Mary Shelley

Teachers and parents! Our Teacher Edition on Frankenstein makes teaching easy.

Frankenstein: Similes 8 key examples

Definition of Simile
A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two unlike things. To make the comparison, similes most often use the connecting words "like" or "as," but can also... read full definition
A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two unlike things. To make the comparison, similes most often use the connecting words "like... read full definition
A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two unlike things. To make the comparison, similes most often... read full definition
Chapter 2
Explanation and Analysis—The Torrent:

In Chapter 2, Victor uses a simile of a rushing torrent to describe how his extreme thirst for knowledge began:

For when I would account to myself for the birth of that passion, which afterwards ruled my destiny, I find it arise, like a mountain river, from ignoble and almost forgotten sources; but, swelling as it proceeded, it became the torrent which, in its course, has swept away all my hopes and joys.

Victor’s passion and ambition is likened to a building flood, a momentous natural event that is chaotic, unpredictable, but strong. The torrent starts flowing obscurely, so inconspicuously that Victor can hardly remember where it started, but before long, it gathers such strength and force that it quickly grows deadly. In his description, the swell of this flood begins bit by bit, slowly overtaking everything in its path. This comparison offers a warning—left unchecked, human aspirations can lead to unforeseen danger and violence. Blinded by his disgust for the Monster, Victor fails to consider the consequences of deserting him, and is only concerned with the failure of his experiment. He sees knowledge as an opportunity to pour a “torrent of light into our dark world,” but fails to recognize the potential dangers of that light until it’s far too late. 

Explanation and Analysis—Saintly Soul:

In Chapter 2, Victor uses a simile of a lamp at a saint's shrine to describe his wife Elizabeth’s nature: 

The saintly soul of Elizabeth shone like a shrine-dedicated lamp in our peaceful home.

Elizabeth isn’t only just described as saintly, but as a source of light, a presence that shines. This emotionally-driven language emphasizes her innocence and beauty. In the 19th century, especially into the Victorian period, the home was sometimes characterized as a sacred "shrine," a shelter against the world's corrupting influences, and a wife was the purifying heart of the home—so it's appropriate that Elizabeth is described as having a saintly, shining soul that sanctifies their home. Also note the alliteration—the repeated s's make the simile stand out and convey the soothing grace Elizabeth gives to those around her. These saintly qualities make her death at the hands of the Monster all the more horrific, and that horror is what drives Victor to seek revenge against the Monster.

Like William’s death, Elizabeth’s death represents the corruption of innocence. Victor, too, experiences a loss of innocence. He begins his studies at the University of Ingholt with lofty dreams, believing he can discover the mysteries of nature and enlighten humanity with his discoveries. However, these dreams quickly crash around him, and Victor ends up embittered and cruel.

Unlock with LitCharts A+
Explanation and Analysis—Sir Isaac Newton:

Victor uses a simile and a metaphor and alludes to physicist Sir Isaac Newton when he describes his thirst for knowledge to Robert Walton in Chapter 2:

Sir Isaac Newton is said to have avowed that he felt like a child picking up shells beside the great and unexplored ocean of truth.

Sir Isaac Newton, noted physicist and mathematician of the 17th and 18th centuries, represented the powers of scientific knowledge, in particular man’s pursuit of it. Knowledge—"the ocean of truth” —is metaphorically depicted as limitless and expansive like the open waters of the ocean, and the pursuer of said knowledge is compared to a wandering, innocent child—small and helpless compared to the vast deeps, yet delighting in the beauties and mysteries there for him to discover.

Victor’s seashell simile also draws a connection between nature and progress. Walton, an explorer, sees nature as a source of knowledge. Likewise, Victor attempts to “pioneer a new way” by digging deep into the “citadel of nature.” Nature, for these men, is unknown territory to explore. However, the novel’s tragic events suggest that nature, rather than humankind, actually has the upper hand. Victor’s misguided attempt to master nature only leads to his downfall.

Unlock with LitCharts A+
Chapter 4
Explanation and Analysis—The Light:

In Chapter 4, Victor uses a simile of light to describe his intense love of natural philosophy, an ambition that drives him to distraction but leads him to discover the secret of life: 

The information I had obtained was of a nature rather to direct my endeavours so soon as I should point them towards the object of my search, than to exhibit that object already accomplished. I was like the Arabian who had been buried with the dead, and found a passage to life, aided only by one glimmering, and seemingly ineffectual, light.

The “Arabian” Victor references alludes to the hero Sinbad from The Arabian Nights, who has many miraculous voyages. In one, Sinbad is presented with a wife by a friendly king. He later discovers that it is custom to be buried along with your dead spouse. Soon after, Sinbad’s wife dies and he is buried with her. However, he sees a small spot of light by which he eventually is able to escape from the cave. This light, for Sinbad, represents freedom. In Victor’s case, the light represents the secret to life, a form of knowledge that Victor is desperate to uncover. Yet that light is also blinding. Victor eventually abandons his responsibilities in his search. Blinded by his pursuits, he fails to consider the consequences of his actions and suffers for it.

