Victor Von Frankenstein was born in Naples, Italy (according to the 1831 edition of the Shelley's novel), to his German-Swiss family. He was the son of Alphonse Frankenstein and Caroline Beaufort, who died of scarlet fever when Victor was 17. He describes his ancestry thus: "I am by birth a Genevese; and my family is one of the most distinguished of that republic. My ancestors had been for many years counsellors and syndics; and my father had filled several public situations with honour and reputation." Frankenstein has two younger brothers—William, the youngest, and Ernest, the middle child. Frankenstein falls in love with Elizabeth Lavenza, who became his adoptive sister (his blood cousin in the 1818 edition) and, eventually, his fiancée.
As a boy, Frankenstein is interested in the works of alchemists such as Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, and Albertus Magnus, and he longs to discover the fabled elixir of life. He loses interest in both these pursuits and in science as a whole after seeing the remains of a tree struck by lightning; however, at the University of Ingolstadt in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, Frankenstein develops a fondness for chemistry, and becomes obsessed with the idea of creating life in inanimate matter through artificial means, pursuing this goal for two years.
Assembling a humanoid creature through ambiguous means, Frankenstein successfully brings it to life, but he is horrified by the creature's ugliness. He flees from his creation, who disappears and, after several negative encounters with the locals, swears revenge on his creator. When William is found murdered, Frankenstein knows instantly that his creation is the killer, but says nothing. The Frankensteins' housekeeper, Justine, is blamed for the boy's death and executed; Frankenstein is wracked with guilt, but does not come forward with the truth because he thinks no one will believe his story, and he is afraid of the reactions such a story would provoke.
The creature approaches Frankenstein and begs him to create a female companion for him. Frankenstein agrees, but ultimately destroys this creation, aghast at the idea of a race of monsters. Enraged, the creature swears revenge; he kills Henry Clerval, Frankenstein's best friend, and promises Frankenstein, "You have denied me my wedding night - I will be with you on yours!" The creature keeps his promise by strangling Elizabeth on her matrimonial bed. That same night, Frankenstein's father dies of grief. With nothing else left to live for, Frankenstein dedicates his life to destroying the creature.
Frankenstein pursues the "fiend" or "Demon" (as he calls his creation) to the Arctic, intending to destroy it. He ultimately fails in his mission, as he falls through an ice floe and contracts severe pneumonia. Although he is rescued by a ship attempting an expedition to the North Pole, he dies after relating his tale to the ship's captain, Robert Walton. His creature, upon discovering the death of his creator, is overcome by sorrow and vows to commit suicide by burning himself alive in "the Northernmost extremity of the globe"; he then disappears, never to be seen or heard from again.
Public Domain Appearances
Public Domain Literary Appearances
- Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818)
Public Domain Film Appearances
- Frankenstein (1910)
- Tales of Tomorrow: Frankenstein (1952)
- Universal Pictures renamed the character "Henry Frankenstein" for their 1931 film.