Frankenstein Literary Elements


science fiction; horror

Setting and Context

Early 19th century Europe

Narrator and Point of View

There are three levels of first-person limited narration, with each successive level embedded in the immediately prior level. The first level is R. Walton, writing to his sister; the second is Frankenstein, speaking to Walton; the third is the monster, speaking to Frankenstein.

Tone and Mood

Because the horrific events of the story are conveyed as retrospection, the tone oscillates between remorse/anger on the part of the narrator, and suspense on the part of the reader for not having total knowledge of the events that will unfold, in spite of the narrator foreshadowing them.

Protagonist and Antagonist

The major protagonist is Frankenstein, and the major antagonist is his monster.

Major Conflict

Most of the conflict in the story can be read as a struggle of will between Frankenstein and his monster. The monster wants Frankenstein to make him a mate, and Frankenstein believes that he must destroy the monster in order to end the monster's destructive rampage.


Chronologically, the climax actually happens at the beginning of the text, when Walton encounters Frankenstein pursuing the monster in the direction of the North Pole.


The novel as a whole is rife with foreshadowing because of the narrators' retrospective perspective and disposition toward regret.


The section of the book in which Frankenstein actually creates the monster is highly understated: very little time is spent on the explicit act of bringing the creature to life.


The story alludes to Genesis, Prometheus, and various other literary texts. See the guide's section on allegory and motifs for more details.


See the Imagery section of the guide.


One of the primary threads in the book is that the scientific progress purported by Frankenstein actually effects pain and destruction, and might ultimately be socially regressive. Such a notion of 'progress' is paradoxical.


The ontology of the novel as a composite of older literary sources parallels the ontology of the monster as a composite of older, dead body parts.

Metonymy and Synecdoche



Nature as a force is often personified in the text. An example of this is when Frankenstein travels through the countryside following the execution of Justine: "The abrupt sides of vast mountains were before me; the icy wall of the glacier overhung me; a few shattered pines were scattered around; and the solemn silence of this glorious presence-chamber of imperial Nature was broken only by the brawling waves, or the fall of some vast fragment, the thunder sound of the avalanche, or the cracking reverberated along the mountains of the accumulated ice, which, through the silent working of immutable laws, was ever and anon rent and torn, as if it had been but a plaything in their hands" (Volume I, Chapter 10).