Dr. Victor Frankenstein
Frankenstein is the protagonist of the novel. It is with Frankenstein that the initial conflict begins: the creation of the monster. Through Victor, Shelley explores the role of man playing God and the ability to give life, which also leads to the question: who has the right to take life? Throughout the novel Frankenstein is an emotionally driven character, pursuing desires with a fiery passion, first being the acquisition of knowledge and the creation of the monster and then the destruction of the creature. Often, Frankenstein becomes enraptured in romantic thoughts maintaining a "woe-is-me" attitude. Therefore, he is often categorized as a Byronic hero.
The first time we see Frankenstein is when he is received onto Walton's ship. From their we travel back in time in Victor's recounting of his life. The tale comes full circle, ending with the presently old Frankenstein.
The monster may be seen as the antagonist of the novel. Although he is Frankenstein's sworn enemy, he also acts as Victor's double, mirroring many of his creator's attributes, emotions, desires, and circumstances. The novel displays a steady growth of the monster from "birth" to his final repose. He begins as an innocent child, curious and hungry for knowledge. After being abandoned by Victor, he finds sanctuary in a shack on the property of the De Lacey family where he learns about life by monitoring their daily life as well as reading classic literature, such as Milton, and the Bible. Like Frankenstein, the creature is easily swayed to act upon his emotions. His rage towards Frankenstein emerges exponentially with the murders of Victor's family and friends. The misery of the monster is finally abated with the taking of his own life.
The creature is first seen in the novel by Walton, riding his sledge across the frozen tundra. We then hear of the creature from Frankenstein's story, and then from the creature's own mouth. The story ends with Walton's final meeting with the creature.
Walton is the first character introduced in the novel. He encounters the disheveled, distressed, and nearly frozen Victor Frankenstein on his expedition, thereby coming upon this tale of woe. Though the story is entirely recounted by Walton, his voice is only heard through his letters to his sister, Margaret Saville. Walton is obsessed with companionship, which is satisfied through his friendship with Victor. His initial loneliness echoes the creature's own desolation and desire for fellowship. The novel is also framed around Walton, beginning and ending with his experiences.
Margaret is Robert Walton's sister. Her role in the novel is minor (that of a silent listener) and she never makes a physical appearance. Margaret is the first female character to appear in the novel. She is the correspondent of Walton's letters while he travels to the North Pole in search of new scientific knowledge. Walton describes Margaret as being "tutored and refined by books... [and] somewhat fastidious" (Shelley 29), other than that the reader never truly finds out anything else about her. Margaret can be considered the most passive female character in the novel given the fact that she is never granted a voice or an opinion when regarding Walton's writings.
Elizabeth is Victor Frankenstein's love interest, and therefore, can be regarded as the most significant female character in the novel. She embodies the motif of a passive woman and spends the majority of the story waiting patiently for Victor's return, hoping that he will marry her. Elizabeth is an orphan, whose German mother died after giving birth to her, so she was placed under the care of good-hearted peasants (Shelley 35). As a child she is described as being "a child fairer than pictured cherub - a creature who seemed to shed radiance from her looks, and whose form and motions were lighter than the chamois of the hills," (Shelley 35). Elizabeth was adopted by Victor's mother, who presented her as a gift to him (Shelley 35). Elizabeth is described as having a "calmer and more concentrated disposition," (Shelley 36) and is often mentioned as being calming to others as well: "[Elizabeth] strove to act the comforter to us all" (Shelley 44).
Elizabeth eventually does marry Victor, but her life with him is cut short after Frankenstein's monster kills her as an act of revenge towards Victor. "She was there, lifeless and inanimate, thrown across the bed, her head hanging down, and her pale and distorted features half covered by her hair," (Shelley 195).
Henry is Victor Frankenstein's boyhood friend, his nature is described earnestly by Victor in chapter 2, "He was a boy of singular talent and fancy. He loved enterprise, hardship, and even danger, for its own sake. He was deeply read in books of chivalry and romance," (37). When Victor leaves for school, Henry is dismayed that he will have to work for his father since he too has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. The book describes how Henry's father "...was a narrowed minded trader and saw idleness and ruin in the aspirations and ambition of his son," (Shelley 44). However, later in the novel we find out that Henry has left his father's business and pursued science like Victor in Ingolstadt. Henry finds Victor in a dispairing condition while at Ingolstadt and nurses him back to health since Victor has just created the monster and is appalled by his creation. He comes to Victor's aid in Ingolstadt and is eventually killed by the Monster. It is this scene we get an idea of the importance of Henry and Victor's relationship. At the sight of Henry's body Victor is unable to contain himself emotionally and throws himself on the body and soon collapses.