Unlock with LitCharts A+
Chapter 8
Explanation and Analysis—Misery Like A Cloud:

At the end of Chapter 8 Elizabeth weeps, unhappy at the news of Justine’s death sentence. Victor uses a simile to describe her demeanor, comparing her unhappiness to a cloud:

But hers was the misery of innocence, which, like a cloud that passes over the fair moon, for a while hides, but cannot tarnish its brightness. 

The novel portrays Elizabeth as gentle, kind, and extremely innocent. Elizabeth experiences great sadness in the wake of Justine’s death, an experience that threatens to ruin her radiant nature. However, Victor uses the phrase “misery of innocence” to suggest that this danger is mitigated in Elizabeth's case. He means that Elizabeth isn't jaded or cynical and that her unhappiness won't damage her "brightness" in the long run. Victor optimistically concludes that Elizabeth’s innocent nature will remain intact (a cloud "hides, but cannot tarnish" the bright moon). However, this proves not to be the case: Elizabeth is eventually murdered by the Monster.

Through Elizabeth's murder, the novel suggests that even the most genuine innocence is only temporary and that it is at the mercy of the darker aspects of human nature—even the darkness of other human beings can, tragically, snuff out the "brightness" of a pristine soul like Elizabeth's.

Unlock with LitCharts A+
Chapter 9
Explanation and Analysis—Evil Spirit:

In Chapter 9, Victor uses a simile comparing himself to an evil spirit to describe the guilt he feels after Justine, who has been wrongly convicted of murder, is executed:

A weight of despair and remorse pressed on my heart, which nothing could remove. Sleep fled from my eyes; I wandered like an evil spirit, for I had committed deeds of mischief beyond description horrible, and more, much more (I persuaded myself), was yet behind.

Victor’s anguish causes him distress and unrest; he can't sleep and wanders helplessly because of the guilt he feels. He knows the Monster is the real murderer, yet because he can't reveal that fact, Justine suffers the consequences of the Monster's actions—and of Victor's misguided actions in creating the Monster in the first place. Thus Victor pays a serious price for his ambition, and indirectly causes both Justine and William’s deaths. Although Victor has grand visions to harness his scientific knowledge to help humanity progress, the creation of the Monster, ironically, leads to worsening conditions: suffering, despair, and death. The weight of this psychological turmoil makes Victor restless. He wanders like a ghost, an image that conveys he has lost some part of his soul, or even his humanity.

Unlock with LitCharts A+
Chapter 13
Explanation and Analysis—Lichen on Rock:

In Chapter 13, when the Monster discovers its own ugliness and realizes people have been judging it based on its appearance rather than its nature, he describes the experience of gaining this knowledge through personification and simile: 

Of what a strange nature is knowledge! It clings to the mind when it has once seized on it like a lichen on the rock. I wished sometimes to shake off all thought and feeling.

The Monster personifies knowledge as something that "clings" to a mind. Of course, knowledge isn't a living thing that is capable of holding onto anything, but someone's awareness of knowledge can feel so overpowering and inescapable that it's as if knowledge were alive. Similarly, the Monster likens his experience to that of lichen becoming attached to a rock. Like the lichen that becomes stuck to the rock's surface, gaining knowledge is irrevocable—one cannot easily take back or turn away from something one has learned.

The Monster’s desire to remove “all thought and feeling” suggests that the experience of knowledge is also a burden he wishes to be free of. The prejudice the Monster experiences leads him to believe in the “barbarity of man.” Like Elizabeth, William, and Victor, the Monster, too, loses innocence. 

Unlock with LitCharts A+
Chapter 16
Explanation and Analysis—Shining in Mockery:

In Chapter 16, the Monster is rejected by the De Lacey family. The Monster, in a fit of rage and loneliness, personifies the wilderness around it:

 The cold stars shone in mockery, and the bare trees waved their branches above me; now and then the sweet voice of a bird burst forth amidst the universal stillness. All, save I, were at rest or in enjoyment; I, like the arch-fiend, bore a hell within me, and finding myself unsympathized with, wished to tear up the trees, spread havoc and destruction around me, and then to have sat down and enjoyed the ruin.

The Monster’s psychological state is mirrored in the surrounding landscape, all through vivid and precise visual and auditory details. The stars, despite their brightness, lack warmth. The trees appear to make fun of the Monster, as does the bird, taunting with its “sweet voice.” The Monster’s attribution of human qualities to the stars, trees, and bird reflects a profound sense of abandonment and a desire for human companionship and acceptance. To him, the surrounding elements are not lifeless. In fact, they are not unlike the De Laceys and Victor, humans who reject him out of prejudice and fear.

The Monster also uses a simile, comparing itself to an arch-fiend, an allusion to the Devil in Milton’s Paradise Lost. The heightened language that follows conveys just how tormented the Monster feels. All in all, the passage generates a feeling of sympathy for the Monster. 

Unlock with LitCharts A+