Victor Frankenstein Character Traits & Analysis

Victor Frankenstein Character Traits & Analysis
Coming up next: Victor Frankenstein as a Tragic Hero

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  • 4:13 Frankenstein Traits: Obsession
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Liz Breazeale
Victor Frankenstein, protagonist of Mary Shelley's famed novel ''Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus,'' has plenty of traits that influence him to create a monster. In this lesson, learn about those traits and how they ultimately lead to Frankenstein's downfall.

Victor Frankenstein Character

Victor Frankenstein is the protagonist of Mary Shelley's 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. He's an ambitious, intelligent, and hardworking scientist. Oh yes, and it's important to mention that he's completely obsessed with the concept of reanimation, or reawakening the dead, which is just what he does - create life from a corpse, and it pretty much ruins his life.

Frankenstein's mother passed away when he was only seventeen, which fueled his obsession with death. He shows himself early on to be a whiz in science, especially chemistry. He falls in love with his cousin (in a later edition of the novel, she's his adopted sister) Elizabeth, eventually getting engaged to her, although she's killed by Frankenstein's creation on their wedding night. Frankenstein, as mentioned before, stubbornly pursues his scientific interests, and unfortunately it's this that eventually leads to his downfall, along with a few important character traits.

Frankenstein Traits: Intelligence

From the start, Victor Frankenstein shows a great aptitude for science, although he does pull away from it for a brief period as a boy. He's a voracious reader and a quick learner as a youngster, and he reads out-of-date works by ancient physicians and alchemists. He's very smart, and pursues his interests in chemistry and the human body at the University of Ingolstadt. Interestingly enough, although he's intelligent and at one of the premier learning institutions in Europe at the time, he chooses to study the idea of reanimation. He devotes himself to his studies, pushing his intelligence to the utmost, using his brains for an idea those around him think is bonkers.

Someone who is as smart as Frankenstein could maybe lend his intelligence to some other pursuit, curing a disease or discovering penicillin or something, but no, not Frankenstein. He applies his brain to a far more dangerous pursuit, and, through constant perseverance and his intelligence, he winds up creating life from death and making his monster a reality. However, his brains also come in handy later when he must track this creature across the Arctic, pursuing it in revenge and hoping to destroy it.

Frankenstein Traits: Pride & Ambition

You can imagine that it takes a lot of ambition and a lot of faith in yourself to reanimate the dead, and you'd be right in thinking that not every average Joe would struggle with his effort for more than two years. But Frankenstein does. His ambition knows no bounds. He absolutely will be the first man to give life to the dead, despite all the odds against him, and this leads him to struggle on.

Not only this, but it's Frankenstein's overwhelming pride, his hubris, that leads to the obsession that ruins his life. Hubris, or extreme arrogance, can lead people to do some fairly dumb stuff. Like, for example, tamper with the forces of life and death one may not fully understand, playing God in a way no human being should. You know, the way so many horror films begin. And it's this trait that makes Victor Frankenstein the perfect tragic hero, or character who is doomed to suffer due to his or her own actions. He relentlessly pursues an idea he pretty much has no business meddling in and suffers grievously for it. He thinks he can truly raise the dead, bridge that gap between the here and the hereafter, and in doing so creates a being he finds monstrous and hideous, a creature he cannot control and winds up running away from.

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