Here, we give you some quick notes for analysing Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. This complex and captivating story was written over 200 years ago.
Frankenstein has a complex structure. There is a frame story narrated via letters by Captain Robert Walton, who discovers Frankenstein nearly dead in the Arctic. The majority of the novel consists of the main story which is really Frankenstein’s flashback about his early life and the catastrophic making of the creature. The middle of this main story is narrated by the creature who tells the story of his early life. The narrative includes several examples of foreshadowing.
One of the main characters is Victor Frankenstein, a student of science who becomes obsessed with creating a living being. When he succeeds, he is horrified by what he has done and regrets his actions. The creature to which he gives life is the other main character. He is a rational being who wants friendship and affection, but turns to murder and revenge when he is rejected by society.
The story raises readers’ sympathy and repulsion for both main characters, leading us to question which is truly the protagonist and which the antagonist. The story also features a number of other characters, including Frankenstein’s fiancée Elizabeth, his friend Clerval, and Captain Walton.
The story’s setting features many places around Europe as well as the Arctic, which points to this being a universal story. Shelley places an emphasis on dramatic barren landscapes, such as the Alps and the Arctic. These are places reflect Frankenstein's emotions at times and become a palce for him to isolate himself. His insistence that both he and the creature should be alone leads to his downfall and the deaths of all his loved ones.
Frankenstein is told by a series of first-person narrators. The frame story at the beginning and end of the novel is narrated by Robert Walton. The middle chapters are narrated by Victor Frankenstein, who is telling his story to Walton. Halfway through his narrative, Frankenstein explains that he met with the creature and then tells the creature’s story in his own words – meaning that the creature takes over as narrator. This plays an important role, as it helps readers to sympathize with the creature, who turns out to be more than just a monster.
The language in the novel is complex. The three narrators are all articulate and use intellectual or even poetic language – even the creature, which has only just learned to read and speak. This forces readers to give equal weight to their arguments and highlights their similarities as living, feeling beings. Shelley also uses a number of symbols in the story, such as the contrast between light and dark and various references to religion.