Unpacking Victor Frankenstein’s character traits

5th May 2021

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Unpacking Victor Frankenstein's character traits

Victor Frankenstein is Mary Shelley’s protagonist (not to be confused with the monster) in her novel, Frankenstein. There are many layers to his characterisation, and it is important that you can unpick them for your English Literature exam.

To make your life easier, we’ve explained his main character traits for you below. Be sure to add our analysis to your Frankenstein GCSE revision notes.

And if you’re keen to learn more, we’ve got lots more Frankenstein resources including: 

  • A complete Frankenstein course that you can access with a free trial.

The many character traits of Frankenstein*

*Psst! Prefer learning about them in a video? Watch our YouTube lesson on Victor Frankenstein’s character traits

victor frankenstein ambitious character trait

Ambition

Ambition is a prominent character trait of Frankenstein throughout the story. At the beginning of the novel, the reader is introduced to a young, driven scientist with a desire to discover new things. Whilst this is very typical of a scientist in the 19th century, we are soon exposed to Victor’s obsessive nature.

Frankenstein’s innocent ambition quickly deteriorates as his craving for knowledge takes over. This is foreshadowed when he states that “it was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn”. It is clear that Victor seeks knowledge that no other individual has yet discovered. We could also perceive that he desires to be god-like. What could Shelley be critiquing here?

Whilst attending university, Victor hides his obsessive desire but continues to let it grow. His ambition takes him on a quest to create life, resulting in the creation of the monster.

victor frankenstein selfish character trait

Selfishness

Frankenstein succeeds in creating life, but at what cost? He lets his ambition consume him and disregards his health, happiness, and even his family. Additionally, only moments after the monster is created, he abandons it without taking responsibility for his actions.

After the death of family members and friends, Victor refuses to believe that anyone else has suffered a worse fate than he has. It could be argued that Shelley crafts Frankenstein to be egocentric to display the dangerous consequences of over-ambition.

victor frankenstein arrogant character trait

Arrogance

Victor Frankenstein’s character traits also heavily revolve around his arrogance. He convinces himself that his scientific knowledge and ambition make him invincible. Again, we see that Victor desires to be godlike when he expects the monster to worship him as his creator.

But of course, the creature turns against him, creating destruction and chaos, which Victor does not take responsibility for.

With the clash between science and religion becoming a prevalent topic in the 19th Century, Shelley could be commenting on the dangers of science. Remember, AO3 is needed in your Frankenstein GCSE essay, so always back up your points with context when relevant. You can learn more about the plot and context of Frankenstein in our course

The idea of the doppelganger

In literature, a doppelganger is typically the ‘double’ of the protagonist. It is a staple feature in gothic novels to use the concept of the double. So is the creature Frankenstein’s doppelganger in the novel?

Frankenstein and the monster share many similarities, from their desire to acquire knowledge to their isolation from society. But why did Shelley portray them as doubles? Shelley explores the idea that there is a certain level of innate evil within us all.

Victor Frankenstein worksheet
 Download our Worksheet to solidify your knowledge of his character traits 

Is Frankenstein a tragic hero?

A tragic hero is the protagonist in a novel, who displays heroic traits in order for the reader to feel sympathy for them. However, this character also has a fatal flaw. They realise this in the end, but sadly too late as it has already caused their downfall. If you have read Romeo and Juliet, you might know that Romeo is a tragic hero.

Victor shows signs of being a tragic hero. He is heroic when he decides to follow the monster to prevent it from causing further chaos. We can also argue that his fatal flaw is his obsessive ambition, as this is ultimately what causes his downfall. But do you think Frankenstein acknowledges this in the end?

It can be argued both ways, but it is up to you to decide on your stance. Remember, there is no right or wrong in English Literature, as long as you can back up your answers.

To learn more about the character of Victor Frankenstein and the monster, have a listen to our podcast.

Revise Frankenstein with Your Favourite Teacher

Did you find this blog useful? We cover all the topics you need to ace your Frankenstein essay, including setting, plot and context and key themes, in our Frankenstein course. 

Created by real teachers, our Frankenstein course includes 8 lessons that cover:

  • Plot and Context

  • Setting

  • The Monster

  • Victor Frankenstein

  • Science

  • Family

  • Knowledge and Ambition

  • Society and Isolation

And the best part of it all is that you can access it for free with a free trial of Your Favourite Teacher.