Victor Frankenstein

Development of personality

Victor Frankenstein begins the novel with:

  • high intellectual ideals
  • a desire to increase the store of knowledge and contribute to the benefit of mankind.

But, as the novel develops, his personality becomes increasingly obsessive and self-absorbed;

  • his wish to discover the principle of life – a topic of central concern in the scientific debates of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries - develops into a desire to employ that knowledge to create life for his own purposes
  • as he pursues this single-minded ambition, he loses sight of all possible religious and ethical issues that might arise if he were to be successful
  • his secrecy about what he is doing means that he speaks to no one who has sufficient detachment, or influence on him, to warn or advise him about the dangers of what he is doing.

Destructive personality

Fundamentally, Victor is overwhelmed by a narcissistic self-love, and his scientific quest is a form of desire to create a being in his own image. Victor's arrogance and pride in his own abilities leads him to a position where he:

  • neglects to participate in any life beyond his work
  • cuts himself off from his family and has few social contacts.

Each time he shows signs of breaking out of his circumscribed world of scientific investigation – usually because he is forced to do so by illness or some other crisis – and either visits his family or seeks solace in the natural world, he is dragged back into his solipsistic world (see Henry Clerval). One obsession (the desire to create a being) is replaced by another (the desire to destroy the monster), so that he is always driven, always possessed by an obsessive pursuit, which eventually destroys him.

Effect of Victor's character on the novel

The whole action of the novel stems from Victor's personality and behaviour, so it is difficult to separate discussion of his characterisation from contextual, structural and thematic issues. Further commentary on Frankenstein may be found in the following sections of this guide:

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