Victor Frankenstein Character Analysis: Science and Responsibility

Modern science and responsibility are prevalent themes in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and are shown through the creation of the monster, along with the monster’s actions throughout its life. The incorporation of modern science demonstrates the concept of realism and plausibility in the novel. This credibility allows the readers to imagine the events that occur in the novel, enhancing the aspect of horror by making it seem like something that could happen in real life. Mary Shelley also repeatedly includes the theme of responsibility to show how Victor Frankenstein character changes. Though analysis of the essay it is seen how he is responsible for the destruction the monster caused both to the world and to Victor himself. She does this to encourage people, especially scientists, to take responsibility for their creations.

The Theme of Science and Responsibility in the Novel

The novel can be seen as a response to science at the time by making the main character a scientist and incorporating modern scientific ideas. In this context, the phrase “modern science” or “modern scientific ideas” refers to the science that would have been considered modern during Mary Shelley’s time. In “Science Fiction,” Bruce Sterling mentions the science of the time, along with the term scientist, saying “she made her protagonist a practicing “scientist”—though the term scientist was not actually coined until 1834—and gave him an interest in galvanic electricity and vivisection, two of the advanced technologies of the early 1800s. Even though reanimated corpses remain fantastic today, Shelley gave her story an air of scientific plausibility'. Victor Frankenstein uses methods of both galvanic electricity and vivisection while creating his monster. Galvanic electricity is defined as any medical treatment in which electrical pulses are used to contract muscles. In Frankenstein, the use of the word “spark” in “I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet” implies the use of galvanic electricity. By alluding to the idea of galvanic electricity, Mary Shelley gives the novel a layer of plausibility. This idea adds an extra layer of fear into the novel, making it more horrifying to read. The added terror compliments the story beautifully, bringing an excellent blend of curiosity and fright.

Though Mary Shelley includes technologies from her time in the novel, she also adds an underlying tone of responsibility to the novel, urging creators to take responsibility for their creations. Shelley does this by having Victor Frankenstein abandon the monster right after bringing it to life, seen in the quote “Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room, and continued a long time traversing my bedchamber, unable to compose my mind to sleep. At length lassitude succeeded to the tumult I had before endure; and I threw myself on the bed in my clothes, endeavouring to seek a few moments of forgetfulness”. Despite being the one who brought the monster alive, Victor Frankenstein is so disgusted and horrified that he runs away from his creation and attempts to forget about it, forcing the monster to live alone. This is the first instance of Victor’s lack of responsibility, which develops throughout the novel. Shelley includes multiple instances of Victor’s carelessness to make an example of him and to show what can happen if you do not take responsibility, especially as a creator or scientist.

When Victor Frankenstein and his monster meet in the mountains, the monster asks Victor to make him a female companion. The quote “For the first time, also, I felt what the duties of a creator towards his creature were, and that I ought to render him happy before I complained of his wickedness. These motives urged me to comply with his demand” shows that Victor now fully understands his obligation to the monster. Mary Shelley includes this part in the novel to demonstrate Victor’s understanding of his responsibility as his creator.

Victor Frankenstein Character: Analysis of His Responsibility

Though Victor Frankenstein understands his responsibility to the monster and has agreed to make him a companion, after comprehending the possible outcomes of bringing another monster to life, he destroys his progress. As seen in the quote from the novel “I had before been moved by the sophisms of the being I had created; I had been struck senseless by his fiendish threats: but now, for the first time, the wickedness of my promise burst upon me; I shuddered to think that future ages might curse me as their pest, whose selfishness had not hesitated to buy its own peace at the price, perhaps, of the existence of the whole human race. I trembled, and my heart failed within me; when, on looking up, I saw, by the light of the moon, the demon at the casement” it is evident that Victor will now be responsible for any actions taken by the monster in retaliation for Victor's broken promise. However, this also shows Victor’s understanding of his responsibility. He feels it would be best for the world if he did not make another monster, after seeing the destruction that has already been caused.

This lack of action from Victor Frankenstein only makes matters worse. Both Victor and Elizabeth’s health greatly diminishes. The monster kills Henry Clerval and later Elizabeth on Victor and Elizabeth’s wedding night out of anger. Though the monster does not directly kill Victor’s father, he dies out of grief from losing Elizabeth. Again, because the monster is the creation of Victor Frankenstein, Victor is responsible for all of these deaths.

There are three aspects to Victor Frankenstein’s responsibility in the novel. Victor’s responsibility for what the monster does, his responsibility to the monster as his creator, and the consequences to Victor himself. This is meant to urge scientists and creators to be careful about what they create. In “Traumatic Responsibility, Victor Frankenstein As Creator and Casualty” Josephine Johnston elaborates on this claim, saying “By supplying a protagonist who suffers so greatly as a result of failing to anticipate the consequences of his work, Mary urges upon her readers the virtues of humility and restraint. In her development of a creature who suffers so greatly because he is despised and rejected by an intolerant human society, she asks us to consider our obligations to our creations before we bring them into being”. This shows the effects of Victor Frankenstein’s negligence towards the monster. It brought suffering to the monster, Victor’s family, and Victor himself.


The use of modern technology in the novel creates a more credible story. The plausibility amplifies the aspect of fear in the novel, allowing the reader to imagine this terrorizing creature that is both human and monster. The scientific validity makes the story more horrifying to read. The recurring instances of Victor Frankenstein’s responsibility bring a separate element to compliment the use of science in the novel. Victor fails to take responsibility for his creation and does not understand his obligation to the monster until the end of the book, despite being the reason the creature is alive. Through these implications, Mary Shelley is pushing creators to take responsibility for their creations. She outlines the necessary caution that one must have to balance out curiosity. Through the decisions made by Victor Frankenstein, the reader is made to wonder about the different outcomes had Victor done things differently. Shelley wants creators to consider these things and to take responsibility for our creations.

Works Cited

  • Johnston, Josephine. “Traumatic Responsibility, Victor Frankenstein as Creator and Casualty.” The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2017.
  • Shelley, Mary W., et al. Frankenstein. Prestwick House Literary Touchstone Classics, 2005.
  • 'Science fiction.' Britannica School, Encyclopædia Britannica, 12 Nov. 2020. Accessed 22 Nov. 2020. 
03 July 2023
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