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Literature / Frankenstein

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Since the copyright to this work has expired, it is in the Public Domain. As such, all spoilers are unmarked, as per wiki policy. You Have Been Warned.
"Cursed, cursed creator!"

Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, usually abbreviated to Frankenstein is a novel by Mary Shelley. It was originally published in 1818. It had a 1823 reprint without Shelley's involvement and a third edition in 1831, this time with significant edits from the author. Frankenstein is considered a Trope Maker of Science Fiction (if True History isn't counted) and inarguably has vast historical significance.

The novel opens with an English sea captain, Robert Walton, seeing a strange and inhuman figure running alongside his ice-locked ship in the Arctic Circle. The next day, his crew find a sickly and exhausted man alone on the ice and bring him aboard. As the stranger revives, Walton decides to befriend him and ask what brought him to such a sorry state. The stranger asks instead what brought Walton all the way to the Arctic. When Walton eagerly explains that he's driven by a thirst for boundary-defying knowledge and discovery, the horrified stranger retorts that he will tell his own story- one which will make Walton reconsider how far he is willing to go For Science!...

Thus begins the stranger's tragic tale: he is a onetime University of Ingolstadt medical student, Victor Frankenstein, who unlocked the secrets to Creating Life. He used this knowledge to create an artificial man, larger and stronger than most mortals, by means which he chooses not to describe. While he was initially triumphant with his success, a few moments of observing the flailing and moaning patchwork being left Victor disgusted by and fearful of his creation. Realizing the ramifications of his success, he was horrified. He abandoned the Creature and fled to his family's estate.

In his absence, the Creature was forced to come to grips with suddenly finding itself alive and alone without explanation or guidance. He learned about humanity by watching a family cottage from afar, but was again driven off when he attempted to offer his friendship- one of many bad run-ins with humanity which left the monster bitter and cynical. Eventually, the Creature came to resent his creator, whom he viewed as his father, for abandoning the Creature to a life of torment, and decided to come home to seek vengeance against Frankenstein...

The subtitle, The 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. Many would say that Frankenstein was the ultimate warning of Science Is Bad, though similar stories were common throughout the industrial revolution and it is not even clear whether the act of creating the Monster was bad in itself, if the world wasn't ready for it, or Frankenstein was just a horrible and abusive parent.

The Vampyre by John William Polidori happened to be written around the same time, while both authors (along with her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley) stayed at a villa near Lake Geneva during the summer of 1816.

Frankenstein has had countless adaptations and unofficial sequels, beginning with a stageplay. Fred Saberhagen wrote The Frankenstein Papers, which posited what happened after the Creature left the ship. Manga creator Junji Ito created one of the more faithful adaptations of the story in recent years. For a complete list of the films, see Frankenstein.

While the copyright status on the various adaptations varies (the Universal version, for instance, is still under copyright), the original novel is in the Public Domain and can be freely read in both its 1818 and 1831 editions here.

The novel provides examples of:

  • Adam and/or Eve: The monster tells his maker "I ought to be thy Adam." Word of God says that his name is Adam.
  • Adopt-a-Servant: Justine was adopted as a servant for the Frankenstein family when Victor was still a child.
  • An Aesop: The novel has a moral that how you treat others has a powerful effect on how they treat you. When Frankenstein's monster is abandoned by his creator and he (the monster) starts wandering about, he is at first a shy, gentle creature. It's only when he's treated with fear and revulsion by the townspeople he encounters that he starts to become a fearsome, ferocious, hateful creature.
  • All First-Person Narrators Write Like Novelists: Subverted as the entirety of the novel was epistolary in the form of letters sent by Captain Robert Walton to his sister. Walton allegedly wrote down the account as given to him by Victor who was virtually on his deathbed. It includes long speeches and descriptions given by the characters as well as the content of letters that Victor relates. He is either very verbose and has a good memory for a man dying of pneumonia brought on by hypothermia, or Walton, given his Ho Yay tendencies concerning Victor, really went overboard with embellishing Victor's spoken account of events.
