Main themes in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

August 15, 2015 User 1

A level English Language/Lit - A* grade essay resource

The Family

  • Walton stresses its importance (care for his sister)
  • Victor stresses its importance
  • The novel shows what happens without the support of family and companions

Social Responsibility

  • Look at how people help each other in the book and contrast it to the Creature’s rejection
  • Mary Shelley thought the privileged should help the less privileged in society e.g. Caroline Frankenstein taking in Elizabeth
  • The Creature helps the DeLaceys and the little girl – how is his sense of social responsibility rewarded?
  • Who is to blame for corrupting the Creature (making him a fiend)? Society


  • Victor is a bad parent (contrast to his parents BUT Victor’s parents did not ensure he mixed with friends and this had a detrimental effect on his social skills)
  • Mary Shelley thinks that family and parenting are important for a child’s development
  • Victor has a happy childhood due to parenting but he fails in his duty and responsibility
  • Victor rejects his child and this has negative consequences - look at the language (the gothic imagery) leading up to start of the Creature’s life It was on a dreary night of November…It was already one in the morning. I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature.’


  • When listening to Safie’s history lessons, what does the Creature learn about society? How is it presented as being ‘strange’?

Social Injustice 

  • The Creature is rejected on the basis of his looks – look at key moments in the novel where the Creature encounters people; even a young child is prejudiced against him
  • Justine – the established justice system failing the innocent. How is the Church presented here?
  • DeLaceys  - victims of social injustice
  • Victor is a victim of injustice in the failure of the Magistrates in Ireland to believe him
  • Victor represents society in his shallow view of people; like society he judges people by the way they look.
  • Look at the language used to describe the Creature and compare it to that used to describe Victor– Mary Shelley clearly wants us to sympathise with the Creature


  • 19th century view of women
  • Consider how women are presented: Elizabeth is presented as a virtuous, saintly woman (religious language used to describe her) who is dedicated to all around her and this characterisation is typical of the femine virtues women were seen as having to possess at the time
  • Women were seen as comforters and possessions of men: my Elizabeth
  • How is Justine presented?
  • Gender roles –Agatha doing housework
  • Is Shelley showing what happens when women are rejected? Things go drastically wrong when man tries to create life without a woman. Is Shelley saying that without women, men are doomed to fail?

Frankenstein: a critique of society?

The creature’s final speech in the last chapter emphasises the fact that his monstrousness is no different from that of society.

  • Form: GOTHIC (language, imagery, atmosphere); ROMANTICISM – what is so Romantic about the critique of society?? French Revolution, freedom etc.
  • Structure: look at parallels – Victor’s rejection of the Creature parallels society. What is the effect of the multiple narrative?


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