Story Symbols and Themes

Symbols in the story are characters, figures, objects, colors, or other items that can be used to represent concepts and ideas on an abstract level.

Fire and Light - Fire and light are symbols that are tied together in Frankenstein. Walton has both optimism regarding and faith in the idea of science, and sees science as a light that shines in the darkness. Light is also used throughout the novel as a symbol of discovery, enlightenment, and knowledge. In the natural world there are hidden passages and dark secrets. There are also many unknown mechanisms that make things work. If a scientist is able to bring those things out of the darkness and into the light he can help others better understand them. Fire is related to light, and the monster tells of how he discovered that fire could make light and warmth but also that it could burn him. Many people do not realize that the full title of the work is Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus. Prometheus was the Greek god who showed humanity how to make fire and what it was for, and then had to be punished for doing so. Victor is the "modern Prometheus" in this work, but the "gift" he provides to humanity is something that remains secret.

There are several themes seen in the novel. Themes are generally universal ideas that are both fundamental to and explored in a work of literature.

The Danger of Knowledge

Pursuing knowledge is really at the heart of what the novel is about. Victor wants to get past the limits that are normally placed on human beings and discover the true secret to life. Walton, similarly, wants to go beyond the explorations that have already been conducted by others so that he can reach the North Pole and be the first person to do so. Pursuing knowledge in a ruthless way leads to danger for both of them. Victor creates something that destroys everyone who matters to him, and Walton ends up trapped between ice sheets and uncertain of his fate. From that point, though, they differ. In Victor's case he is...

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