The most prevalent theme in Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” is that of obsession. Throughout the novel there are constant reminders of the struggles that Victor Frankenstein and his monster have endured. Many of their problems are brought upon by themselves by an obsessive drive for knowledge, secrecy, fear, and ultimately revenge.
From the onset of Victor’s youth, his earliest memories are those of “Curiosity, earnest research to learn the hidden laws of nature, gladness akin to rapture, as they were unfolded to me, are among the earliest sensations I can remember” (ch. 4) This is the first example of obsession that we see in the novel. This drive to learn the ‘hidden’ laws of nature is the original driving force that sets the plot in motion. Without this, Victor would have never embarked on his unholy quest to overcome mortality, thus leading to his creation of his monster.
“Dr. Victor Frankenstein feels uncontrollably compelled to create animation in the lifeless body” (Storment) this obsession with the creation of life alienated him from his loved ones. His impending marriage to Elizabeth was one aspect of his life that he sacrificed. In chapter 22, Elizabeth writes to him “Tell me, dearest Victor. Answer me, I conjure you by our mutual happiness, with simple truth-- Do you not love another?” Elizabeth’s concern
about his faithfulness is based on his neglect of their relationship. He simply did not allow any other aspect of his life to impede his goal.
Victor Frankenstein is ultimately successful in his endeavor to create life. This, however, does not stop the underlying theme of obsession. Shelley’s shift from Victor’s never-ending quest for knowledge is replaced with an obsession of secrecy. “I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body. For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation, but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart” (ch. 5) Sickened by the sight of his creation, Victor attempts to sever all ties to his monster and denies its very existence. He wishes to destroy it to maintain his secret.
This obsessive desire to maintain secrecy takes over as Victor’s life starts to crumble around him. The murder of his brother William by the monster and the subsequent blaming of gentle Justine are directly attributed to his refusal to disclose his actions at Ingolstadt. During Justine’s trial Victor laments “It was to be decided whether the result of my curiosity and lawless devices would cause the death of two of my fellow beings: one a smiling babe full of innocence and joy, the other far more dreadfully murdered, with every aggravation of infamy that could make the murder memorable in horror” (ch. 8) Even when facing the death of an innocent such as Justine, Victor remains silent.
Shackled with guilt, Victor and his remaining...