Make your own free website on Tripod.com

Summary: Preface

Frankenstein opens with a preface, signed by Mary Shelley but commonly supposed to have been written by her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley. It states that the novel was begun during a summer vacation in the Swiss Alps, when unseasonably rainy weather and nights spent reading German ghost stories inspired the author and her literary companions to engage in a ghost story writing contest, of which this work is the only completed product.

 

 

CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES

The novel is framed with a series of letters. This means that it begins and ends with letters, not chapters. The chapters start after the fourth letter. After twenty-four chapters, the series of letters resumes.

LETTER 1

Summary

The novel begins with a series of letters from Robert Walton, who is writing from St. Petersburg to his sister, Margaret Saville, in England. He assures her that he is safe and is looking forward to his voyage which has been his dream for many years. He is delighted that his plans are working out well. He reminisces about how, as a child, he had neglected his education but was very fond of reading the histories of voyages. Unfortunately for him, his dying father had not allowed him to attempt a seafarer's life.

He then relates that the next thing he did was to try his hand at literature; he wrote poems for a year, but he failed at that endeavor. Luckily, he acquired some money and was able to pursue his former plans of becoming a sailor.

He has now been leading a seafarer's life for six years. Initially, he had to face a great deal of hardship. He recounts how he accompanied whalers on several expeditions to the North Sea, and survived the bitter cold, hunger, thirst and famine. However, he still managed to study mathematics, medicine and the physical sciences required of a sailor. He had also worked as an undermate with a Greenland whaler and had been offered a designation in the vessel.

He talks of traveling to Russia. He declares his plans to leave for Archangel in two week's time. He even plans to hire a ship out there for the purpose of whaling.

Notes

The novel begins with the epistolary form (in letters). The series of letters helps to keep the fantastic happenings of the larger narrative grounded in reality.

As Robert talks of the icy breeze that "fills him with delight," the readers realize how enthusiastic he is about his job as a sailor. He seems to possess a spirit for adventure, but he also expresses mixed feelings about his journey. His apprehension is combined with excitement about an undiscovered place. He reveals an ambition to discover new lands or unknown routes leading to the countries near the pole.

Robert's passion for a seafarer's life is revealed as he recalls his childhood, when he would read nothing but histories of voyages. He is lucky when he inherits his cousin's fortune, and he is able to follow his dreams. However, he mentions how he has endured hardships that could easily have discouraged him from going any further. But he continues his pursuit of adventure.

This letter also shows the tremendous love between Robert and his sister, Margaret. He is afraid he will not see her again and wishes her the best in life. The uncertainty of a sailor's life stands out here. As Robert says, his resolution and courage are firm, but his hopes fluctuate. This is because he is responsible not just for himself, but also for the other men, whose morale must be kept high.

The author begins by comparing the undiscovered geographical location with Robert's mental vision of it, as he tries to imagine the polar region for himself. But the focus later shifts to Robert's practical nature: he cannot let his visions hamper the actual details of the undiscovered land. For instance, he talks of a sunny land while referring to the North Pole, but then he insists that it will be bitterly cold and he must be fully prepared to face that reality.

Moreover, it is striking that Robert's sister should bear the same initials as the author herself, M.W.S.: Margaret Walton Saville.

 

LETTER 2

Summary

While the first letter is written in the month of December, the second letter is written in March after Robert has hired a vessel and is busy organizing sailors for his expedition. But Robert is still looking for something else: a friend. He feels lonely and acknowledges a strong need to have a friend to share the joys and sorrows of his success or disappointment. He believes he cannot find a friend at all, but he does mention a lieutenant whom he has employed. Robert evidently admires him for his good qualities and describes how this lieutenant had once fallen in love with a rich Russian lady. He was willing to marry her, but on learning that she was in love with someone else, he abandoned the idea. Furthermore, he was generous enough to leave his entire fortune to his rival, who was much poorer than himself. Having overcome their financial worries, the couple was able to be married.

He also reveals to his sister that 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' had always been a major source of his enthusiasm and his passion for the sailor's life.

This letter also ends with a farewell note that addresses the possibility that Robert may never see his sister again.

Notes

Robert is seen rather depressed here, in contrast to the enthusiastic and excited sailor of Letter 1. His need for a friend is quite genuine. He does not think that expressing his thoughts on paper is a substitute for human contact. He blames his past for the fact that he is "self-educated," but "more illiterate" in reality. He feels he has missed out on a great deal in terms of companionship, having kept only books as companions for the twenty-eight years of his life. He says his dreams need "keeping" (he needs someone to confide his wishes in), and he needs a friend who will not reproach him for being a romantic, but will "regulate his mind" instead.

