Pierre et Jean


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Guy de Maupassant

Symbols in the story are characters, figures, objects, colors, or other items that can be used to represent concepts and ideas on an abstract level.

Fire and Light – Fire and light are symbols that are tied together in Frankenstein. Walton has both optimism regarding and faith in the idea of science, and sees science as a light that shines in the darkness. Light is also used throughout the novel as a symbol of discovery, enlightenment, and knowledge. In the natural world there are hidden passages and dark secrets. There are also many unknown mechanisms that make things work. If a scientist is able to bring those things out of the darkness and into the light he can help others better understand them. Fire is related to light, and the monster tells of how he discovered that fire could make light and warmth but also that it could burn him. Many people do not realize that the full title of the work is Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus. Prometheus was the Greek god who showed humanity how to make fire and what it was for, and then had to be punished for doing so. Victor is the "modern Prometheus" in this work, but the "gift" he provides to humanity is something that remains secret.

There are several themes seen in the novel. Themes are generally universal ideas that are both fundamental to and explored in a work of literature.

The Danger of Knowledge

Pursuing knowledge is really at the heart of what the novel is about. Victor wants to get past the limits that are normally placed on human beings and discover the true secret to life. Walton, similarly, wants to go beyond the explorations that have already been conducted by others so that he can reach the North Pole and be the first person to do so. Pursuing knowledge in a ruthless way leads to danger for both of them. Victor creates something that destroys everyone who matters to him, and Walton ends up trapped between ice sheets and uncertain of his fate. From that point, though, they differ. In Victor's case he is so obsessed with hating the monster that it leads him to his death from exhaustion. Walton decides that he must pull away from the mission on which he set out because there is too much risk. Victor becomes an example of what can go wrong.


This theme is one that is seen throughout the novel, and does not focus on just the monster itself. The monster is the main symbol of this theme, however. Being terribly ugly and more than eight feet in height, the monster is rejected by everyone throughout society. It is not just the way he looks that makes him monstrous, though. It is also seen in the unnatural way in which he was created. It involves stolen body parts, strange chemicals, and a secretive animation technique that only Victor knows. He is created not from the efforts of a true scientist but from something far more sinister, dark, and supernatural in origin. This makes him monstrous, even if he does not feel as deserves that label. While he is the most literal monstrosity in the novel, he is far from the only one. There is also the knowledge used to create the creature, and how Victor himself becomes a kind of monster because the secrecy and selfishness he holds onto make him nearly an outcast and harm those he professes to love.

The Sublime World of Nature

During the time in which the novel was written, many people saw nature as sublime. It provided a source for deeply emotional experiences and allowed the individual to have a renewal that was spiritual in essence. When Victor feels as though he is responsible for the deaths of Justine and William, and he is deep in a remorseful state, he goes up to the mountains to see if that will help lift his spirits. Being close to nature is significant for many people who want to feel better, lower their levels of depression, or feel less anxious. In comparison to Victor, the monster also feels "lighter" when spring comes around and he does not have to spend any more time abandoned and cold in the grip of winter. Unfortunately, the benefits Victor gets from nature become less helpful and evident to him as he comes to the realization that the monster is always going to follow him wherever he goes. As he reaches the end of the book, nature is nothing more than a backdrop to his pursuit of the monster.


Victor is a very secretive person. He is entranced by the mysteries that science has to offer and he wants to discover the answer to those mysteries and then keep that knowledge for himself. He sees Krempe as one of the model scientists of his time because the man is deeply committed to science and its secrets, even though he is tactless and uncouth. Victor is completely committed to the idea of creating life, and he has become obsessed with the very idea of it. He also becomes obsessed with the destruction of the monster and holds that as a secret until he decides to tell his tale to Walton. Victor's secrecy comes from the guilt and shame that he feels because of what he has done. Contrasting that is the secrecy of the monster, which does not have a choice in his own isolation and seclusion. His appearance forces him to stay hidden. They both confess their sins to Walton and are immortalized in the letters he writes to his dear sister in England.

For Victor, the secrecy has ruined his life and he is able to escape it just before he dies. Telling Walton the tale of the monster has freed him to a certain extent and allowed him to form a bond with Walton through his confession. The monster is hoping to connect with another human, and tells his tale to Walton, as well. He desperately wants someone who will empathize with the misery that has been his existence. If no one is able to understand he will never have any kind of peace. Once he cries for his dead creator and talks to Walton about all he has been through, he is ready to let go of his life. He has never known real joy, and there is nothing left for him because the only person with whom he had any type of bond at all (his creator) is already gone.

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