When I first read Frankenstein in high school, what struck me most about the novel was that the monster is not named Frankenstein, indeed, he has no name at all. After reading it a second time, what has struck me now is that Frankenstein is not about the monster. It is not about Victor Frankenstein. It is not about Clerval, or Elizabeth, or Felix and Safie. Frankenstein is, on a deeper level, about the way personal histories intertwine, the way the lives of people far removed from each other, ultimately culminate in one story. It’s about interrelation, not a monster.

Boris Karloff Frankenstein (1931)

The frame narrative sets the story up to cause characters removed from each other to affect one another. If Mary Shelley had chosen to write Frankenstein without the addition of the creature’s encounters at the cottage, discovering language, and Felix and Safie’s story, we would only know the flat story of Frankenstein. His creature would be an auxiliary character to further Victor’s development. What Shelley gives us instead, is a tale woven from separate angles. The creatures journey and intellectual growth change the readers perception of the character, and in turn, the reader’s perception of Victor. The purpose of the nested stories is to show that they are all essential to the understanding of the narrative; each story, from the inside out, changes the way the next layer is told, approached by the reader, or understood. The story is not really about a monster. The story is about people, and the ways in which our lives radiate out from ourselves to affect each other.

Advertisements