Symbols in Frankenstein

This article by experts explains the symbolism in Frankenstein. The key symbols used by Shelley are fire and light.

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The key symbols in Frankenstein are fire and light.

🔥 Fire in Frankenstein

Let’s start with the fact that the novel’s full title is Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. It is not a coincidence. We can draw a parallel between the hero from the Greek methodology and the novel’s main character.

Fire is one of the most prominent symbols in Frankenstein. Prometheus is believed to have given people the gift of fire. However, since he stole it from the Gods in secret, the punishment followed his act of generosity.

Just like Prometheus, Victor Frankenstein is trying to give humanity the gift of life creation. And just like the Greek titan, Frankenstein suffers the consequences. The death of all the people he loved becomes his punishment.

Therefore, we can conclude that fire in Frankenstein is the powerful but destructive force of nature. People don’t have the ability to tame it as it’s unpredictable. Even though it is used to sustain life, it can also become the source of punishment. Just think about the fires of hell.

We see this in the chapter where the Monster discovers fire for the first time. His experience with it is dual. It’s warming and lights the dark with beautiful colors, but it hurts you when you touch it.

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One day, when I was oppressed by cold, I found a Fire which had been left by some wandering beggars, and was overcome with delight at the warmth I experienced from it. In my joy I thrust my hand into the live embers, but quickly drew it out again with a cry of pain. How strange, I thought, that the same cause should produce such opposite effects!

Chapter 11

⚡ Light in Frankenstein

Lightning is usually associated with this story, mainly because it (or electricity) brings the Monster to life.

However, in Frankenstein, the light becomes a symbol of Enlightenment and scientific discoveries. In the book, it is mentioned multiple times.

For instance, Victor says that “a sudden light broke upon” him when he discovers the secret of life. The same happens when he has other insights. A similar phrase appears when he first begins studying natural philosophy.

Walton is all up for this theme. Even though his expedition goes into the place of endless ice and cold, he describes it as “a country of eternal light.”

Therefore, the book’s central idea is that scientists aim to shed some light on our world’s secrets. Even though it seems quite promising and hopeful, the light can be dangerous.

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Blinded by the light of their bright future discoveries, both Walton and Victor don’t see the possible unfortunate consequences of their ambitions.

Another side of the light symbolism in Frankenstein concerns the Monster. For him, the light is something negative because he can hide his terrifying appearance in the dark.

A flash of lightning illuminated the object, and discovered its shape plainly to me; its gigantic stature, and the deformity of its aspect more hideous than belongs to humanity, instantly informed me that it was the wretch, the filthy daemon, to whom I had given life.

Chapter 11

We hope that the above information is useful. If you’re looking for great essay ideas on the novel, please read this article.

🔗 References

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