Exploring What Does Darkness Symbolize in Frankenstein: A Deep Dive

Darkness has always been a symbol of fear and evil in numerous works of literature, movies, and myths. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is no exception. The concept of darkness is central to this novel and is responsible for creating a shadowy atmosphere that blends with the disturbing theme of human ambition leading to disastrous consequences. The darkness in this novel signifies a lot more than the absence of light. It embodies the unknown, the unnatural, and the terrifying.

Shelley uses darkness as a tool to create a gloomy and mysterious setting that reflects the fears and emotions of the characters. By setting the story mostly at night or in shapeless, unrecognizable places, Shelley accentuates the feeling of isolation, anxiety, and uncertainty of her characters. The creature, for instance, is portrayed as a being that thrives in the dark and lurks in the shadows. The darkness, in his case, is not only physical but symbolizes his internal struggle to find meaning and acceptance.

In this article, we will delve into the different connotations and meanings of darkness in Frankenstein. The novel depicts the dangers and the destructive outcomes of playing God and manipulating life. The darkness, in this context, represents the limits and the boundaries that humans shouldn’t dare to cross. From the blinding darkness of ambition to the penetrating darkness of despair, Shelley captures the essence of the human condition and illuminates the tragic consequences that can arise when one steps too far into the unknown.

Depiction of Darkness in Frankenstein

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a gothic novel that explores the darker aspects of humanity. Darkness is a recurring theme that represents the unknown, fear, and isolation. Shelley uses darkness to amplify the horror and suspense the characters experience throughout the novel.

  • The wilderness: The novel’s setting is often in the wilderness, which represents darkness. The characters feel frightened and lost in the vast, unknown landscape.
  • Ignorance: Victor Frankenstein is driven by his ignorance to create life from death. His ignorance is symbolized by the darkness shrouding his mind and actions.
  • The Creature’s isolation: The creature created by Frankenstein is abandoned and left to fend for himself in the darkness. His isolation symbolizes darkness in the form of loneliness and fear of the unknown.

Furthermore, Shelley incorporates darkness into the novel’s structure. The narrative is clouded with suspense and mystery, which is heightened by the absence of light. This sense of ambiguity builds tension and adds to the eerie atmosphere of the novel.

Symbol Meaning
The Arctic Symbolizes the unknown, isolation, and fear
Night Represents danger, confusion, and uncertainty
The Creature Symbolizes the darkness of the unknown and the fear it brings

In conclusion, darkness plays a significant role in Frankenstein, symbolizing fear, isolation, and the unknown. The incorporation of darkness in the novel’s structure amplifies the horror and uncertainty the characters face. Shelley effectively uses darkness to explore the dark side of human nature and the consequences of playing god.

The symbolism of darkness in Gothic literature

Darkness has always played a major role in Gothic literature, and Frankenstein is no exception. The use of darkness in art and literature has symbolized a variety of different things over the years, and Gothic literature is no different.

  • Death and Decay: Perhaps the most obvious symbolism of darkness in Gothic literature is its connection to death and decay. In Frankenstein, darkness is often used to set the mood for gruesome scenes of death and destruction.
  • Fear and Evil: Darkness can also symbolize fear and evil. In Gothic literature, darkness is often associated with supernatural or otherworldly beings, which typically represent evil forces. This is certainly the case in Frankenstein, where darkness is used to suggest the idea of something sinister lurking just beyond the characters’ reach.
  • Mystery and the Unknown: Finally, darkness can also represent the mysterious, unknown aspects of life. In Frankenstein, the darkness of the unknown is represented through the character of the monster, who creates fear and uncertainty among the other characters due to his unknown origins and abilities.

Overall, the use of darkness in Gothic literature has a variety of different meanings, and Frankenstein is a prime example of this literary device. Whether it represents death, evil, or the unknown, darkness plays a crucial role in setting the mood and tone for the story as a whole.

In conclusion, the use of darkness in Frankenstein symbolizes many things beyond just the fear and horror that it often represents. Gothic literature reflects both the darker aspects of life and the human condition, and the use of darkness in Frankenstein highlights the various ways in which this is achieved.


