Frankenstein (novel)

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Frankenstein (full title: Frankenstein: A 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. 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. For a list, see Frankenstein.

Tropes used in Frankenstein (novel) include:
  • The Aloner: The Monster, because everyone's so damn terrified of him.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Frankenstein warns Walton not to be as ambitious as he was.
  • 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.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Maybe, depending on whether you think Walton survives his expedition.
  • Artificial Human
  • As You Know: The title character receives a letter from his sister which basically 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.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness:
    • Played straight with Elizabeth, Justine, and Henry.
    • Averted with the Creature, who started out a hideous but well-intentioned individual and only became villainous because of constant mistreatment.
  • Blank Slate: The creature.
  • 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.
  • Brain Fever: Frankenstein has two bouts in the book.
  • Byronic Hero: Both Victor Frankenstein and the Creature.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Basically the entire 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. Becomes completely ridiculous when he still refuses to divulge the truth when Justine is tried for the monster's actions and eventually executed.
    • It's true that it lead to Justine's death, but consider that if he'd said it was the creation, nobody WOULD have believed him, and Clerval had taken care of him after he'd succumbed to illness/madness after ranting and raving about said creation. If he'd insisted, they would have taken him as mad, and it would have upset everybody and done nothing.
      • Even if he couldn't explain that the creature was responsible, you'd think he could at least come up with a story that could cast doubt on Justine's guilt (e.g. blaming the crime on a non-existent human he'd offended rather than a monster).
  • Character Filibuster: A quarter of Frankenstein was just the monster's monologue. 99 percent of Frankenstein is the eponymous character's monologue! That 25 percent is a monologue within a monologue!
  • Character Title
  • Common Knowledge: Shelley never goes into any detail about how the monster was created (Or, alternately, Victor is deliberately not giving any so that no one can repeat his experiment), but it's pretty much taken for granted that he was made by sewing together bits of dead bodies and running electricity through it, thanks to Adaptation Displacement.
    • In fact, he explicitly says that he cannot bring a corpse back to life (but hopes to perfect his craft enough to do so in the future).
      • On the other hand he opaquely mentions the creature being born "out of filth", implying the classic creation of a Homunculus: cow dung and semen.
    • One oft-forgotten detail is that Victor mentions having gotten materials for his creation from dissecting halls and slaughterhouses, suggesting that the original version of the monster has some Biological Mashup qualities. Certainly, it'd explain how Frankenstein could scale up his creature's anatomy to the height Shelly describes, if he was using parts from livestock as well as humans.
  • 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.
  • Frankenstein's Monster: Trope Namer.
  • Gone Horribly Right
  • Have a Gay Old Time: A lot.
  • Hubris: One of the themes of the plot.
  • 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.
  • Idiot Ball: 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? Not only that, Frankenstein could have avoided the whole problem if, instead of "aborting" the creation of a bride for the monster because he was worried about hordes of the creatures overrunning the world, he'd simply made her infertile. Of course, having an intelligence score of 20 and a wisdom score of 1 is arguably the whole point of Victor's character. He's a genius with no common sense at all.
  • 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!
  • 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 fiancee Elizabeth are cousins who were raised in the same household. In the 1831 edits, Elizabeth was an orphan, originally the daughter of a Milanese merchant. She was fostered by a poor Italian family and adopted by the Frankensteins.
    • It's this way in the book, too.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Mother Nature, Father Science
  • 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.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: the monster in the end, as he realizes that, after killing all that people and his own father, he has become the monster everybody thought he was.
    • Victor himself, from Chapter 5 onward.
  • 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 Good Deed Goes Unpunished:The creature gets shot in the shoulder for saving a little girl from drowning.
  • No Name Given: The monster doesn't have a name, though Shelley apparently called him "Adam" in letters to friends.
  • Not Blood Siblings: Victor and Elizabeth
  • Obliviously Evil: The Creature, at first.
  • Once More with Endnotes
  • 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.
  • Parental Abandonment: A symbolic example, as Frankenstein disowns his creation. Also, Justine and Elizabeth.
  • Platonic Cave: During the Creature's narrative.
  • Poor Communication Kills: If Victor had told a few key people about the monster, a lot of trouble probably could have been avoided.
  • Power Trio: The three children who together represent the ideal man.
  • Print Long Runners
  • Proper Lady: Elizabeth
  • 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'. And then, of course, the Monster equates himself with Adam....
  • 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.
  • Scenery Porn: It is from the Romantic period, after all
  • Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter!: Homeward bound from Ingolstadt, depressed Victor walks outside into a thunderstorm one night, and screams at the sky.
  • Spell My Name with a Blank: Used in the book, but for dates instead of places and names.
  • 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.
  • Stupid Sacrifice: Justine. There was no earthly way she could have committed the murder for which she was executed, which should have been really obvious.
  • Sympathetic Murderer
  • Then Let Me Be Evil: The creature, after he's had enough abuse and mistreatment.
  • They Called Me Mad: What Frankenstein fears they'll do if he tells people about the monster. They literally 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.
  • Turned Against Their Masters
  • Unbuilt Trope
  • Uncanny Valley: In-Universe. Probably the earliest description of the effect.
  • 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.
  • Victorious Childhood Friend: Victor and Elizabeth.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: At the end, Victor's brother Ernest is left unaccounted for; the entire rest of the Frankenstein family is dead.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The Creature.
  • Whole-Episode Flashback
  • Women Are Wiser: The women of the novel are all beautiful, religious, intelligent, gentle, and far happier than any of the men, to the point where they border on Purity Sue.
  • 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.