Frankenstein

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Family, Society, Isolation Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Family, Society, Isolation Theme Icon
Ambition and Fallibility Theme Icon
Romanticism and Nature Theme Icon
Revenge Theme Icon
Prejudice Theme Icon
Lost Innocence Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Frankenstein, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Family, Society, Isolation Theme Icon

In its preface, Frankenstein claims to be a novel that gives a flattering depiction of "domestic affection." That seems a strange claim in a novel full of murder, tragedy, and despair. But, in fact, all that tragedy, murder, and despair occur because of a lack of connection to either family or society. Put another way, the true evil in Frankenstein is not Victor or the monster, but isolation. When Victor becomes lost in his studies he removes himself from human society, and therefore loses sight of his responsibilities and the consequences of his actions. The monster turns vengeful not because it's evil, but because its isolation fills it with overwhelming hate and anger. And what is the monster's vengeance? To make Victor as isolated as it. Add it all up, and it becomes clear that Frankenstein sees isolation from family and society as the worst imaginable fate, and the cause of hatred, violence, and revenge.

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Family, Society, Isolation Quotes in Frankenstein

Below you will find the important quotes in Frankenstein related to the theme of Family, Society, Isolation.
Letter 2 Quotes
I have no friend, Margaret: when I am glowing with the enthusiasm of success, there will be none to participate my joy; if I am assailed by disappointment, no one will endeavour to sustain me in dejection.
Related Characters: Robert Walton (speaker), Margaret Saville
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

At the beginning of his second letter, Robert Walton confesses to his sister, Margaret, that he longs for a companion, another person with whom he can share the joys and sorrows of exploration. While the first letter introduces the reader to Walton's quest – he hopes to discover a new passage to the North Pole – this second letter offers more insight into his personality.

Walton writes with the arrogance that unites many of the book's male characters: he does not consider his travel companions to be his intellectual equals. He doesn't believe his peers can understand his lofty ideals. This quote foreshadows the arrival of Victor Frankenstein, who appears in the fourth letter and goes on to become Walton's close friend. Victor will tell Walton a cautionary tale about ambition and pride – a tale full of even more extreme success and dejection, and which serves as the novel's central plot line.

In addition, this quote introduces loneliness as one of the book's major themes, a state of being that plagues both Walton and Victor, as well as the Monster himself. Isolated and unable to assimilate into human society because of how he looks, the Monster blames Victor for his predicament, and much of the action of the novel rests on the monster's efforts to get his creator to build him a female companion. 

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Chapter 10 Quotes
All men hate the wretched; how then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things! Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature, to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us.
Related Characters: The Monster (speaker), Victor Frankenstein
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

Victor travels to Chamounix, an Alpine village, following the death of his brother and the execution of Justine. He finds solace in the "sublime" mountains and spectacular views, all of which soothe his troubled mind. However, as Victor crosses a glacier one day, the Monster confronts him for the first time. 

The Monster makes an impassioned speech, accusing Victor of intolerance, and yet also aligning himself with his creator. Shelley makes it clear that both figures are "miserable," physically and psychologically isolated: both are Romantic heroes, tormented by guilt and loneliness. Not only are the words "creature" and "creator" similar, but they remind us of Satan's relationship to God in Paradise Lost. Satan, too, is God's "creature," cast from the heavenly realm and sentenced to a miserable existence.

Victor has treated the Monster with fear and disgust up until this point — and in the conversation following this quote, the Monster describes this injustice and his first painful months in the world. Shelley does not dismiss or caricature the Monster. Yet this quote foreshadows the inevitable mortal conflict between the two characters, as only "annihilation" can break the ties that bind them.  

Chapter 13 Quotes
When I looked around I saw and heard of none like me. Was I, a monster, a blot upon the earth from which all men fled and whom all men disowned?
Related Characters: The Monster (speaker)
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:

The Monster has taught himself to speak and read by careful observation of the cottage dwellers. Their discussions become increasingly complex with Safie's appearance and, as they discuss man's nature, the Monster questions his own identity, his unusual origins and appearance. 

This heightened awareness and new knowledge are crucial to the Monster's development, yet also dangerous and disturbing — he longs for a state of innocence, a wordless "native wood." The Monster feels a justified anger, but this anger comes only from a newfound knowledge of his own abnormality. 

Shelley does not mock or scorn his isolation: instead, it is a horrible thing, devastating to the Monster and readers alike. A life at the fringes of society is not always an admirable one, and Shelley does not glamorize or idealize the novel's Romantic heroes, solitary and conflicted figures. Prejudice will indeed push men to run from the Monster, and prejudice will deny him the chance at a happy, domestic life. 

Chapter 16 Quotes
I am alone and miserable: man will not associate with me; but one as deformed and horrible as myself would not deny herself to me. My companion must be of the same species and have the same defects. This being you must create.
Related Characters: The Monster (speaker), Victor Frankenstein
Page Number: 101
Explanation and Analysis:

The Monster has just shared his tale with Victor, from his first nights in the wilderness to William's murder in the cemetery. He concludes with a demand: since all humans despise the Monster's appearance, and the Monster finds himself entirely alone and hated in the world, Victor must fashion an equally deformed female companion for him.

The questions of isolation and community are pertinent here, as the Monster seeks exactly the kind of companionship that the world, full of prejudice and intolerance, has denied him. To Shelley, a healthy man is one who does not lead a solitary existence: by this logic, Victor and the Monster are consumed and destroyed by their single-minded and lonely obsessions.