Source Link
Shmoop Editorial Team. (2008, November 11). Darkness in Literature. Shmoop. https://www.shmoop.com/study-guides/literature/darkness/analysis https://www.shmoop.com/study-guides/literature/darkness/analysis
Mellor, A. (1988). Possessing Nature: The Female in Frankenstein. New York: Routledge. https://www.routledge.com/Possessing-Nature-The-Female-in-Frankenstein-1st-Edition/Mellor/p/book/9780415904589

The psychological impact of darkness on characters in Frankenstein

The use of darkness in Frankenstein symbolizes a variety of emotional states that affect the characters in different ways. While darkness is mainly used to create an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty, it also serves to express emotional conflict and the struggle of the characters to come to terms with the consequences of their actions.

  • Isolation and despair
  • The fear of the unknown
  • The struggle for power

The darkness in Frankenstein highlights the isolation and despair felt by many of the characters. Victor Frankenstein, for example, becomes increasingly isolated as he becomes more obsessed with his work, shutting out his friends and family. The darkness he creates in his laboratory also mirrors his internal darkness, as he becomes consumed by his desire to bring life to his creation.

Similarly, the fear of the unknown is represented by the darkness lurking in the corners of Victor’s laboratory and the streets of Ingolstadt. The darkness creates a sense of claustrophobia and uncertainty, heightening the tension between the characters, and emphasizing their vulnerability to the unknown.

The struggle for power is another key theme in Frankenstein, and the darkness plays an important role in highlighting this struggle. The Monster’s power over Victor is strengthened by the darkness, as he lurks in the shadows, watching Victor’s every move. The darkness also symbolizes the powerlessness of the characters, as they struggle to come to terms with the consequences of their actions, and the power of fate over their lives.

Effect Character
Isolation and despair Victor Frankenstein
The fear of the unknown Robert Walton
The struggle for power The Monster

The darkness in Frankenstein serves not only to create a sense of fear and unease but also highlights the emotional and psychological conflicts of the characters. It allows the reader to understand the characters’ internal states and the tension between them, adding depth and complexity to the novel’s themes.

The Use of Darkness to Create a Sense of Fear and Suspense in the Novel

Darkness is a recurring symbol in Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” and it plays a critical role in creating a sense of fear and suspense throughout the novel. From the ominous shadows that haunt the icy, barren landscape of the Arctic to the flickering candlelight that casts eerie shadows across the walls of Victor Frankenstein’s laboratory, darkness is used to convey a pervasive sense of unease and uncertainty.

  • Creating a Sense of Mystery
  • One way in which darkness is used to create a sense of fear and suspense is by creating a shroud of mystery around the novel’s central characters and events. When the Monster first confronts Victor Frankenstein in Chapter 10, for example, it does so in complete darkness, shielding its face with its long hair and its eyes from sight. This darkness heightens the reader’s sense of suspense and terror, as they begin to wonder what the Monster looks like and what it might be capable of.

  • Emphasizing Themes of Isolation and Loneliness
  • Another way in which darkness is used to create a sense of fear and suspense is by emphasizing the novel’s themes of isolation and loneliness. Victor Frankenstein, for example, spends long hours alone in his laboratory, surrounded by darkness and the flickering flames of candles. This sense of isolation and solitude helps to underscore the dangerous consequences of his single-minded pursuit of knowledge and the terrible results of his isolation from human connection and companionship.

  • Symbolizing the Unknown and the Unseen
  • Perhaps most importantly, darkness is used in “Frankenstein” to symbolize the unknown and the unseen. At its core, the novel is a cautionary tale about the dangers of playing God and pushing the boundaries of science too far. By using darkness to symbolize the unknown and the unseen, Shelley reminds her readers that there are limits to what humans can know and control, and that some things are, perhaps, better left in the shadows.

The Role of Light in Creating Contrast

It’s also worth noting that the use of darkness in “Frankenstein” is often paired with the use of light to create contrast and further emphasize the novel’s themes of good and evil, life and death, and the dangers of knowledge. The flickering candlelight in Victor Frankenstein’s laboratory, for example, is often juxtaposed with the frozen darkness outside, creating a sense of warmth and humanity in contrast to the alien, inhuman landscape of the Arctic.


Symbol Meaning
Darkness Fear, mystery, isolation, the unknown and the unseen
Light Contrast, warmth, humanity

Overall, darkness is an essential symbol in Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” playing a critical role in creating a sense of fear and suspense throughout the novel. From the creation of mystery around the novel’s central characters to emphasizing its themes of isolation and loneliness, darkness serves to underscore the dangers of pushing the boundaries of knowledge and control and the terrible consequences of isolation from human connection and companionship.

The Comparison Between Darkness and Night in Frankenstein

Darkness and night are recurring motifs in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. They are used to symbolize various themes throughout the novel, including isolation, fear, and the unknown. While darkness and night may seem interchangeable, Shelley uses them in different ways to create a complex and layered narrative.