Alphonse is Victor Frankenstein's father. Alphonse is described in depth in Chapter 1 of the novel as a man of integrity and that "He was respected by all who knew him," (Shelley 31). Victor finds it important to relate the history of his father and how his works reflected his true nature of charity towards others; mainly being the fact that he took in the orphan Elizabeth who is Victor's adopted sister and later becomes his wife. Victor often relates how wonderful both his parents were and that "No human being could have passed a happier childhood than myself," (37). Thus, the nature of Alphonse creates a strong foundation of family for Victor and this commitment to family when he seeks revenge for the murder of his brother and is completely destroyed by the murder of Elizabeth. However, Alphonse is different from his son in the fact he is described as "not scientific" (Shelley 40) and does not share his son's longing to know "the secrets of heaven and earth" (37). This upbringing creates a thirst for knowledge early on in Victor, however Alphonse remains loyal and sympathetic to his son throughout the novel.
William is the youngest of the Frankensteins and adored by his family. In a letter to Victor, his cousin Elizabeth references William by saying, “I wish you could see him; he is very tall for his age, with sweet laughing blue eyes, dark eyelashes, and curling hair. When he smiles, two little dimples appear on each cheek, which are rosy with health. He has already had one or two little wives, but Louisa Biron is his favourite, a pretty little girl of five years of age” (Shelley 66).
William is the first of the monster’s victims. Upon seeing him, the monster thinks that the young boy will be unprejudiced and therefore he can teach him to accept him despite his appearance, but when William shows his disgust and his identity as a Frankenstein. The monster strangles him both out of rage and revenge to Victor. Blame for his murder is placed unjustly on the family friend, Justine Morwitz.
Justine is a servant to the Frankenstein Family and a close friend to Elizabeth. Justine was accused of the murder of William Frankenstein and was convicted and then executed for crime in which she did not commit.
The daughter of Beaufort. After her father’s death, Caroline is taken in by, and later marries, Alphonse Frankenstein. She dies of scarlet fever, which she contracts from Elizabeth, just before Victor leaves for Ingolstadt at age seventeen.
A merchant and friend of Victor’s father; the father of Caroline Beaufort.
De Lacey Family (Mr. De Lacey, Felix, Agatha and Safie)
The monster observes the De Lacey family. It is in their shack that he hides, learning how to speak and read. He longs to become a part of their family, but when he approaches them he is rejected due his grotesque appearance.
M. Kempe is the professor of natural philosophy at Ingolstadt. He is described as a "little squat man, with a gruff voice and a repulsive countenance," (Shelley 46). It is Kempe that criticizes Frankenstein's studying of alchemists and their metaphysical science. Although Kempe seems to be a voice of reason to contradict Victor's passions; Victor does not fall for it and continues his admiration of the metaphysical world and the grand visions he has in mind. Throughout Victor's studies at Ingolstadt, Kempe remains a negative voice in his ear, a voice Victor in turn refuses to listen to.
Waldman is another professor at Ingolsadt and specializes in Chemistry. He is described as a man of about fifty with a sweet voice and mild manners (Shelley 48). He like his colleague, Kempe, question Frankenstein's previous study of ancient science, but unlike Kempe does not harshly renounce such philosophers. It is Waldman that encourages Frankenstein to study all of the natural sciences and takes Victor under his wing to show him various machines and the workings of his laboratory. Waldman works to inspire Victor and seems to speak his language as he describes the purpose of ancient and modern scientists during a lecture, "They penetrate into the recesses of nature, and show how she works in her hiding places," (47). The character of Waldman has a fleeting but crucial relationship with Victor as he encourages Victor's progress in school and inspires his efforts. An important moment in the novel is a reflection on the day Victor meets Waldman, "Thus ended a day memorable to me: it decided my future destiny," (49).
The magistrate who accuses Victor of Henry’s murder.