    • The whole chapters written from the monster's point of view are actually him filling in Victor on his activities since his creation, including his prolonged interaction with Felix and the blind man. All told in extraordinary detail. But it is still actually supposed to be Victor just relating to Walton what the monster told him.
  • The Aloner: The Monster, because everyone's so damn terrified of him.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Frankenstein warns Walton of ambition.
  • And Some Other Stuff: Frankenstein is deliberately vague about how he brought a home-grown and molded body to life. The sailor he's telling his story to tries to inquire further, but Frankenstein refuses because he doesn't want anyone else to replicate his experiment.
  • Angst Coma: Thanks to this being a Romantic era horror novel, Brain Fever is in abundance, especially with Victor - any time something bad happens to him, Victor seems to keel over into a months-long coma/sleep. And since it's Frankenstein, bad things happen a LOT.
  • Antagonist in Mourning: When the creature realizes that Victor has died, he calls Victor the "select specimen of all that is worthy of love and admiration," despite having pursued the man to his end.
  • Anti-Hero: While on the surface he may appear to be a decent man, Frankenstein is driven by ambition rather than morality. Indulging in the literature of ancient magicians, he contrives to build and bring to life a human being, ignoring the consequences such a task, if executed successfully, may unleash upon the world. And when that task is executed successfully, he runs from his creation in fear, leaving it to fend for itself. He then goes on to whine about all his misfortunes without even considering the misfortunes of others.
  • Anti-Villain: The creature.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The novel may or may not be one of these, depending on whether or not you think the sea captain who narrates the Framing Story will rescue his ship from the Arctic ice.
  • Artificial Family Member: Inverted. Immediately after giving the Monster life, Victor has a What Have I Done moment and essentially abandons it. It's the Monster who comes to see Victor as his "father," and is understandably upset about the way he's been treated. His response is to do everything he can to destroy Victor's life, though at the end he still winds up mourning his "father's" death.
  • Artificial Human: While it is stressed at certain points that the monster is an entirely unique species, he certainly has a human intelligence and personality.
  • Artificial Zombie: The Creature was pieced together from dead tissue by some (poorly-defined) means and given life.
  • As You Know: Frankenstein receives a letter from Elizabeth which tells him his own life story in exhausting detail. The letter also explains how servants are a different form of employee in his own country than in England. The phrase "You will recall..." pops up a few times. Likewise there's one that begins along the lines of, "I'm sure you remember our young maid, Justine, but in case you don't..."
  • Author Filibuster: During the scene in which Elizabeth and Victor are visiting the condemned Justine Moritz, Mary Shelley allows Elizabeth to go into a completely inappropriate rant against the inhumanity of the death penalty (Shelley and her husband Percy were strongly against it) - inappropriate for that dramatic moment, anyway, because Elizabeth is meant to be there comforting and consoling her friend who's just been condemned under the death penalty. This led one editor of the 1818 edition to remark that Elizabeth isn't the sort of friend you'd call on to cheer you up if you've had a bad day... the book has no fewer than three separate narrators (even more if you count the letters from family members that Victor quotes verbatim), and all of them to some degree deliver little sermons on topics that are only tangentially related to the novel's theme. Oddest of all, the story proper is recounted in the form of a series of letters written by (fictional) Arctic explorer Robert Walton, whose ship is trapped in ice as the novel begins (which, for modern-day readers, must amount to the greatest Fake-Out Opening in history). Mary, in fact, began writing her story with the creation of the monster itself but was encouraged by her husband to expand it to full length, belatedly adding Walton and all the rest.
  • Author Vocabulary Calendar: Shelley likes to use the words "benevolent," "wretch" and "countenance."
  • Beauty Equals Goodness:
    • Played straight with Elizabeth, Justine and Henry.
