Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is 200 years old, but the story is as fresh as a…reanimated corpse? Wait. Let me start over.
Through many adaptations, retellings, and reimaginings, and with the Mary Shelley biopic hitting theaters this month, the story of Victor Frankenstein and the monster he gives life remains one that is known throughout our culture, even outside of literary circles.
I went back to the text to see how relevant it is in its original form, and pulled these 40 quotes to show how truly great Frankenstein is. Please note: these Frankenstein quotes are pulled from the 1818 edition of the novel; Shelley edited it significantly for a new edition in 1831, which is the version that was most widely available until not too long ago. I chose to go back to the original (though edited by Percy Shelley) text for this project. These Frankenstein quotes are from Volume One of the book only; it was difficult not to copy out the entire text, as it is so beautifully written, so I chose instead to highlight the best quotes from the first third.
Frankenstein Quotes About Friendship
You may deem me romantic, dear sister, but I bitterly feel the want of a friend.
I never saw a more interesting creature: his eyes have generally an expression of wildness, and even madness; but there are moments when, if one performs an act of kindness towards him, or does him any the most trifling service, his whole countenance is lighted up, as it were, with a beam of benevolence and sweetness that I never saw equalled.
I once had a friend, the most noble of human creatures, and am entitled, therefore, to judge respecting friendship.
I, who had ever been surrounded by amiable companions, continually engaged in endeavouring to bestow mutual pleasure, I was now alone.
[…] I believed myself totally unfitted for the company of strangers.
Nothing could equal my delight on seeing Clervel […]. I grasped his hand, and in a moment forgot my horror and misfortune; I felt suddenly, and for the first time during may months, calm and serene joy.
Study had before secluded me from the intercourse of my fellow-creatures, and rendered me unsocial; but Clervel called forth the better feelings of my heart; he taught me again to love the aspect of nature, and the cheerful faces of children.
“How sweet is the affection of others to such a wretch as I am!”
“Farewell, sweet lady, dearest Elizabeth, my beloved and only friend; may heaven in its bounty bless and preserve you; may this be the last misfortune that you will ever suffer. Live, and be happy, and make others so.”
Frankenstein Quotes About Nature & Science
I try in vain to be persuaded that the pole is the seat of frost and desolation; it ever presents itself to my imagination as the region of beauty and delight.
What may not be expected in a country of eternal light?
How slowly the time passes here, encompassed as I am by frost and snow […]
Even broken in spirit as he is, no one can feel more deeply than he does the beauties of nature. The starry sky, the sea, and every sight afforded by these wonderful regions, seems still to have the power of elevating his soul from earth.
It may appear very strange, that a disciple of Albertus Magnus should arise in the eighteenth century; but our family was not scientifical, and I had not attended any of the lectures given at the schools of Geneva. My dreams were therefore undisturbed by reality; and I entered with the greatest diligence into the search of the philosopher’s stone and the elixir of life.
The natural phaenomena that take place every day before our eyes did not escape my examinations.
When I was about fifteen years old, […] we witnessed a most violent and terrible thunder-storm. […] I remained, while the storm lasted, watching its progress with curiosity and delight.
“Chemistry is that branch of natural philosophy in which the greatest improvements have been and may be made […]. A man would make but a very sorry chemist, if he attended to that department of human knowledge alone.”
The summer months passed while I was thus engaged, heart and soul, in one pursuit. It was the most beautiful season; never did the fields bestow a more plentiful harvest, or the vines yield a more luxuriant vintage: but my eyes were insensible to the charms of nature.
It was a divine spring; and the season contributed greatly to my convalescence.
I contemplated the lake: the waters were placid; all around was calm, and the snowy mountains, “the palaces of nature,” were not changed.
[…]vivid flashes of lightning dazzled my eyes, illuminating the lake, making it appear like a vast sheet of fire; then for an instant every thing seemed of a pitchy darkness, until the eye recovered itself from the preceding flash.
Frankenstein Quotes About Life & Death
I never saw a man in so wretched a condition.
“Alas! I regret that I am taken from you; and, happy and beloved as I have been, is it not hard to quit you all? But these are not thoughts befitting me; I will endeavor to resign myself cheerfully to death, and will indulge a hope of meeting you in another world.”
Yet from whom has not that rude hand rent away some dear connexion; and why should I describe a sorrow which all have felt, and must feel?
Whence, I often asked myself, did the principle of life proceed?
To examine the causes of life, we must first have recourse to death.
I do not ever remember to have trembled at a tale of superstition, or to have feared the apparition of a spirit. Darkness had no effect upon my fancy; and a churchyard was to me merely the receptacle of bodies deprived of life, which, from being the seat of beauty and strength, had become food for the worm.
After days and nights of incredible labour and fatigue, I succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life; nay, more, I became myself capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter.
It was on a dreary night of November, that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet.
Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world.
Who shall conceive the horrors of my secret toil, as I dabbled among the unhallowed damps of the grave, or tortured the living animal to animate the lifeless clay?
I collected bones from charnel houses; and disturbed, with profane fingers, the tremendous secrets of the human frame.
“His friends mourn and weep, but he is at rest: he does not now feel the murderer’s grasp; a sod covers his gently form, and he knows no pain. He can no longer be a fit subject for pity; the survivors are the greatest sufferers, and for them time is the only consolation.”
Frankenstein Quotes About Regret
Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.
Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room, and continued a long time traversing my bed-chamber, unable to compose my mind to sleep.
The form of the monster on whom I had bestowed existence was for ever before my eyes, and I raved incessantly concerning him.
Nothing in human shape could have destroyed that fair child. He was the murderer! I could not doubt it. The mere presence of the idea was an irresistible proof of the fact.
Alas! I had turned loose into the world a depraved wretch, whose delight was in carnage and misery; had he not murdered my brother?
A thousand times rather would I have confessed myself guilty of the crime ascribed to Justine; but I was absent when it was committed, and such a declaration would have been considered as the ravings of a madman, and would not have exculpated her who suffered through me.
The tortures of the accused did not equal mine; she was sustained by innocence, but the fangs of remorse tore my bosom, and would not forego their hold.
What are your favorite Frankenstein quotes?