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Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: Summary of Main Characters

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The tale of Frankenstein touches on issues of bioethics, morality, religion and existentialism. The characters are summarized here with links to an introduction and plot summaries.

Frankenstein was written in 1816 by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and is in the public domain. For an introduction and plot summaries see links at the end of the article.

Primary Characters in Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus

Robert Walton is the narrator at the beginning and end of the novel. He is an adventurer setting out to discover a passage through the North Pole. He is also a man of science seeking to “ascertain the secret of the magnet” He is a lonely and driven man. He bemoans the fact that he has no friend that is likeminded to share his adventure to encourage him or to participate in his enthusiasm. He meets Dr. Victor Frankenstein and Frankenstein’s monster under remarkable circumstances as his ship becomes surrounded by ice and is unable to move forward. Robert Walton tells Victor “I would sacrifice my fortune, my existence, my every hope, to furtherance of my enterprise.” The story of Dr. Frankenstein begins and ends here in Robert Walton’s journal and letters to his sister as told by Victor Frankenstein himself.

Victor Frankenstein is the creator of the monster and the protagonist of the story. He picks up the narration of the story when he is rescued at the North Pole by Robert Walton. He is disturbed by the passion of Robert Walton to accomplish his goals at any price.  At this revelation, Victor replies “Unhappy man! Have you drunk also of the intoxicating draught? Hear me; let me reveal my tale, and you will dash the cup from your lips!” It is clear that Victor realizes the danger of a passion so great that one would sacrifice all. His own passion is to create life and to renew life where there has been the corruption of death. In his words “Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world. A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs." 

Henry Clerval is Victor’s best friend and his alter ego. He is light hearted and good natured and not given to brooding. He travel’s frequently with Victor and nurses him back to health when he falls ill after the disappearance of the creature. Henry is a true and loyal friend. Henry is one of the monster's victims and Frankenstein is accused of his murder.

Frankenstein’s Monster is an eight foot tall monstrous human being created by Victor Frankenstein. He has no name and no identity. He is described by Victor as hideous and repulsive with yellowish skin and flowing black hair. “He is a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived.”

The monster desires companionship and a connection with his creator. He is in anguish over his loneliness and isolation from the human race. He begins a campaign of terror against Victor in order to get his attention. He confronts Victor about his responsibility and duty to him. He demands that Victor make a female companion for him.

The De Lacey family includes an elderly blind father, his two grown children Agatha and Felix and Felix‘s wife. It is through observing the De Lacey family that the monster learns all that he knows about society and emotions as well as reading and speech.

The Frankenstein family consists of Victor's mother, father, two brothers and his adopted sister Elizabeth to whom he is betrothed.

Proceed to Plot Summary of Volume One

Proceed to Plot Summary of Volume Two

Proceed to Plot Summary of Voulume Three (conclusion)

Proceed to Introduction and Notes of Frankenstein


About This Article

Judith Barton

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