    • Used for tragedy: The monster is molded from unliving flesh, yet is the most warm, kind-hearted character in the book... at first. The people he meets are unable to see past his exterior and, with the obvious exception of the blind man, assume his heart is as ugly as his face. Over time, this mistreatment twists him into the very thing people assume he is.
  • Beta Test Baddie: His murderous rage is fueled by being alone and universally hated on sight. He was fairly content until he discovered that everyone he met was horrified at the sight of him. He wanted company, and his creator refused to provide any. He's written as an intelligent and compassionate person at first, but becomes a nameless victim of What Measure Is a Non-Human?.
  • Blank Slate: The Creature is essentially "born" without any idea of what the outside world is like, especially since Victor ran out on him, because of his apparently hideous appearance... in fact, it's because of the disgusted reactions of others towards how he looks (the very negative reaction) that he starts to turn toward doing evil; no one will ever try to get to know the real him...
  • Blind and the Beast: The Creature tries to befriend a blind man, and it works! Except the man's family returns and casts out the Creature before he can explain himself.
  • Body Horror: The Creature's appearance is apparently so horrifying that one look makes everyone who sees him – including his own creator – want to destroy him. Oddly enough, at least in one version of the novel, Victor describes the monster's body pre-animation as beautiful, save for its horribly unsettling eyes, so it may not be ugly so much as Uncanny Valley (which is implied when Frankenstein describes when the monster starts moving).
  • Brain Fever: Frankenstein has at least three bouts that last months, one of which was brought on by seeing his own monster. And the others from seeing its victims.
  • Brown Note Being: Once again, The Creature, whose appearance can cause seizures merely by looking at him.
  • Bruiser with a Soft Center: The Creature is hinted to be this: all he wants to do is love humans. However, since everyone views him as a grotesque, hulking monster, everyone is scared of him and either runs away or attacks him on sight. When he hides in the shed of a family for several chapters he explains that he feels love and compassion for them; too bad that when he reveals himself to the family, they immediately attack him and drive him away. Over the course of the book, he begins to hate all humans, but still ambivalently wishes to help them, such as when he saves a girl from drowning in a stream.
  • Byronic Hero: Both Victor Frankenstein and the Creature. Given that Lord Byron himself was present at the novel's inception, both this novel and its "brother," John Polidori's The Vampyre, which was a massive Take That! at Byron after his behaviour on the trip, could be considered the Trope Makers outside Byron's own work.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: The point of the monster's meeting with Victor is to do this.
  • Cannot 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.
  • Central Theme:
    • The conflict between creator and creation, parent and child.
    • The terrible consequences of Playing God, and the true meaning of responsibility.
    • Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: If one is able to create life artificially, should they? When you create something, how much control do you maintain over it? (The latter is a timeless theme. Think about scientists that establish concepts either benevolently or neutrally that are horrified to find out that they have been adapted as a weapon, etc.)
  • Character Filibuster: By technicality. The story is supposed to be Frankenstein narrating his story to the captain of the ship that rescued him from the ice. 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!
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: The Creature. The monster's immense strength comes from his size and muscles.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Victor and Elizabeth were raised together because of her father's tragic fate and his mother decided to invoke this trope. More so since they were step-siblings. Or cousins depending on the edition. Tragically, their marriage was short-lived.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Victor notes that, with his wife, baby brother and best friend murdered and his father dead from grief, he has lost every important person left in his life. ...Except wait, didn't he have another brother named Ernest? Did the monster get him too, or was he the Sole Survivor?
  • Creating Life: It is left ambiguous whether creating the creature was actually a bad thing or not. The creature suffers (and subsequently causes suffering to his creator), not because it was created but because the creator abandoned it afterwards. The story can be read in in many ways, unlike most of the (usually extremely heavy-handed) genre it spawned.
    • Is Frankenstein a bad scientist (who did a bad experiment), a bad father (who abandoned the son he had created), or a bad God (a flawed mortal who ran in fear from his own creation)? Well, that's something you'll just have to decide for yourself. Most re-tellings of the story will make the choice for you, however, by simply declaring that Science Is Bad, period, and putting Always Chaotic Evil stamps all over the place.
