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Isolation in Frankenstein: Analysis & Quotes

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  • 0:03 ''Frankenstein'' Summary
  • 2:01 Isolation Is Destructive
  • 5:09 Isolation Quotations
  • 7:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Mallett Smith

Jennifer has taught high school English for eight years and has a master's degree in curriculum and assessment.

This lesson explores the element of isolation in Mary Shelley's novel, 'Frankenstein.' We'll go over quotations and an analysis that discuss the function of isolation in the novel.

Frankenstein Summary

Frankenstein is a tale we can all identify with. A young man goes off to college, isolates himself from his family and others, and reanimates a dead body. Okay, maybe we can't identify with bringing the dead to life, but we can identify with the negative effects of isolation. The author of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, uses the motif of isolation to develop one of the main themes of the novel: Isolation is destructive.

Frankenstein is often revered as the novel that started the genre of science fiction. It is the tale of a young scientist, Victor Frankenstein, and his creation. Victor diligently studies science and decides to try and create life. Victor is successful, but fears his creation and flees. When he returns, the monster isn't there, and Victor is relieved. Soon after, Victor's father writes him to come home from the university because his youngest brother, William, has been strangled to death. When he is there, Victor sees a flash of his creation in some lightning. Victor then travels to the mountains to think and ends up meeting his creature. The creature tells Victor his story and asks him to create a mate for him, which he does, but destroys it before he can reanimate her. His creature then vows to visit him on his wedding night. Victor marries Elizabeth, the girl he grew up with, and she's murdered on their wedding night by the creature. In response, Victor chases the monster to the Arctic Circle, where Robert Walton finds him and continues the rest of the story through letters to his sister. In the letters, Frankenstein is dying and the monster breaks into the cabin and tries to explain himself to Walton. Walton doesn't feel for him, so the monster vows to live out his days in the Arctic until he's given the freedom of death, something he longs for because it will end his pain.

Isolation Is Destructive

Isolation acts as a motif, or recurring idea with symbolic importance, in the novel. This approach helps develop the theme that isolation is destructive. The characters who are isolated in the novel suffer negative consequences from it, whether it's forced or chosen.

Frankenstein's Monster

Victor's creation is innocent when he is born, much like a baby. He needs to experience the world and figure out how to function in it. He's isolated and only has his creator to blame for not teaching him how to function in society. Victor rejects him by fleeing in fear after he has created him. The creature lives in the wilderness and off the land while hiding out and watching the De Lacey family. He doesn't approach them, but watches them from afar, where he dreams of familial and romantic love. He dreams of revealing himself to the family one day and becoming a part of it. But, he finally sees his reflection in the water and understands that he's different from others because he is so grotesque. He uses his isolation to educate himself with books and finally finds the courage to meet the family. The son, Felix, hits him with a board, and the creature flees. The creature is then exposed to society, where he's accused of drowning a young girl when he was really trying to save her. He quickly sees that he is unwelcome. When Frankenstein denies him a mate, the creature is motivated to isolate his creator by destroying his loved ones so that he'll also suffer.

Victor Frankenstein

Victor Frankenstein's isolation is also destructive because it has caused him to create the creature. Frankenstein is alone at the university with only his books to keep him company. So inspired by his isolation and love of science, he creates a monster that he doesn't take responsibility for. It's important to note that Victor chooses his isolation to complete his studies at the beginning of the novel. Once he learns that the creature is responsible for the death of his little brother, Victor isolates himself to protect his family. Ultimately, his relationship with the creature leads to his own demise. Victor is forced to isolate himself so that he can destroy the creature before it continues on its path of destruction.

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