  • Darkness: Darkness is a pervasive symbol throughout the novel and often represents the unknown or the unexplored. For example, when the creature first awakens, he is in darkness, representing his lack of knowledge about the world and his place in it. The darkness also symbolizes the isolation that the creature feels, as he is physically and emotionally disconnected from the rest of society.
  • Night: In contrast, night represents a time of transition and change. It is a time when people are allowed to shed their social roles and connect on a deeper level. This is exemplified by Victor and Henry’s conversations during their nighttime walks, where they are free to talk openly and honestly with each other. Nighttime is also when the creature first interacts with the De Lacey family, as they cannot see his physical deformities in the darkness, allowing him to connect with them on a more human level.
  • The juxtaposition of darkness and night: Shelley often uses the contrast between darkness and night to highlight the tension between isolation and connection. For example, when the monster is rejected by society, he wanders through the night in search of companionship, yet is always met with darkness, representing his perpetual isolation. Similarly, when Victor is feeling lost and alone, he often seeks the solace of the night, where he can connect with his own thoughts and feelings away from the pressures of society.

Overall, the use of darkness and night in Frankenstein serves to enhance the complex themes within the novel. By exploring isolation, connection, fear, and the unknown, Shelley creates a narrative that explores the darker aspects of humanity and the consequences of playing with the unknown.

Symbol Meaning
Darkness The unknown, isolation
Night Transition, connection

Through the juxtaposition of these symbols, Shelley creates a rich and thought-provoking narrative that continues to captivate readers to this day.

The Contrasting Imagery of Light and Darkness in the Novel

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is known for its contrasting imagery of light and darkness. The use of these two opposing symbols is prevalent throughout the novel, and their contrast serves to convey important themes and ideas. Here are six ways in which light and darkness are used as contrasting imagery:

  • Creating Mood: Darkness in the novel is often associated with a sense of foreboding and danger. In contrast, light is used to create feelings of safety and comfort.
  • Portraying Character Traits: The characters in the novel are often associated with either light or darkness. For example, Victor Frankenstein is often depicted in moments of darkness, further emphasizing his dangerous and brooding personality.
  • Symbolizing Life and Death: The use of light and darkness can also be seen to symbolize life and death, respectively. As the novel progresses, darkness becomes more prevalent, paralleling the descent into death and decay.
  • Depicting Knowledge and Ignorance: Light is often associated with knowledge and understanding, while darkness represents ignorance and confusion. This is particularly evident in the way Victor’s obsessive pursuit of knowledge plunges him deeper into darkness and isolation.
  • Highlighting the Contrast Between Civilization and Nature: Light is often associated with civilization, with scenes often being set in well-lit and sterile environments. In contrast, darkness is used to symbolize the wildness and unpredictability of nature, which is often seen as frightening and dangerous in the novel.
  • Conveying the Theme of Isolation: Darkness is also a powerful symbol of isolation in the novel, emphasizing the loneliness and despair that many of the characters feel. In contrast, moments of light often bring characters together and provide moments of hope.

Overall, the use of light and darkness as contrasting imagery is a powerful tool used throughout Frankenstein to convey themes and ideas. By exploring the various ways in which these symbols are used, readers can gain a deeper understanding of the novel and its complex themes.

The significance of darkness in the creation scene of the monster

The creation of the monster is one of the most famous scenes in Frankenstein, and the use of darkness in this particular scene serves to add a layer of complexity to it. Here are 7 reasons why darkness plays an important role in the creation scene:

  • Emphasizes the secretive nature of the experiment: Victor Frankenstein chooses to conduct his experiment in the dead of night, possibly to avoid being discovered by anyone who might disapprove of his quest for scientific glory.
  • Creates an eerie and suspenseful atmosphere: The darkness contributes to the overall feeling of dread and apprehension that permeates the scene. The reader is left wondering what horrors might be revealed once the creature is brought to life.
  • Symbolizes the unknown and mysterious: The creation of life is one of the greatest mysteries of human existence, and the darkness adds to the sense of the unknown that surrounds the entire process.
  • Represents the forbidden: By creating a life form that goes against the natural order of things, Frankenstein is, in a sense, engaging in something that is forbidden. The darkness in the creation scene serves to underscore this notion of transgression.
  • Highlights the contrast between life and death: The darkness contrasts with the vivid image of life that is about to be created. This juxtaposition between light and dark serves to highlight the miracle of life and the dominion of death.
  • Creates a sense of intimacy between creator and creation: The darkness, in a way, blurs the boundaries between Frankenstein and the creature he creates. Once the monster is brought to life, it is almost as though the two are fused together in the darkness of the laboratory.
  • Reflects the theme of loss of innocence: The darkness in the creation scene is a reminder that the creature is being born into a world of pain, isolation, and despair. There is a sense of loss of innocence associated with the creation of the monster, and the darkness serves to underscore this theme.