  • Creating Life Is Bad: The Creature probably the Trope Codifier of this in modern thought, despite the fact that the loaded term "monster" was applied to it retroactively (he is only referred as the "Creature" in the original novel), and that the book never actually portrays the act of creating life as evil — instead, it is the act of Frankenstein abandoning his own creation that drives it to evil actions. Shelley had never argued against creating life, only against humanity refusing to take responsibility for what they create. Nonetheless, genetic engineering controversies are very likely to invoke the Frankenstein's Monster archetype in arguments (an example is how genetically-modified foods are referred to as "frankenfoods"). In-universe, he was not beautiful, though he was meant to be so:
    How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same color as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shriveled complexion and straight black lips.
  • Cruel Mercy: Implied. After Frankenstein's death, the monster himself explains how letting the monster live would have been more satisfying revenge than killing it outright, since forcing it to live alone and in the guilt of its crimes would be torturous.
  • 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.
  • Death of a Child: The Monster starts a killing spree against his creator, Victor Frankenstein, by brutally killing the man's young brother William.
  • Death by Flashback: Almost the entirety of the novel is a flashback narrated by Victor Frankenstein to the explorer Walton. He dies not long after finishing his tale. There's also a possible aversion here, as the Monster narrates a flashback within a flashback, and his fate is left ambiguous at the end. He says he's going to kill himself, but we don't see it happen.
  • Do Androids Dream?: The creature is constructed from undescribed processes and given life by the scientist Victor Frankenstein. He is described as having a monstrous appearance but is presented as an extremely intelligent, gentle and sympathetic character until driven to insane rage by his rejection from humanity because of his appearance. On the other hand, Frankenstein himself is portrayed as morally questionable but his basic humanity is never questioned by those around him because of his normal appearance.
  • Downer Ending: Victor Frankenstein dies on Walton's ship without ever taking revenge on the monster for his murders of William, Henry and Elizabeth (as well as Justine being wrongfully executed as a result of the monster framing her). The monster visits Walton, expresses regret for his murders, and leaves to commit suicide.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: After Frankenstein breaks his promise to make the monster a bride, the monster tells him, "I'll be with you on your wedding night." Frankenstein thinks the monster means he'll kill him on his wedding, and after the wedding, waits outside his honeymoon cottage with a loaded shotgun, waiting for the monster to come, with Elizabeth waiting in the room. But the monster meant he would kill Elizabeth on the night of their wedding, and does so when Frankenstein is outside waiting.
  • Either/Or Title: The full title is Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus
  • Exact Words:
    • 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."
    • Part of the reason Frankenstein doesn't want to finish the female creature is because while the first creature promised to leave humans alone, the one he was making hadn't.
  • False Confession: Justine falsely confesses to killing William, convinced that if she doesn't, she'll go to Hell after she's executed.
  • Famous for Being First: Frankenstein sought to be the first person to create artificial life. While he succeeded, he came to regret it when his creation started moving.
  • Final Speech: Frankenstein at the end, in which he warns Walton not to be too ambitious and seek happiness instead.
  • Foil: Victor and the Creature. Both end up doing the same exact things to each other.
  • For the Evulz: While making the Creature's mate, Frankenstein worries that she might start killing people with this justification.
  • 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: Taken to the extreme when you take into consideration that you're reading Walton's letter to his sister recounting Victor's story recounting his Creature's monologue. This particular form (through Walton's letters) is called an epistolary frame. Even more absurd, the story is supposedly a single letter of more than two hundred pages.
  • Frankenstein's Monster: Trope Namer and Maker.
  • A God Am I: Victor Frankenstein becomes obsessed with discovering the secret of life and eventually succeeds in creating a new lifeform out of human remains. Unfortunately, the creature is hideous and he abandons his creation out of disgust, forcing it to fend for itself. And thus began an endless cycle of revenge and hatred that would last until the day they died...
