Was Victor Frankenstein Gay?

We may never know.

Mich, writer

Victor Frankenstein is one of the first famous gay protagonist in modern literature. Victor created the creature because he wanted to get rid of his homoerotic desires. Did the creature help subdue Frankenstein’s homo erotic desires? This essay will prove that Frankenstein was extremely homosexual and was forced into loving his sister, Elizabeth. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Shelley uses metaphors, similes, and imagery to show the readers that Victor Frankenstein is gay and has a lot of internal homophobia to deal with. The society that Mary Shelley grew up and lived in impacted the topics she wrote about and the way she felt around certain subjects. Some ways that Shelley made Victor Frankenstein appear as homosexual to the reader were his relationship with Henry, his unwillingness to give the creature a chance, by giving him a real name besides “monster”, and his compulsory heterosexual feelings towards his wife/cousin/adopted sister, that were not very passionate or legitimate at all.

Frankenstein was written in 1817 by Mary Shelley. She was inspired to write this story because of a competition between her husband, Percy Shelley, her bisexual friend, Lord Byron, and herself. They wanted to see who could write the best ghost story. While maybe Mary did not write the best ghost story, she wrote the most impactful one. Frankenstein has been translated into at least 30 languages and sells around 30,000 books a year in the U.S. alone. Countless movies have been made, including the most gay musical/movie ever, “Rocky Horror”, and most play on the gay themes in the novel. Some movies choose add another character, Igor, which sometimes comes out to be a little homoerotic on film.

While Mary was working on her “ghost story”, lots of death was surrounding her. She lost three children, her half sister committed suicide, and her husband’s ex-wife committed suicide as well. At the same time as her family deaths happened, gay men were being hung left and right for their homosexual desires and acting on their desires. This may have impacted her because a close friend of hers, Lord Byron, did have sexual liaisons with men. A wave was spreading across Europe, a wave that meant death and punishment to a lot of feminine men and masculine women. As Dr. Morris said, “Where homosexual activity or deviance from established gender roles/dress was banned by law… such condemnation might be communicated through sensational public trials, exile, medical warnings and language…” . Great Britain was the worst of most countries, partly because it had a lot of territory and also because Great Britain was very religious and prudish. Great Britain punished homosexuals with capital punishment, while other surrounding coutries punished homosexuals by labor camps, or long prison sentences, not capital punishment.

Henry and Victor have a very close relationship throughout the book. They were friends as kids and as they got older they became closer. Henry ended up taking care of Frankenstein after Frankenstein freaked out due to the mental breakdown he experienced. Frankenstein was torn by Henry’s death, more so than Elizabeth’s.  Although in Frankenstein, Victor reacts to both deaths very seriously and is distraught by both “lifeless” bodies. After Victor realizes that his best friend, and lover, was dead he goes into shock and needs to be nursed back to health for months. “When I saw the lifeless form of Henry Clerval stretched before me. I gasped for breath; and, throwing myself on the body, I exclaimed, ‘Have my murderous machinations deprived you also, my dearest Henry, of life? Two I have already destroyed… but you, Clerval, my friend, my benefactor–’… The human frame could no longer support the agonies I endured…”.  Elizabeth had been very obviously threatened by the creature, when he said that he’d “be with” him on his wedding night. Victor took this as the creature would attempt to take his life, but it was about Elizabeth. Frankenstein went ahead with his wedding, not thinking of the consequences. When Elizabeth was found dead, Victor collapses, awakens, and sought his monster out. Frankenstein skips the first step of the “5 Stages of Grief” and immediately goes to anger, which he soons passes. As he spends years hunting down his monster, Frankenstein passes the rest of the steps, pretty quickly. He just feels guilty for all of the murders he caused, even though he should have felt more guilt because of his arranged marriage to his adopted sister, Elizabeth, from birth.

Elizabeth, Frankenstein’s adopted sister, and Frankenstein were setup to marry since they were very young. This put more pressure on Victor than that was stated in the book. These kids grew up knowing that they would be married, not letting them have relationships with other people, let alone other genders. This made Frankenstein repress his homoerotic desires, as he could not experiment with other men and “get it out of his system”. Compulsory heteronormativity played a big part in Victor’s life, as he was set to marry his adopted sister very early on. He did not, however, write to Elizabeth, while he was having a mental breakdown, while he was in prison, and even when she specifically asked him to write while he went on his journey to Scotland. When Frankenstein’s creature said he’d be with Victor on his wife, Victor immediately thought of himself and not his fianceé. If he truly loved Elizabeth, wouldn’t her safety be the first on his mind? Would Victor not cancel the wedding for her safety? Alas, that was not the case. Victor went ahead with the wedding and continued with the honeymoon. While he was looking around his hostel, for the creature and his own safety, that is when the creature attacked. Victor had left the “tender and sincere love” of his life alone on the most dangerous night of both of their lives. He forgot about his wife and moved on to his monster.

Frankenstein called his creature a “monster” from the very beginning of the book, even though the creature had done no wrong. He had spent two years on creating his creature, and once he finally brought this creature back to life, he called it a monster. Victor Frankenstein was a hypocrite, as he was the one who created the creature. The creature just came alive, as he was created by Victor. This could be related because gay men were just born, created from their parents. Homosexuals were frequently referred to “monsters” because of their devilish choices.  They did not do anything monstrous to be called “monsters”. This can be related to Victor himself being gay because he relates to the creature. He felt alienated and as if he too had been shocked back to life. He did not fit in with the status quo of people just like his creature. Victor projected his feelings about himself onto the creature. The creature was not natural, just like himself.

This can all be argued, of course. Readers have a tendency to project how they feel on to literary pieces, and sometimes the author doesn’t mean for it to come across this way. With people coming out more and more each year, people are reading more into historical books to try and find themselves in “serious” literature. Each book is taken into a different account with each person who reads it, so it is completely up to the reader to decide who Victor loved and what his sexual orientation was.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley has become a gay anthem in recent years. With more and more movies being produced showing the obvious homosexual tendencies this book is becoming a popular gay novel. With Henry and Victor’s relationship showing through on their long voyage together, and how Henry took care of Victor after his breakdown, Mary relates to a lot of gay people. Victor marries into cumpolsory hetersexual tendencey, to his sister Elizabeth, which a lot of homosexual men had to do in the 1800’s. Victor Frankenstein created a new human, to hopefully have a man fully disgust him, so he can leave behind is homoerotic desires. Victor then spends the rest of the novel chasing down his “mistake”, fully hating himself by the end of the novel. His dying wish it to kill the “monster”, to kill his homo-erotic tendencies. Frankenstein is the ultimate gay novel.