It is worth noting that this sense of loneliness that Robert faces is similar to that of the protagonist of the story. As will be seen subsequently, Victor was quite lonely at his time at the university when nobody around him echoed his romantic aspirations. The reader will come across a number of similar parallels between Robert and Victor.

Robert is resigned to the idea that he cannot find a friend anywhere on the wide ocean. He then talks about his lieutenant who appears to be a kind, gentle and mild-mannered person. Robert is evidently quite contented to have employed him. He feels an affinity with the lieutenant; both of them are kind-hearted and not likely to resort to violence, even in the often brutal atmosphere of sea life. Robert claims to have developed this gentle attitude under the guidance of his kind sister. Critics such as Margaret Waller have noticed how male characters often exhibit typically "feminine" traits in Romantic literature.

The story of the lieutenant is rather intriguing. It is rather unusual that someone as benevolent as he should have few friends. He is a silent man, "who detracts from the sympathy and interest which otherwise he would command." This disposition of cold reserve may be a result of his experience with unrequited love. One can perhaps see his situation running parallel to Robert's. Apparently, Robert dreads turning into a similarly reserved and isolated person.

In his letter, he hastily dismisses the topic of the lieutenant and returns to his plans for the voyage. His determination becomes evident as he does not let loneliness hinder his sole purpose (his voyage), which he claims to be "as fixed as fate." He is obviously a responsible leader since the safety of his employees is a priority for him.

He promises he "shall kill no albatross," a reference Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," in which the killing of an albatross has dire consequences. It is highly appropriate that this famous poem is one of the sources of Robert's passion for the sea. One can even identify Robert with the ancient mariner, who started out like any other inexperienced sailor, but ended up a wiser man, due to his curiosity about mysterious things.

It is worth noting that Robert always concludes his letters on a depressing note. He is never completely optimistic about returning from his voyages successfully. At the same time, however, he is practical enough to understand that his death is a distinct possibility. He is probably preparing his sister for it.

LETTER 3

Summary

This is quite a short letter compared to the earlier two. The letter is written in July, four months after the second one, and reaches his sister through a merchant who is bound homeward from Archangel.

He talks of his crew being highly resolute; they do not let minor dangers, like floating sheets of ice, deter them. They are in the middle of summer now and have not encountered anything really dangerous, except for a few stiff gales and a springing leak.

This time he ends on a more optimistic note about success crowning his efforts. He believes that they deserve it, after all.

Notes

By now the reader sees that Robert has been in fairly constant touch with his sister, as the third letter is sent four months after the second. He begins on a sad note about not being able to see his native land, now that he is miles away from his hometown.

He is certainly proud of his men who go forth on the voyage, undeterred by the dangers they encounter. Robert says nothing about his own insecurity or uncertainty regarding the voyage. Instead, he talks about being in the middle of summer and encountering unexpected warmth. This could represent a greater intimacy with his crew.

His constant assurances to his sister about his remaining cool and rational seem to be more like a consolation to himself. He now feels burdened with responsibility as they are nearing their destination.

For once, he seems more optimistic about the success of his endeavors. However, he could be merely consoling himself again. But he firmly believes he deserves the success. The last few lines of the letter make the reader wonder if he had ever contemplated abandoning the voyage.

LETTER 4

Summary

This last letter of the series starts off with Robert bursting with excitement because he has a tale to report. He has met a young man on their voyage when their ship became stranded in ice. He first relates that one day he had seen a gigantic man on a sled driven by dogs. And then later he had encountered another man, very worn down by fatigue, who had to be persuaded to enter the vessel rather than die outside in the cold.

This stranger is tended to with brandy, soup and loving care. Eventually, he is restored to health. The stranger is quite anxious to know more about Robert. Robert unhesitatingly describes his future plans. This prompts the former to tell the captain his own story. Robert is quite thrilled at gaining first-hand knowledge in this manner.

Robert is curious about what the stranger is doing in such an isolated place. He replies that he is seeking that which has run away from him. Robert immediately remarks that he saw an abnormally large human the other day. The stranger responds to this with a number of questions about the same creature.

Robert tells his sister that he is quite impressed by this stranger, who is so unlike other people. His enthusiasm about nature is what Robert finds highly admirable. He describes him as a "celestial spirit, with a halo around him, within whose circle no grief or folly ventures." He makes note of the fact that the stranger is suffering because of an unknown cause. He defends himself for becoming highly excited at the prospect of making "friends" with the stranger by declaring that even his sister, who is apparently quite reserved in her judgments of people, would marvel at a person like him.

Robert makes up his mind to take down notes on the stranger's story. He also promises to keep Margaret informed.

Notes

This letter stands out in the whole series due to its content and shift in mood. While the first three letters have shades of sadness, pessimism and uncertainty, this letter is a solid narration of Robert's encounter with a stranger and his reaction to it. The reader sees Robert extremely excited about the stranger's unexpected entry into his life. He almost believes he has found the friend that he has longed for. It is quite surprising that the nearly frozen stranger asks Robert where he is heading before he even steps into the vessel. The author goes into great detail about the stranger's health, mental as well as physical, and his appearance.