  • Genius Bruiser: Thanks to the several months he spent observing the De Lacey family, the Monster gains an intricate knowledge of the human condition and human culture, and becomes quite educated simply by osmosis. This happens to bite Victor in the worst possible way when he misinterprets one of the Monster's remarks when they meet in the Mountains "I will be with you on your wedding night."
  • Gone Horribly Right: Essentially the theme of the novel. You may succeed at your goal of furthering human knowledge and understanding, but if you fail to meet the responsibility and the prudence that it demands from you, it will destroy you.
  • Gratuitous Laboratory Flasks: Just about any given cover will have this in full effect. The Bernie Wrightson edition of Frankenstein goes one step further; all depictions of Victor Frankenstein's work area throughout the book are so chock full of glassware that they can serve no practical purpose to Frankenstein whatsoever, and, indeed, seem to play no role in his work.note 
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: Victor against his creation. Victor himself is a Mad Scientist who abandoned his creation and shows no sympathy for any the abuse he has been subjected to, as well as constantly dehumanising him, but also the creature is said to be so hideous he can cause seizures merely by looking at him, which does well explain (albeit not necessarily justify) the initial reaction, and he was genuinely trying to pursue his discovery in the name of science. The creature, however, kills Victor's family merely to spite Victor, and is driven to become generally aggressive towards humanity; however, he was indeed driven towards this by much abuse due merely to his appearance and the aforementioned Parental Abandonment. Interestingly, Victor also kills the monster's bride in front of it, so they are both guilty of that particular crime, right down to forcing the other to watch. Both have sympathetic moments and are generally tragic figures, but neither is exactly morally upstanding.
  • Hand Wave: Frankenstein never reveals just how he gave life to the Creature, which was lampshaded in Young Frankenstein when Frederick finds Victor's book "How I Did It."
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Shelley's name for the monster, "the Creature," nowadays feels synonymous with "monster," but in fact was meant to invoke "something that is created."
    • "Gay" is used as a synonym of "carefree," as that was its original meaning before taking on its modern meaning of "homosexual," which leads to things like these:
      Victor Frankenstein: "We returned to our college on a Sunday afternoon: the peasants were dancing, and every one we met appeared gay and happy."
      Elizabeth Lavenza: "That sweet child, whose smiles delighted and warmed my heart, who was so gentle, yet so gay!"
      The Creature: "But my chief delights were the sight of the flowers, the birds, and all the gay apparel of summer."
  • The Hero Dies: Victor dies of illness on Walton's ship. Calling him a "hero" is a bit of a stretch, though.
  • Hero of Another Story: The poor family that the Creature observes appear to have gone through a rather exciting Scarlet Pimpernel-esque adventure in post-revolutionary France involving wrongful imprisonment, betrayal, prison escapes, and true love.
  • 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. The blind man's family only attack the Creature when they return at an unfortunate moment and mistakenly believe the Creature to be attacking him.
  • Informed Ability: Throughout the story, we're told how noble and wonderful Victor Frankenstein is, but we never see any of it. His actions in the story make him out to be shallow, irresponsible and self-centered. Of course, a lot of the narration is from Victor's own perspective, so it may just serve as a testament to said arrogance.
  • Ironic Name: Victor. He declared himself victorious over death itself. He was.
  • 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! (May be justified by Victor having him made from the get-go with "adult hardware," so to speak, which would've made it easier to learn things quickly.)
    • Further evidenced by the Creature tracking the undeniably brilliant, well-connected, and well-funded Victor to the ends of the Earth while avoiding notice or winning over those frightened by his appearance.
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation: Victor intentionally isolated himself in order to pursue his intellectual interests.
  • 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 fiancée 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.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Victor claims to Captain Walton that the moral of his story is to know when to leave well enough alone, and to stop yourself from falling headfirst into foolhardy obsession well before the point of disaster. If so, then it turns out he clearly hasn't learned it himself, as he ends up delivering a fanatical speech to Walton's crew, who are beginning to get mutinous over the potential disasters facing their voyage, urging them ever forward come what may. Fortunately for all concerned, Walton proves a lot more willing to learn the lesson and agrees to turn back, deciding that his dreams of glory aren't worth throwing away the lives of his men.
