Binary Oppositions in Frankenstein College

A binary opposition refers to a pair of related non-physical elements that are opposite in meaning; it is an important concept of Structuralism which defines the contrast between two mutually exclusive terms. Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein is rich in these contrasts and none are more relevant and remarkable as the oppositions allegorised in the relationship between Victor and his creature. These can be separated into seven binaries which interlink, blend, blur and mutate to deconstruct the text; creator and created, civilized and savage, inclusion and rejection, love and hate, life and death, good and evil, and freewill and determinism. Between each of these there exists a boundary, a human-applied liminal threshold which divides the two and creates the opportunity for the swapping, shifting and breaking down between the two characters to procure only misery and suffering as Victor dies and the creature disappears into ‘darkness and distance’ .

Binary oppositions in themselves are exceptionally problematic as the contrast between two mutually exclusive terms is difficult to define and separate. When we envisage two elements that are opposed in meaning or significance we often see only two entities that lie on opposite...

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