The doomed protagonist and narrator of the main portion of the story. Studying in Ingolstadt, Victor discovers the secret of life and creates an intelligent but grotesque monster, from whom he recoils in horror. Victor keeps his creation of the monster a secret, feeling increasingly guilty and ashamed as he realizes how helpless he is to prevent the monster from ruining his life and the lives of others. He is the main character, a man driven by ambition and scientific curiosity. His quest for absolute knowledge and power will eventually end in his own ruin.
The eight-foot-tall, hideously ugly creation of Victor Frankenstein. Intelligent and sensitive, the monster attempts to integrate himself into human social patterns, but all who see him shun him. His feeling of abandonment compels him to seek revenge against his creator. The work of Frankenstein’s hands, he is his double, his persecutor, and his victim. The lives of him and his creator are inextricably entwined.
An orphan, four to five years younger than Victor, whom the Frankensteins adopt. In the 1818 edition of the novel, Elizabeth is Victor’s cousin, the child of Alphonse Frankenstein’s sister. In the 1831 edition, Victor’s mother rescues Elizabeth from a destitute peasant cottage in Italy, Elizabeth embodies the novel’s motif of passive women, as she waits patiently for Victor’s attention. She is both Victor’s sister and his bride. Elizabeth is presented as being angelically good and incomparably beauty: she represents ideal womanhood and its promises of love and comfort.
Victor’s mother, a paradigm of motherly concern and generosity. She is the daughter of Beaufort. After her father’s death, Caroline is taken in by, and later marries, Alphonse Frankenstein. She dies of scarlet fever, which she contracts from Elizabeth, just before Victor leaves for Ingolstadt at age seventeen. Her death provides the catalyst for Victor’s desire to transcend death. It is her last wish that Victor and Elizabeth be married.
Victor’s father, yet another shining example of kindness and selflessness. His happiness depends on the happiness of his children. If they fail, he does as well; thus, their deaths precipitate his own. He is very sympathetic towards his son Alphonse consoles Victor in moments of pain and encourages him to remember the importance of family.
Victor’s youngest brother and the darling of the Frankenstein family. The monster strangles William in the woods outside Geneva in order to hurt Victor for abandoning him. William’s death deeply saddens Victor and burdens him with tremendous guilt about having created the monster. The youngest son of the Frankenstein family. His death at the hands of the monster renders him a symbol of lost and violated innocence.
Victor’s best friend since childhood. Fascinated with the history of mankind, he is Victor’s intellectual opposite. He, too, will be murdered by the monster; he is perhaps a symbol of the destruction of Victor’s own goodness and potential.
Though a servant in the Frankenstein household, she is more like a sister to Victor and Elizabeth. She is executed for William’s murder, and thus becomes yet another martyr to lost virtue and innocence.
The Arctic seafarer whose letters open and close Frankenstein. Walton picks the bedraggled Victor Frankenstein up off the ice, helps nurse him back to health, and hears Victor’s story. He records the incredible tale in a series of letters addressed to his sister, Margaret Saville, in England. The reader’s representative in the novel, he is the person to whom Victor relates his story. He has much in common with Victor: ambition, drive, and the desire for glory.
- Frankenstein Themes
- Frankenstein Allusions
- Narrative Techniques in Frankenstein
The head of the household observed by the creature, de Lacey has been robbed of his fortunes as a result of his own kindness. His blindness makes him capable of recognizing the creature’s sincerity and goodness despite his hideous appearance.
The son of de Lacey, he is devoted to his family and his mistress, Safie. Though noble, he drives the creature from the family cottage with stones. He thereby symbolizes one of the basic flaws in the human character: the hatred of difference.
The daughter of De Lacey, she is yet another example of selfless womanhood, caring for her brother and her father despite their poverty and her own sadness.
The betrothed of Felix. She is presented as exotically beautiful, and is racially fetishized for her Turkishness. The de Lacey family wishes to marry her to Felix and convert her to Christianity.