  • 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.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Unlike his movie counterpart, the Creature in the book is both superhumanly strong and agile.
  • Made of Iron: The monster can survive much harsher conditions than a normal human.
  • Maker of Monsters: Frankenstein is an unbuilt example of this. In the novel, he does not try to create a monster — he attempted to simply restore a dead body to life, and created a man who was "wrong" in an unspecified way. That his creation went on to murder several people, including himself, is treated as a tragic outcome. However, later adaptations of the story often portray him as much more actively desiring to create an openly monstrous entity.
  • Meaningless Villain Victory: The creature succeeds in completely ruining Victor's life and Victor also dies before he had his chance to take his revenge against him. However, as the story reaches its conclusion, he is not only as lonely and miserable as he always was, but also filled with so much regret that decides to commit suicide at the end of book.
  • 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: Justine was framed for the murder of Victor's young brother, and she's executed. Victor Frankenstein knew the trial was unjust but refused to act.
  • Mix-and-Match Man: The Creature is heavily implied to be one of these. Victor talks about his "parts" and "materials", which he obtained from medical dissecting rooms and slaughterhouses, and how he chose various "features" that he combined into what he thought would be the perfect person. He's deliberately vague on exactly how he combined all these traits, as he doesn't want anyone else to repeat his mistakes.
  • Mother Nature, Father Science: Elizabeth expresses more of an interest in the arts and philosophy, while her cousin Victor pours all his energy into the study of alchemy and the physical sciences.
  • Moustache de Plume: Mary Shelley first published the book anonymously, which left readers to assume she was male. And with good reason: upon her reveal, literary critics of the time actually downgraded the book based on her gender.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • The monster in the end, as he realizes that, after killing all those people and his "father," he finally became the monster the world thought him.
    • 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 (and he's shown to be right).
  • Nested Story: 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 bound for the North Pole, who is in turn relates it in a letter.
  • Never My Fault: Victor, who even on his death bed condemns himself for creating the Creature, but exonerates all of his subsequent actions.
  • No Name Given: The monster doesn't have a name, though Shelley apparently called him "Adam" in letters to friends.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: The Creature gets shot in the shoulder for saving a little girl from drowning and is attacked by a family he had been secretly helping with chores.
  • Not Blood Siblings: Victor and Elizabeth. They were raised as siblings, but, at least, depending on the edition, are cousins.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Downplayed. The story provides plenty of details of the creature, but never a full, clear description of him. The closest the story has is when the narrator sees his hand at the end which is the same color as a mummy. Whatever the creature looks like, it's so bad everyone who sees him except his creator wants to kill him.
  • Obliviously Evil: The Creature, before he spoke.
  • One-Word Title: The first half of the Either/Or Title, is a Protagonist Title of sorts, "Frankenstein."
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Averted; when the Creature gets shot in the shoulder, he faints, and it took weeks for him to recover. And he's much stronger and tougher than the average human.
  • Orwellian Retcon: Mary Shelley revised the novel heavily between its original release and its first rerelease, making it less ambiguous whether the Creature was evil by the end or not.
  • Otherworldly Communication Failure: One of the most famous literary examples of the trope. The monster of Frankenstein attempts to communicate with several human characters throughout the novel. When he tries to befriend the DeLaceys (the family he watched) and reveal his presence, they don't listen to him and try to attack him because of his ghastly, grotesque appearance.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: The Creature learns French by secretly observing a woman being taught the language. We get a lot more detail on her backstory than is necessary.
  • Pulling Your Child Away: This happens to Frankenstein's creation, when he leaves the laboratory and goes walking in the human world: a child who has realised there is no danger is dragged away by their terrified parents.
  • Punny Name: The name 'Victor' is actually a sneaky reference to Paradise Lost (a big influence on the story), as Milton often refers to God as 'the Victor.' Then the Monster equates himself with Adam...
