Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus does not present its characters in a dichotomic ‘positive/negative’ light. Throughout the novel, the reader acquires an understanding of the motivation behind the actions of characters, which helps the reader to maintain a non-judgmental approach. However, many actions of the protagonist, Victor Frankenstein, are difficult to justify from the moral point of view. Thus, the villain in the novel is Victor because he commits a number of unforgettable things.
By creating a monster, Victor plays ‘god’ and breaks laws of the universe. In his desire to gain power, Victor searches for the fabled elixir of life. Although life and death are the things that go beyond the control of a human being, at least in some of their aspects, Victor rejects his essence as a human being by his obsessing desire to create life. Eventually he manages to create life in an artificial manner. The story vividly demonstrates how the protagonist’s disobedience to the laws of nature leads to negative and irreversible consequences. In fact, by creating life, Victor also takes the lives of other people.
By creating a monster, Victor indirectly causes multiple deaths. William, Victor’s youngest brother, is found dead because the monster tries to take revenge on his creator. Justine is blamed for William’s death and is eventually executed. Victor’s creature also kills Viktor’s best friend, Henry Clerval, his beloved Elizabeth, and Frankenstein’s father, who dies from grief. All of these characters were absolutely innocent, and still they paid their life for Victor’s selfish and irresponsible desire to create something extraordinary.
Perhaps the fact that plays the biggest role in terms of defining Victor is a villain is that he abandons his ‘son’. Not only does Victor refuse responsibility towards the monster he created, he also cannot admit the harm that this creation has caused in front of the public. While the creation of a monster on its own might not necessarily be a bad thing, it would have been possible to prevent all of the above-mentioned deaths if Victor had held responsibility for his ‘son’ and had honestly confessed about his creation to society at large.
In conclusion, Victor, the protagonist, violates the laws of nature, causes a list of death, and abandons his creation, which makes him the villain in the novel. While the reader can to some extent understand the motivation behind Victor’s actions, it does not justify the protagonist from the moral point of view. While Victor indeed possesses an unprecedented set of skills in the field of science, he makes a wrong use out of them, which leads to death, grief, and suffering.
- Shelley, M. W., & Butler, M. (1994). Frankenstein, or, The modern Prometheus: The 1818 text. Oxford: Oxford University Press.