All in all, the use of darkness in the creation scene of the monster in Frankenstein is a powerful and effective literary technique that serves to highlight the many complex themes and motifs of the novel.

The role of darkness in the setting of the novel

Frankenstein, written by Mary Shelley, is a gothic novel that explores various themes, including the role of darkness and its symbolism. The novel is set in the 18th century, with most of the actions taking place in Europe, specifically Geneva and Ingolstadt.

The use of darkness in the setting of the novel is prominent and gives an insight into the characters’ psyche and their lives.

  • Nature becomes a dark force: The novel starts with an eerie and ominous atmosphere, describing the setting of the ship, Walton’s expedition. The darkness foreshadows the tragedy and horror that will happen in the story. It is also seen when Frankenstein creates his monster in a dark room, representing the unnatural and dark aspect of tampering with life. Nature is also a terrifying and dark force in the book, shown through the dark clouds that often appear, as well as the barren landscapes in which the characters are often found.
  • Darkness marks the psychological state of the characters: Victor Frankenstein often turns to darkness to find solace and peace from his problems. The darkness is his mind and surroundings conjure is a representation of his depression and isolation. Similarly, the monster is often seen retreating into the darkness, implying his rejection and abandonment by society.
  • Darkness as a symbol of knowledge and enlightenment: In contrast to the above, darkness also represents enlightenment, especially to Frankenstein’s character. In the latter half of the novel, darkness becomes associated with enlightenment, as both Victor and the monster use it to study and learn for the betterment of their situation; Victor creating the monster and the monster learning to confront Victor for his transgressions. In this instance, darkness represents knowledge not found in traditional books or teachings, ones gained through experience and hardship.

The darkness used in Frankenstein creates an eerie and foreboding atmosphere, setting up expectations of the horror and tragedy to come. It also provides symbolism to the reader, allowing them to interpret its meanings and messages throughout the novel.

Symbolism Meaning
Dark clouds Foreboding and ominous atmosphere
Monster in the dark Symbolises the unnatural and horrific creation of Frankenstein
Night sky Symbolises the psychological state of characters, including fear, depression, and isolation.
Light in the dark Symbolises enlightenment and knowledge gained through personal experience

Overall, the use of darkness in Frankenstein is a critical aspect to the overall themes and messages of the story, symbolising everything from tragedy and horror to hope and enlightenment.

The metaphorical meaning of darkness as a representation of isolation and loneliness.

In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the use of darkness as a symbol of isolation and loneliness is prevalent throughout the novel. The dark and gloomy settings in the novel, such as the Arctic, suggest a sense of loneliness and isolation, both physically and emotionally.

Frankenstein’s monster is perhaps the most obvious example of isolation and loneliness in the novel. The monster was created in darkness, and when he was brought to life, he was immediately rejected by his creator. The monster’s physical appearance further emphasizes his loneliness and isolation, as he is starkly different from those around him. The monster’s inability to find companionship and acceptance leads him to commit violent acts, which only further cement his feelings of loneliness and isolation.

  • Darkness as a metaphor for emotional isolation: Throughout the novel, Frankenstein continually isolates himself emotionally from those around him, choosing instead to focus on his work and scientific experimentations. His obsession with creating life ultimately leads him down a dark path and further isolates him from society.
  • Physical darkness as a representation of disconnection: The darkness of the Arctic setting serves to isolate the characters from society and creates a sense of emptiness and disconnection from the world around them.
  • The monster’s physical appearance as a representation of loneliness: The monster’s physical deformities serve as a constant reminder of his isolation and inability to fit in with society. His physical appearance also makes it impossible for him to find acceptance or companionship, leading him to feel even more lonely and isolated.

Additionally, the use of language and imagery in the novel further enhances the metaphorical meaning of darkness as a symbol of isolation and loneliness. Frankenstein’s descriptions of the monster are filled with dark and ominous language, emphasizing his monstrous nature and further isolating him from humanity. The lack of light in the novel also serves to create a sense of hopelessness and despair, further emphasizing the characters’ feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Symbolism Description
Darkness A representation of emotional and physical isolation and loneliness.
The Arctic Setting Creats a sense of disconnection and emptiness.
The monster’s physical appearance A constant reminder of his isolation and inability to fit in with society.

