Man Vs God in Frankenstein Essay

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Victor and his creature are opposing forces that struggle because of their conflicts throughout Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein. Conflict is the dominant theme of the novel—one that Mary Shelley herself experienced in her own life, being married to the romantic poet Percy Byshe Shelley, who struggled with his own romantic ideas just as Victor Frankenstein struggles with his vain desire to be a Creator in Frankenstein. While Victor Frankenstein does become a Creator, he accomplishes his task ironically because he is a creator of the monster (which becomes of a monster because of Victor’s own incapacity to love him). True, the monster comes into life looking hideous—but that is because he had an uncaring creator; the monster is actually very thoughtful and desires to love and be loved. He attempts to make friends but finds that he is rebuked for his ugliness and driven away into isolation. He then burns to get revenge on his creator and likens himself to Milton’s Satan, whom he learns of from interacting with the epic poem Paradise Lost. Thus, the monster and Victor are in conflict with one another—just as Milton’s Satan was in conflict with his creator. However, the characters do undergo changes: Victor regains his humanity after losing his love to the monster (who kills Victor’s bride), and the monster becomes introspective once more. Their mutual destruction in the icy wilderness reflects their sameness and the manner in which their conflict actually unites them in a dreary, cold, bleakness, where warmth, humanity and love have no place. This paper will show Victor and his monster conflict with one another, even as they are drawn to one another.

Man vs. Man

Victor acts like a brutal human being for much of the first half of the novel: he is isolated, uncaring for those around him, indifferent to the woman who loves him, and focused wholly on his own obsession—re-animating a body—i.e., creating new life. He wants to be like God: he wants to be a Creator. He is nearly driven mad in this pursuit and acts more like a monster in his madness than he does like the rational scientist that he professes to be. Shelley herself foreshadows all of this by framing the action of the novel with a quote from Milton’s Paradise Lost—the epic poem that figures predominantly in the consciousness of the monster. The quote is: “Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay / To mould Me man? Did I solicit thee / From darkness to promote me” (Milton 10.743-5). What is interesting about this quote is that these words are not spoken by Satan (with whom the monster identifies, feeling rejected and spurned by God for no good reason), but by Adam who does not understand why he was created.
This is interesting because Adam is a man (Satan is a spirit—a fallen angel). As a man, both Victor and the monster can identify with him, feeling this conflict within themselves, as though they are turned against their very own humanity, which they do not understand. They are men turned against mankind—and that is why they both leave society for the icy wilderness at the conclusion of the novel.

Man vs. Society

The theme of man vs. society is explored in the novel as well. Victor is a scientist who wants to revolutionize science. He has absorbed the teachings of the Age of Enlightenment and enshrined Reason and liberalism in his own heart. As such, he has lost his humanity and his ability to be a social person: he locks himself up in his laboratory, punishing himself be obsessing over the physics of re-animation. His Enlightenment ideology has dehumanized him—a revelation that Shelley was passing on to the reader, which she received from her own life experiences as a the wife of a Romantic-Enlightenment poet likewise struggling with his own revolutionary ideas and obsessions. Victor seeks his own glory in society and vainly writes to Margaret: “Do I not deserve to accomplish some great purpose? My life might have been passed in ease and luxury; but I preferred glory to every enticement that wealth placed in my path” (Shelley 17). He seeks to stand above others, to be raised up on a pedestal above the other mere mortals of the world around him. In this manner, Victor is against society: he is anti-social. His vanity and pride make him so.

The monster, on the other hand, desperately tries to unite himself to society. He befriends the blind man (who does not judge his appearance because he cannot see) and learns from him. But of course when the family of the blind man comes, the monster is cast out—just like Satan from Paradise. The monster reflects on his alienation from society, which he feels is undeserved: “I remembered Adam’s supplication to his Creator. But where was mine? He had abandoned….....

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Works Cited

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. UK: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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