  • Purple Prose: Suffers from this in parts to the point it's more like ultraviolet prose. So much so that the highlighter across the room is glowing like a portable sun. This is probably due to Percy Shelley's revisions, which changed Mary's prose to be as unnecessarily complicated and melodramatic as possible. For instance, he changed "I do not wish to hate you" to "I will not be tempted to set myself in opposition to thee."
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Walton gives one to the Creature, in response to the latter's expressing remorse over Frankenstein's death.
    "Your repentance is now superfluous. If you had listened to the voice of conscience and heeded the stings of remorse before you had urged your diabolical vengeance to this extremity, Frankenstein would yet have lived."
  • 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 (and frames a close friend of his for the murder), followed by his greatest friend, and then on Frankenstein's wedding day, the monster strangles his bride.
  • Robot War: Yes, really. When contemplating making his Creature a bride, Victor ponders whether, should they reproduce, "a race of devils would be propagated upon Earth who might make the very existence of the species of man a condition precarious and full of terror." This little vision just might be the Ur-Example in fiction, particularly if we employ the term "robot" in its original sense.
  • 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. This ultimately goes nowhere, as after Victor dies, both Walton and his men know that it would mean almost certain death to continue on their journey.
  • Satanic Archetype: After reading Paradise Lost, the Monster identifies himself with the Devil. After all, both are wretched creations who come to rebel against their masters.
  • The Scapegoat: Justine is framed for the Creature's murder of William and is subsequently executed for it.
  • Scenery Porn: It is from the Romantic period, after all. Particular highlights include Victor's walk into the Alps at the end of Volume 1, scenes on Walton's ship in the Arctic, and the cottage owned by the de Lacey family that the Monster shelters near.
  • Self-Imposed Exile: Frankenstein's monster has serious flaws, and cannot assimilate into human society, a la All of the Other Reindeer, which begins his first exile into the rugged mountains. However, after hearing that his creator planned on getting married, the creature returned to ruin Frankenstein's happiness by slaying his bride-to-be. Now a murderer as well as an abomination, Frankenstein's monster departs for the frozen north, planning to live in solitude to the end of his days.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: A modern reader should keep a dictionary within arm's reach while reading the original text.
  • Sinister Minister: It's a Catholic priest who forces Justine to confess to a murder she didn't commit, which ends up getting her executed and sends Victor into a fit of grief and remorse. It also prevents any further investigation into the actual murderer, who Victor assumes to be his monster.
  • Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter: Homeward bound from Ingolstadt, depressed Victor walks outside into a thunderstorm one night, and screams at the sky.
  • Stern Chase: After all of Victor's family and friends are killed, he ends up in a lengthy pursuit of his creation, eventually reaching the Arctic. This is where Walton finds him.
  • Then Let Me Be Evil: The Creature, after he's had enough abuse and mistreatment.
  • These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: The dark knowledge that Victor learns to use to create his monster.
  • They Called Me Mad!: What Frankenstein fears they'll do if he tells people about the monster. They do call Frankenstein mad later, but to their credit, he had been delusional with Brain Fever for a time.
  • Tortured Monster: 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.
  • Tragic Monster: It doesn't get more tragic than the Creature. Created and immediately abandoned by its creator for being ugly, before it even really wakes up. Made innocent, his nature is soon twisted by circumstance into something horrible and evil, alone, wretched and violent. The worst part, however, is that he knows exactly how wicked he has become but knows he cannot change. After he has succeeded in destroying his creator during a hunt in the frozen wastes of the Arctic, he mourns the Frankenstein's death. The Creature decides to end his own existence by building a funeral pyre for himself and climbing on top of it.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: Despite viewing Victor as his "father," the Creature quickly resents him for his abandonment of him and takes revenge by murdering the people close to him.
