Victor Frankenstein as a Tragic Hero - Character Analysis Essay

Published: 2022-05-17
Victor Frankenstein as a Tragic Hero - Character Analysis Essay
Type of paper:  Literature review
Categories:  English literature Character analysis Frankenstein Romantic literature
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1383 words
12 min read

Mary Shelley introduces us to a tragic hero with a fatal flaw or hamartia. In her text, Victor Frankenstein fits the characterization as a result of his tragic downfall. He is a complex character, one who fits the guidelines of Aristotelian imagery of tragic heroes. According to Aristotle, a tragic hero is one who occupies a social status with an epitomizing nobility and is not perfect (Gale, n.p). He goes further to explain that the hero must possess a tragic flaw which is defined by an error in judgment, also known as hamartia. The tragic hero finds himself undergoing the process of self-realization and become informed of various situations and how they unfolded. These characteristic images Mary Shelley's character and he exist as an example of an Aristotelian tragic hero.

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We have introduced to Victor retelling the tale about his life and the lowered situation brought about by Captain Walton. The conversation he has with Walton depicts a knowledgeable person of a higher level who can draw a contrast between himself and his companions. His high level of knowledge is evident by the quote where Walton mentions, "You are in need of wisdom and knowledge as I once asked." The quote portrayed Victor's desire of gaining knowledge and his openness which also enables him to interpret the personality of Walton. His high position in the society is also noted through the meticulous conversation and diction with Walton coupled with Walton's perception of the stranger. The subsequent events mark the climax of the paper where Frankenstein is presented as not perfect and has various tragic flaws that make his downfall inevitable. He has a great desire of acquiring knowledge marked with undeniable ignorance of moral which later prove fatal (Shelley, 292).

The blinding ambition makes him live a life of a recluse and creating a monster, one who eventually destroys all the people he loved. It is his rejection of corrections about his flaw that gives the monster the power of revenging on him and another walking being. The imperfection goes further to enable the responder to understand and make a relation to him thus leading to the creation of a tragic hero. It can thus be argued that Shelley allows Victor to gain the tragic character by first giving him the power of acquiring knowledge and awareness of the accompanying reasons that justify his situation. The drawn is also evidenced in the Aristotelian definition of a tragic hero. His realization is equally imaged with an immediate effect through the retrospective narrative form, a framework that allows the older and wiser Frankenstein to realize his errors and mistakes (Fleming, n.p). We can equally argue that the tragic flaws of victor begin from the laboratory after making the irrational decision of creating life. Many literary scholars argues the step as an achievement which he ought to have shared with the people and most importantly the family members; many individuals are amazed when he considered the least of the decision. The achievement is later repulsed to an ugly form (Wright, n.p).

The created character from the laboratory begins to move across the land and to Victor's chamber, a situation which makes him flee and denies the events which unfolded. Victor later becomes delirious and ill and nursed by one Henry Clervel; he later plans to return Geneva disappointed by his flaw which is unknown to many people. Every question that any reader may ask is why Victor persist with his act of dishonesty (Nair, 77). When he created the monster from the laboratory, he did not inform any person, not even the closest family members about the creation. Now that the monster is slowly turning against him he keeps everyone out of the unfolding circumstances. The reticence becomes more evident and questionable after returning from Geneva where he is informed of his creation is responsible for the death of the younger brother, William, but still stay in denial and allowing Elizabeth to take responsibility for the death.

It is these flaws that play an important role in impacting the protagonist lives in Mary Shelley's text. The flaws make us realize how guilty, depressed and despondent victor feels. Even at the point of depression, he prefers to keep to himself with the truth. He at one point contemplates about committing suicide by drowning himself in a lake but is prevented by the thought of Elizabeth. He feels that his death would bring misery and pain to Elizabeth, an aspect which may also inform about his state of empathy in our analysis (Small, n.p). It is my opinion that Victor's inability of speaking about the monster could have been influenced by the fact that he had much pride and believed that no one would believe his capability of committing such an act. In consideration of the irrational decision which he made while making the creature, he makes a decision which he feels is best for humanity (Arthur, 61-82). At this point, it may argue that his flaws gave him a sense of existence and what he needed to do in saving humanity. He decided to hatch a plan with the creature at Mont Blanc where the situation would be rectified. The plan is on leaving with the monster to the Jungle where it will not pursue any human.

Even as Victor's plan exists, it is arguable that it was his flaw of not being loving and compassionate about what he created that led to deaths of the loved ones. The monster was not inherently evil but acquired the evil nature after being rejected by humans when it went to acquire compassion and kindness. It was also rejected by the creator, a situation which made it become a crude killer. In case, Victor had been friendly with the creation, his wife and brother would have never been killed. It is his flaw towards the creature that he finally fell. Lastly, we can argue that the commentary which the author is trying to make about the society is that knowledge and wisdom cannot be acquired out of ignorance of morals. The drawn was the first flaw of Victor. Knowledge can only be beneficial if morals accompany it. A society that disregards morality will eventually fall just like Victor Frankenstein. Further to that, the creation and subsequent rejection of the Monster also inform of how the society may take the lead in judging based on their superficial standards and in most cases those who are judged may not be able to overcome the judgments. It is because of Victor's creature not being able to take the rejection by a human being that it became a crude killer.


In summary, Mary Shelley's victor exists as a tragic hero whose flaws impacts the life he eventually lives. He started as a person who was thirsty for knowledge and wisdom and acquired a high stature which are the basic characters of heroes. His heroism got affected by his disregard for morality and the subsequent rejection of his creature which later led to his downfall. The author used his case in making a commentary about the society to realize the importance of morality to stand. It further stated how at times the society could be quick in offering judgments to people based on their superficial standard, a situation which may lead to consequential outcomes as noted in the analysis.


Arthur, Princess. " Making Love Not War: Female Power and the Emotional Labor of Peace in Code: Realize-the Guardian of Rebirth and." Digital Love. AK Peters/CRC Press, 2017. 61-82.

Fleming, Jenna E. " One Feeling in Such a Solitude": Representations of Love and Marriage in the Works of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelley." (2016).

Gale, Cengage Learning. A Study Guide for Christopher Marlowe's" Doctor Faustus (see also" Tragedy of...")." Gale, Cengage Learning, 2016.

Nair, Lakshmi R. "Playing God: Robin Cook's 'Mutations a Reworking of the Frankenstein Theme of the Creator Pitted against them." Writers-Editors Critics (WEC) Vol. 6, No. 2: September 2016-Tribute to Mahasweta Devi (2016): 77.

Shelley, Mary. "Aeschylus and Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, by Mary Shelley." Brill's Companion to the Reception of Aeschylus 11 (2017): 292.

Small, Cathleen. Frankenstein's Monster. Cavendish Square Publishing, 2016.

Wright, Jude. "Listening to the Monster: eliding and restoring the creature's voice in adaptations of Frankenstein." Journal of Adaptation in Film & Performance 8.3 (2015): 249-266.

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