We should also note that Shelley gives another nod to Milton here. In an earlier chapter, the Monster had pored over Paradise Lost, noting the obvious parallels between himself, Satan, and Adam. And so his desire for a female companion, in a way, comes from his identification with Adam, the first man. Eve is the only other human being in Eden, and is Adam's only companion, created because Adam was alone: a female Monster would play a similar role. The Monster demands that this companion belong to his "species."

Chapter 20 Quotes
You can blast my other passions, but revenge remainsrevenge, henceforth dearer than light of food! I may die, but first you, my tyrant and tormentor, shall curse the sun that gazes on your misery.
Related Characters: The Monster (speaker), Victor Frankenstein
Related Symbols: Light
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:

At the beginning of Chapter 20, Victor toils in his laboratory, creating a female companion for the Monster. However, as he considers the Monster's many crimes, he concludes that a female companion might exacerbate rather than solve the problem. He destroys his work and the Monster eventually confronts him, vowing revenge. 

Victor has eliminated the possibility of companionship and love in the Monster's life once and for all: in consequence, revenge becomes the Monster's only motivating desire. (The repetition of "revenge" and the exclamation mark indicate that this is a pivotal moment, in which the stakes are high.) The Monster has watched humans (notably the De Lacey family) reject him, and has now seen Victor destroy the very creature that could have secured his happiness. 

Light appears again in this section, bearing its telltale ambiguous significance. Here, the sun seems particularly foreboding (prompting a curse from Victor) and the quote itself is a threat, an assurance of miseries still to come.

Chapter 22 Quotes
If for one instant I had thought what might be the hellish intention of my fiendish adversary, I would rather have banished myself forever from my native country and wandered a friendless outcast over the earth than have consented to this miserable marriage. But, as if possessed of magic powers, the monster had blinded me to his real intentions; and when I thought that I had prepared only my own death, I hastened that of a far dearer victim.
Related Characters: Victor Frankenstein (speaker), The Monster, Elizabeth Lavenza
Page Number: 137
Explanation and Analysis:

Victor has returned to Geneva, following Henry's death and his own nervous illness. He has become engaged to Elizabeth — and though he thinks about the Monster's final threat a great deal ("I will be with you on your wedding night"), he fails to understand that Elizabeth is in danger. Shelley makes no attempt to disguise Elizabeth's future demise in this section: we have no doubt that the "far dearer victim" is Victor's fiancée.

Victor believes he has grasped the situation, and this arrogant certainty "blinds" him to the truth. (He even announces that the Monster "blinded [him] to his real intentions.") Victor's ambition and his fallibility are inextricable: beset by lofty desires (either for revenge, glory, or the peace of death), he cannot always see the reality of a situation. 

Shelley reminds us of Victor's curious position, at once a loving family member and an outcast, and the word "native" is crucial to this quote. It should remind us of Chapter 4, when Victor tells Walton that a "man who believes his native town to be the world" is happier than an ambitious one. Victor is too caught up in his research to belong to his family or his environment; like Robert Walton and the Monster, he is not at home in the world. Shelley does not present this as a desirable state. 



Walton, in continuation Quotes
The fallen angel becomes the malignant devil. Yet even the enemy of God and man had friends and associates in his desolation; I am alone.
Related Characters: The Monster (speaker)
Page Number: 160
Explanation and Analysis:

Victor has just died: as Walton mourns his friend, the Monster comes onboard the ship and tells Walton of his lonely existence, the months spent wishing for friendship and love and finding nothing but disgust and fear in men. 

Here, the Monster compares himself to Satan and then concludes that he is even more wretched than the Devil, who has a community even in Hell. The Monster alludes again to Paradise Lost, one of his favorite literary works: in Milton's version of the story, Satan is cast from Heaven but lives among other demons and devils in Hell. Like Satan, the Monster once believed in virtue and goodness, only to become violent and cruel following his disillusionment and loss of innocence. Here, the Monster's anguish is striking; not only does he see himself as more wretched than literature's most wretched character, but he ends the sentence with the simple words "I am alone." This brevity is uncharacteristic, proof that Victor's death has had an effect on the Monster, who has reached new depths of despair.

Was there no injustice in this? Am I to be thought the only criminal, when all human kind sinned against me?
Related Characters: The Monster (speaker)
Page Number: 160
Explanation and Analysis:

The Monster utters these words mere moments before he abandons the ship, promising Walton and Victor's corpse that he will seek death and soon throw himself onto a funeral pyre. In the first rhetorical question, the word "this" refers to the scorn and cruelty that the Monster has suffered at the hands of men.

The Monster's final speech is a rousing one, and we cannot help but feel sympathy for the tormented figure. Neither question demands an answer, and yet Shelley makes it clear that men's prejudice was indeed an injustice, and that all prejudiced men are sinners. The inconsistencies in the human worldview are laid bare, here: men who claim to be good and virtuous are blind to their own intolerance. 

Again, the Monster's loneliness has pushed him to commit his many crimes. He only became cruel and vengeful following the De Lacey family's betrayal and Victor's destruction of the female creature. Shelley indicates that isolation, be it the isolation of intellectual ambition or the isolation borne of prejudice, is an important root cause of evil.