  • Unbuilt Trope:
    • This was one of the first major "monster stories." But going back and reading it now, after growing up exposed to generic Frankenstein's Monster stereotypes where it wanders around aimlessly, groans, and kills people, one may be a bit surprised to find an urbane woobie of a monster who is in many ways more sympathetic than his creator and quotes liberally from literature. He also carries firearms for self-protection. The Monster is specifically described as relatively human. The main things that make him appear inhuman are his height and his eyes, and his arteries visibly pumping beneath his skin, and it's decidedly ambiguous whether Frankenstein's true crime was creating the monster or a form of Parental Abandonment. And although it's up for a lot of interpretation, the monster is probably not Always Chaotic Evil.
    • Also, there's no Igor or peasants waving Torches and Pitchforks while running up to the castle—or for that matter (with occasional exceptions) any public knowledge of the thing at any point. And there is no proper castle; the monster is created in an upper-floor laboratory of a university. The Frankenstein family has an estate, but it's never stated as to how extravagant or not it is in size.note 
    • The physical abilities are also subject to this: the typical view of the Creature is that he is slow and inarticulate, with only physical strength that it possesses little control over. In contrast, the Creature in the book is strong, agile, and quite dexterous; as noted above, he also knows how to use firearms by the end.
    • The plot also cheerfully skewers the Adam and Eve Plot. The Creature asks Victor to build him a bride he can go off with, but Victor refuses that because being the same kind of abomination of science doesn't mean his creations will be socially, romantically and sexually compatible. Privately, Victor worries that his creations will be be too socially, romantically and sexually compatible, and manage to populate the world with intelligent, strong, human-hating monsters.
  • Uncanny Valley: An in-universe example: Frankenstein explains that he had to make the creature 8 feet tall to successfully construct the tiniest parts of him. The result is a monster that everyone is scared of at first glance, including the creature itself. The monster was constructed to be Tall, Dark, and Handsome, and despite the beauty, upon the Monster's rejuvenation, Victor was repulsed because of this trope.
  • Uncertain Doom: Despite the monster's Nothing Left to Do but Die speech at the end and throwing itself out of the ship's cabin window, Walton's account ends right there. We know that Victor has died because his body is there. But we don't know about the monster for sure since we're not told anything after the action above. We just have the creature's word that he will journey to the North Pole before building a funeral pile and using it to immolate himself.
  • 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.
  • Vengeance Feels Empty: The Creature sets out to destroy the life of his creator Victor Frankenstein after the latter destroys the female Creature he was building for him, fearing that their new race would replace humanity. When he murders Victor's wife, Victor starts to hunt the Creature to the literal ends of the Earth before dying from exposure in the Arctic. The Creature visits his Father after his death, but realizes that he has no more purpose in this world and chooses to commit suicide.
  • Victorian Novel Disease: A pre-Victorian example of the 'exertion' type, through Victor's nervous illness that he comes down with after the horrifying night where he creates the monster.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: invoked At the end, Victor's brother Ernest is left unaccounted for; the entire rest of the Frankenstein family is dead.
  • Women Are Wiser: The women of the novel are all beautiful, religious, intelligent, gentle, and far happier than any of the men. Interestingly, when Victor starts creating a female monster for the Creature, it occurs to him that the female monster will be just as intelligent as the male, and has neither made any promises to abstain from violence, nor consented to be the Creature's bride. He even ponders the idea that she will rebel against the two of them trying to control her, creating a second angry crime against nature. The She-Creature is never even completed, but Frankenstein imagines her more complexly than any other female character.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Since the creature has known nothing but hate and rejection in all his life, this is his motivation to turn against Victor and kill more innocent people unless Victor makes him a girlfriend like him.
  • Would Hurt a Child: After learning that William is related to Frankenstein, the Creature has no problem in smothering him to death.
  • Year X: The dates in the letters are written as 17—.
  • You Need to Get Laid: The Creature requests that Victor make him a female companion, and in exchange he and his Bride will go off somewhere and never bother anyone again.

Alternative Title(s): The Modern Prometheus, Frankenstein Or The Modern Prometheus