Frankenstein (full title: Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus) is a novel by Mary Shelley, originally published in 1818, with a 1823 reprint without Shelley's involvement and a third edition in 1831, this time with significant edits from the author.The novel tells the story of a scientist named Victor Frankenstein who unlocks the secrets to Creating Life, and uses this knowledge to create an artificial man, larger and stronger than most mortals, by means that he declines to describe in his narrative. While he is initially triumphant with his success, he is immediately disgusted by and fearful of his creation (who views him as its father), abandoning it and fleeing.In his absence, the Creature has many bad run-ins with humanity and becomes fearful and cynical. He learns about humanity by watching a family cottage from afar, but is again driven off when he attempts to offer his friendship. Eventually, the Creature comes to resent his own creator, and decides to come home to seek vengeance against Frankenstein...The subtitle, A Modern Prometheus, compares Victor Frankenstein to the Greek titan Prometheus, who brought the secret of fire from Mount Olympus to mortal men, reflecting on Frankenstein's spiritual would-be theft of the secret to creating life - but like Prometheus, Frankenstein also came to regret his transgression *
As a note, Prometheus also created man himself and could see into the future, his name meaning "foresight". One interpretation is the parellel between Victor and Prometheus' acts of creation. Additionally, Prometheus knew what would happen to him when he took the flame.
. Many would say that Frankenstein was the ultimate warning of Science Is Bad, though similar stories were common throughout the industrial revolution. More feminist interpretations point to the attempt to remove feminine influence from the act of creating life, exemplified when Frankenstein destroys the mate that he had agreed to make for the Creature, and the subsequent death of his own fiancee by the Creature's hand.This novel has been adapted into a minor subgenre of movies and sequels, as well as a stageplay, which was somewhat more faithful to the book then the movies were. For a list of the films, see Frankenstein.
The novel provides examples of:
The Aloner: The Monster, because everyone's so damn terrified of him.
And Some Other Stuff: Frankenstein describes his research in broad strokes, and the exact process of creating the Creature not at all. The in-story justification for that is that he doesn't want anyone else to repeat what he did.
As You Know: The title character receives a letter from his sister which tells him his own life story in nauseating detail. As well as explaining how servants are a different form of employee in his own country to in England.
Can Not Spit It Out: Victor keeps the monster a secret, justifying this by saying that people wouldn't believe him anyway or call him mad. He still refuses to divulge the truth when Justine is tried for the monster's actions and eventually executed.
Character Filibuster: By technicality. The story is supposed to be Frankenstein narrating his story to the ship's captain. When the POV switches to the creature, it's in the form of the creature telling Frankenstein his tale, which Frankenstein repeats back in his own tale. The technical literary term for this is a hypodiegetic narrative, making the creature's monologue within Frankenstein's monologue within Walton's monologue a hypohypodiegetic narrative. There's one to impress your English teacher!
Creator Breakdown: Many literary historians consider the monster's creation scene in Frankenstein to be an allegory on childbirth. Months before writing the book, Mary Shelley had given birth to a premature, deformed illegitimate child who lived only minutes. Victor Frankenstein's misshapen, partly-formed 'monster' is created in 'filth' and when first brought to life is jaundiced, as most premature newborns are. This allegory may be less obvious to us because most movie adaptations don't follow Shelley's text that closely and turn the creation of the monster into a more scientific and less earthy event than Shelley imagined.
Cry for the Devil: The last section of the book demonstrates that the Creature was formed by his surroundings, rather than born evil.
Cycle of Revenge: The Creature seeks revenge on Victor for abandoning him, causing Victor to hate him in return. Basically, one act of hate leads to the other retaliating in kind until Victor dies a miserable man and the Monster is so horrified by what he had become that he commits suicide.
Deadpan Snarker: The Creature; upon hearing Victor say "Just go! I cannot bear to look at you any longer!", he covers Victor's eyes with his hand and says "Now you don't have to look at me."
Downer Ending: Victor Frankenstein dies on Walton's ship without ever taking revenge on the monster for his murders of William, Justine, Henry, and Elizabeth. The monster visits Walton, expresses regret for his murders, and leaves to commit suicide.
Either Or Title: The entire title of the book is Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus
Final Speech: Frankenstein at the end, in which he warns Walton not to be too ambitious and seek happiness instead.
