth, he prepared himself to meet his creation again. However, the monster had something else on his mind. While Victor was out looking for the monster, he claimed Elizabeth's life. On returning to home, Victor saw the monster taunting him with Elizabeth's corpse through the window.

Grief struck by the death of his loved ones, Victor's father died too. Seeking revenge for the trail of his deceased beloved family, Victor vowed revenge and followed the monster to the North Pole, where he then met Robert Walton.

The crew on the ship decided to turn home, but sadly Victor died on his way. Soon after, Walton heard a strange noise coming from the room where Victor's body had been placed. He opened the door to find the monster mourning over Victor's death. The monster confessed that now since his maker was no longer alive, he too had no purpose to live. He left the ship and disappeared into the dark.
Character Analysis
Victor Frankenstein
He is the protagonist and narrator for most part of the story. He was a brilliant scientist who studied varied subjects, viz., alchemy, electricity, physics, and chemistry at Ingolstadt University. However, he suffered from poor health and fell sick many a time, in the story. On making the monster, he discovers how grotesque his creation was, and recoiled in horror. He disgraced the monster by calling him demeaning names, viz., abhorred devil, creature, demon, devil, fiend, it, monster, vile insect, wretch, and wretched devil.

He was guilt ridden for every murder committed by the monster. But after his wife's death, he sought revenge and followed the monster right up to the North Pole where he was found by Robert Walton who homed him and heard his story till he died.
The Monster
Many see the monster to be the antagonist of this story, while there are some who believe him to be the victim. He was 8-ft tall and looked hideous. Then again, he was created from the mangled parts of corpses by Victor Frankenstein. He too was very intelligent and extremely sensitive, but mostly, he was very lonely and desired attention, love, understanding, and company. His was often shunned by every human he encountered. But what affected him the most was when he was disowned by his creator, which left him feeling abandoned, craving company, and acceptance from Victor. Also, at the first chance he got, he asked Victor to make him a mate, someone who was like him, in order to give him company so that he wouldn't be alone. But when he witnessed Victor destroying his female version instead of building her, he was enraged and wanted revenge. He wanted Victor to feel the pain he felt, thus killing innocent Elizabeth.

Revenge was probably his only way via which he could get some attention from Victor, and if that meant leaving behind a trail of bodies, then so be it. Despite his ugly appearance and cruel acts of murder, he had a heart that just wanted some love. His grief on seeing Victor's dead body was an evident proof of that.
Robert Walton
He is an Arctic seafarer who narrates the first half of the story. He was also the one who rescued Victor Frankenstein from the cold and icy ocean. You find him narrating this entire story by writing it down in a series of letters to his sister, Margaret Saville, who lived in England.
Elizabeth Lavenza
She is an orphan, adopted by the Frankenstein's family. In the 1818 version of the novel, Elizabeth is Victor's cousin. But in the 1831 edition, Victor's mother rescues Elizabeth from a destitute cottage in Italy. She later married Victor only to be killed by the monster on her wedding night.
Other Characters
Alphonse Frankenstein- Victor's father.
Beaufort- Father of Caroline Beaufort and a friend of Victor's father.
Caroline Beaufort- Victor's mother and wife of Alphonse Frankenstein. She died of scarlet fever, just before Victor left for Ingolstadt.
Henry Clerval- Victor's childhood friend, who was killed by the monster and left on Victor's land.
M. Waldman- Professor
M. Krempe- Professor
Mr. Kirwin- Professor
Peasant's Family- A blind old man - De Lacey; son - Felix; daughter - Agatha; A foreign woman - Safie.
William Frankenstein- Youngest of the Frankenstein brothers, he was strangled by the monster in the woods. His death hurt Victor tremendously, and he drowned in guilt for having created the monster.
Themes
Risk of Playing God
The whole story began by the need to bring something back to life. Victor created the monster without thinking twice about what he was creating and what would happen of it once it was brought to life. He played God and experimented with science.
Revenge
Revenge fuels this story ahead right from the moment of the monster's creation, till the end of the protagonist himself.
➤ On disowning the monster, the monster wants revenge, so he kills Victor's brother.
➤ To avenge his brother and to prevent the monster from procreating Victor destroys the monster's mate.
➤ Monster wants double the revenge. Firstly for abandoning him and secondly for not making him his mate and mutilating what little was made of her. Hence, he killed Victor's wife on their wedding night so that Victor feels his pain of loss and abandonment.
➤ Victor wanted further revenge for the trail of his dead family, and so he went hunting for the monster.
Need for Companionship
Though many may not understand, it was the need for a constant companion and desire to be accepted that fueled the monster's monstrosity. This is evident when he felt abandoned and confessed, "I, the miserable and the abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on." He want to be accepted by his maker and other humans. Failing which he wishes to have someone just like him, to share his burdened life―this too fails. This not just gets him his revenge but also some attention and in a strange, twisted, and deranged way seeking attention and gaining companionship of his maker.
Beauty is Skin Deep
Victor, the peasant, and many more people that the monster must have encountered might have been horrified by his mere appearance. He too realized how hideous he was, but that was just skin deep. He had feelings just like other humans, and felt loss, loneliness, desire to be wanted, anger, need for vengeance, and in the end, grief.

If only his maker would have tried to get to know his creation better, he might have realized that beauty truly is only skin deep.
This story might be written decades ago as a wonderful science fiction. But it does hint towards some very valid points that may be a lesson to mankind far ahead of time.