Frankenstein Symbolism – Overview of Symbols

Frankenstein Symbolism – Introduction

This novel is set during the Scientific Revolution that many Western societies experienced in the late 1700s and into the 1800s. In many ways, the events of this novel are a response to a cultural fear that unchecked scientific advances could lead to consequences beyond human’s wildest comprehensions. Since Frankenstein was written by a Romantic author, the idea that nature holds the world’s greatest power and beauty was threatened by advancing scientific discoveries that led to new technologies and medical experimentation. This can be seen in the setting, as factors such as the temperature and season affect mood and tone. The icy and unforgiving northern landscapes symbolize the futility at hand.

The motifs present in this novel are passive women and abortion. The idea of abortion is present throughout the entire story—the desire to undo something that has already been set in motion is complex. How does one undo their past mistakes by cancelling or undoing a process that they started? In many cases, they cannot, and they must suffer the consequences of this. Passive women are another motif. Women suffer the consequences of Victor Frankenstein’s actions, which helps to show that his pride and unchecked ambition mean that he lacked regard for how his decisions would affect the other people in his life. As a result, they suffered. In turn, he was trapped in a never-ending cycle of grief and shame.

Symbols in Frankenstein

Here is a list of symbols in Frankenstein,

  • Fire/Light

Symbolism In Frankenstein

symbols in frankenstein

Symbol of Fire and Light

While so much of the setting occurs in icy and unforgiving environments, a stark symbol can be found in light and fire.

Light symbolizes knowledge, discovery, faith in humanity, enlightenment, etc. The natural world, by contrast, is cold and dark to Victor Frankenstein and he is consumed with a desire to overcome this and create his own reality and his own bold new understanding of life.

In terms of fire, The Monster first ponders light and warmth by first recognizing the power it gives him—the power to see new things, to keep himself warm, the power to sustain what is already going. However, he is burned by the fire and thus realizes that some of the good things in life can also be harmful. The Monster likely sees some of himself in a single flame, as well. Nobody can get too close to him or risk being harmed. They fear him. Perhaps, however, science would behold him as a marvel. But what would that do to The Monster?