For SCIENCE: Victor's initial motivation for the Monster's creation, though mixed with personal motives due to the recent death of his mother.
Framing Device: Gets kind of ridiculous when you realize that you're reading Walton's letter to his sister recounting Victor's story recounting his creature's monologue.
Humans Are The Real Monsters: Not really. The Monster picks up this ideal towards the end, but realizes how wrong he is. Also subverted when he was observing the family towards the beginning - especially when the blind grandfather started to warm up to him.
Frankenstein decides not to create a female mate for his creature so that they cannot multiply. He could have simply made the female infertile.
Frankenstein is warned that the monster will visit him on his wedding night. So he leaves his new bride alone while he goes outside to reconnoiter the area. And he's surprised when the monster breaks into the bedroom and kills his wife? Frankenstein remarks that the monster must have exercised a power over him to blind him to the possibility of losing his wife.
Instant Expert: The creature learns to speak and read French in less than a year of watching a family teach a foreigner. After just a few months he's already good enough to read Paradise Lost!
Jacob Marley Warning: Victor serves as a warning to Walton, who is in danger of becoming as obsessed with his exploration as Victor was with the science that led to the creation of his monster.
Kissing Cousins: Victor Frankenstein and his fiancee Elizabeth are cousins who were raised in the same household. In the 1831 edit of the book, Elizabeth was an orphan, originally the daughter of a Milanese merchant. She was fostered by a poor Italian family and adopted by the Frankensteins.
Lamarck Was Right: Frankenstein destroys the half-formed she-creature that he was building for the monster because he feared that the two would breed a race of terrifying creatures like themselves and take over the world. Justified in a way, since the book was written before Darwin (the Darwin mentioned in the preface is Charles Darwin's grandfather, Erasmus Darwin).
The justifiability of Frankenstein's conclusion is ambiguous, since the exact means by which he created the monster (and half-completed its "bride"), and consequently whether their traits were heritable, are a mystery.
Literary Agent Hypothesis: The introduction frame the story as a letter from a sea captain to his sister after picking up the title character in the Arctic and copies his story down.
Made of Iron: The monster can survive much harsher conditions than a normal human.
Miles To Go Before I Sleep: By the end of his narrative Victor is miserable enough to become a Death Seeker, but he promised himself and his dead family that he'd kill the monster first. Unfortunately for him the monster just happens to be really, really good at not being killed.
Miscarriage of Justice: The Creature frames Justine for the murder of Victor's young brother, and she's executed.
Moustache de Plume: Mary Shelley first published the book anonymously, leaving people to assume she was male. And with good reason: upon her reveal, literary critics of the time actually downplayed the book because of the author's gender.
The monster in the end, as he realizes that, after killing all those people and his 'father', he finally became the monster everybody thought he was.
Victor himself, from Chapter 5 onward.
Nature Versus Nurture: Frankenstein believes the monster is naturally evil, but the monster believes that he became evil due to Frankenstein's immediate abandonment of him.
Nested Story: At the deepest level: The family on whom the monster is spying is telling a story, within the monster's story to Frankenstein, who is in turn recounting the story to the captain of a ship in the Arctic, who is in turn telling someone else about it in a letter.
No Name Given: The monster doesn't have a name, though Shelley apparently called him "Adam" in letters to friends.
Revenge by Proxy: The Creature decides to get revenge on Frankenstein for its own wretched existence by making him suffer, so he kills Frankenstein's youngest brother, followed by his greatest friend, and then on Frankenstein's wedding day, the monster strangles his bride.
Rousing Speech: Victor Frankenstein gives an epic one to the soldiers on Walton's boat near the end when he wants them to continue northward.
They Called Me Mad!: What Frankenstein fears they'll do if he tells people about the monster. They do call Frankenstein mad eventually, but to their credit, Frankenstein had been delusional with Brain Fever for a time.
Tortured Abomination: The monster is a very intelligent creature that is fully aware of how hideous and repulsive he is. Anything wrong he does is borne entirely out of bitterness from how people treat him.
Unreliable Narrator: Victor portrays his family as the perfect happy family at first, but if you pay attention he contradicts himself in a few places and the Frankenstein family doesn't look so happy after all.