Themes and message

Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein contains a number of themes, which are all related to the novel’s message. We outline some of them here and also explaine the title.  


The full title of Mary Shelley’s novel is Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus. Many people mistakenly believe that the name Frankenstein refers to the monster. However, it is actually the name of the scientist who makes the creature, Victor Frankenstein. 

The fact that the name is often applied to the creature hints at the similarities between the two characters. It also underlines how we can’t really tell which is the protagonist and which the antagonist.

The second part of the title, The Modern Prometheus, refers to an Ancient Greek myth. Prometheus creates human beings from clay, and then steals fire from the gods to make humans more godlike. He is punished by the gods and condemned to eternal torture. 

The parallels with the story in Frankenstein are clear – both Frankenstein and Prometheus misguidedly believe that they can play God. When their plans go wrong, both are punished. 

The ethics of science

Frankenstein features a scientific experiment with catastrophic consequences. Therefore, the ethical responsibility of science is a key theme. The novel was written at a time when scientific discovery was booming, making many question the relationship between religion and science: If man now had the ability to play God and create life, what sort of ethical responsibility came with th...

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