In conclusion, darkness in Frankenstein symbolizes isolation and loneliness, both physically and emotionally. The use of language, imagery, and setting all serve to enhance the metaphorical meaning of darkness in the novel. The monster serves as the most obvious example of loneliness and isolation, but the theme is prevalent throughout the novel, emphasizing the destructive nature of isolation and the importance of companionship and acceptance.

The interpretation of darkness as a reflection of the characters’ emotions and inner turmoil.

Darkness is a recurring symbol in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, often used to represent the emotional and psychological states of the characters. Here are some interpretations of how darkness symbolizes the inner turmoil of the characters:

  • Victor Frankenstein: As the creator of the monster, Victor’s inner turmoil is represented by the darkness that surrounds him. He is often isolated from society and consumed by his guilt, which pushes him to the brink of madness. The darkness symbolizes his inner turmoil and the consequences of playing God.
  • The Monster: The monster is often depicted lurking in the darkness, which represents his isolation and rejection by society. He is constantly searching for acceptance and a sense of belonging, but his physical appearance prevents him from achieving this. The darkness symbolizes his inner turmoil and his struggle to find a place in the world.

In addition to the use of darkness as a symbol, Shelley also employs a number of other literary devices to convey the emotional and psychological states of the characters. These include:

  • Imagery: Shelley uses vivid and detailed imagery to create a sense of foreboding and darkness. For example, the thunderstorms that occur throughout the novel are often associated with moments of tension and conflict.
  • Tone: The tone of the novel is often melancholic and introspective, reflecting the emotional states of the characters. The use of first-person narration by both Victor and the monster further emphasizes their inner turmoil.
  • Syntax: Shelley’s use of complex and convoluted sentence structures reflects the chaotic and conflicted minds of the characters.

The psychological impact of darkness

Finally, it is worth considering the psychological impact of darkness on the human mind. Research has shown that prolonged exposure to darkness can lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems. In the context of Frankenstein, the use of darkness as a symbol serves to highlight the psychological damage inflicted on the characters by their experiences.

Effects of darkness on the human mind Examples in Frankenstein
Increase in stress and anxiety Victor’s descent into madness as a result of his guilt and isolation
Feelings of helplessness and despair The monster’s sense of rejection and isolation from society
Disturbed sleep patterns Victor’s frequent nightmares and disturbed sleep

The use of darkness as a symbol in Frankenstein is therefore not only a literary device, but also a reflection of the psychological and emotional states of the characters. It serves to highlight the inner turmoil that they experience as a result of their actions and their relationships with one another.

What Does Darkness Symbolize in Frankenstein FAQs

Q: What does darkness symbolize in Frankenstein?

A: Darkness in Frankenstein generally symbolizes the unknown, fear, and the underlying danger of the unknown.

Q: What role does darkness play in the novel, Frankenstein?

A: Darkness plays a significant role in juxtaposing the light and dark in the novel. It also serves to portray the fear and violence of the unknown.

Q: How does Mary Shelley use darkness in Frankenstein?

A: Shelley uses darkness to depict that which is unknown, whether it be the monster’s personality, the outcome of an event, or the relationship between characters.

Q: What does the darkness surrounding the monster symbolize?

A: The darkness surrounding the monster can symbolize the evil and violence associated with the unknown, and the fear of the villagers toward him.

Q: What does the darkness in Frankenstein foreshadow?

A: The darkness in the novel foreshadows the tragedy that is to come, the loss of innocence, and the violent encounter between the monster and his creator.

Q: How does the darkness of Frankenstein relate to themes of the novel?

A: Darkness in Frankenstein relates to themes of the unknown, fear, and the consequences of unchecked ambition and revenge.

Q: What can we learn from the symbolism of darkness in Frankenstein?

A: The symbolism of darkness teaches us that we cannot fear the unknown, but we must also be cautious and aware of the consequences of our actions.

Closing Thoughts

Thank you for reading about what darkness symbolizes in Frankenstein. As you can see, there are many different interpretations of darkness in the novel. Whether it be the fear of the unknown, the violence of the monster, or the impending tragedy, darkness serves to remind us of the dangers that surround us. Please visit us again soon for more articles on literature and symbolism.