Robert is very impressed by the stranger's habits, particularly his love of nature. It is as if the stranger is enjoying the spectacular sights of starry skies and seas for the first or the last time. In any case, the stranger seeks solace in nature. Robert instantly makes a few observations about the stranger and some penetrating insights into his character. For instance, he notices the stranger's never-failing powers of judgment and his remarkable ability to express himself.

The stranger reveals an equal interest in Robert. On learning his plans, he tries to dissuade him from pursuing them, since Robert is willing to pay any price in order to see his goals achieved. One can observe a striking similarity between the present Robert and what the stranger (Victor Frankenstein) used to be. The stranger now takes it upon himself to act as Robert's friend, philosopher and guide, in order to stop him from heading down the wrong path, a path which he himself had chosen once upon a time.

As the reader will learn later, the stranger's curiosity over the abnormal creature is born of the fact that he himself is the monster's creator and is therefore naturally concerned about him. One may note that while Robert has begun life full of enthusiasm, he now meets a similarly inclined person, who has wearied of all this curiosity and is "a sadder man," like the hero of Coleridge's "Ancient Mariner."

This last letter completes the outer framework of the narrative and what follows is the actual story of the novel.

 

CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 1

Summary

The actual tale of Victor Frankenstein, whom the reader first encountered as the stranger, begins here. He was born in Geneva and hails from a family of high repute. His father was married late in life.

The episode dealing with his father's marriage is explained at length. Beaufort, a friend of his father's, fell into unfortunate circumstances and left the town with his daughter since he did not want to live a life of humiliating poverty. Victor's father searched for him and even offered to help, but in vain. When her father became ill, Beaufort's daughter, Caroline, tried her best to make ends meet. But her father eventually died, leaving her an orphan. Victor's father took her under his wing and later married her.

Although there is a considerable age difference between the two, they live a happy life and spend time in Italy, Germany and France. Victor (the narrator), their oldest child, accompanies them everywhere. Caroline longs to have a daughter, and by some quirk of fate, they come across a beautiful girl from a poor family on one of their regular rounds in the slums. They are in Milan at the time. Caroline later visits the family again and decides to adopt the girl. Victor's father is in favor of the idea, as he is always eager to please his wife in every way. The father of this girl was an Italian soldier, who died during the war. The girl grows up in a foster family until she is adopted by Victor and Caroline.

Victor's family is complete when he receives a playmate in Elizabeth, his "more than sister," whom he loves, protects and cherishes until death.

Notes

The friendship between Victor's father and Beaufort, as well as that between Victor and Elizabeth, is significant. The impulse toward friendship is an underlying Romantic theme which the reader has already seen in the intimate bond developing between Robert and Victor. Even the sub-human monster, as will be seen in later chapters, makes efforts to befriend a family.

Details about Victor's parentage are presented. In this way, the chapter presents a neat beginning of a life story. It is interesting to note that the age difference between Victor's parents never hampers their relationship. This shows how much they actually need each other. Victor, senior would do anything to keep Caroline happy after what she has been through. The author chooses to focus on the father's love for Caroline and says little about her love for him.

The benevolence of the couple is proven by their customary visits to poor families and by their adoption of a child who is a complete stranger. But the physical appearance of the child, Elizabeth, who is fair, blond and blue-eyed, suggests that she possesses a "northern" beauty, although she is found in Italy. Such unusual juxtapositions are common in Romantic literature.

Victor relates how he looks upon Elizabeth as his own to protect and to cherish. It is interesting to note the ambiguity with which the author describes this relationship between siblings, as Elizabeth is "more than sister" to Victor.

 

CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 2

Summary

Victor talks of his relationship with Elizabeth. They complement each other perfectly although they are both of different dispositions. While he is more enthusiastic, she is calm. He is excited by knowledge of any kind; she concentrates on literature and nature. The family stays at their home in Geneva after the birth of the second son, who is seven years younger than Victor. Victor never pays much attention to his schoolmates, except for Henry Clerval, the son of a merchant.

He is very happy to have had a delightful childhood. But his thirst for knowledge always got the better of him back then. He was interested in metaphysics and natural philosophy (natural science).

By chance he stumbles upon a book by Cornelius Agrippa. His father dismisses it as "sad trash." This further provokes him to read the whole book. Later, he reads all the works of Agrippa, as well as those of Paracelsus and Albertus Magnus. He also tries unsuccessfully to perform certain experiments. Particularly fascinating to him is the idea of summoning ghosts and devils.

Once, when he is about fifteen years old, he witnesses a bolt of lighting destroy a tree. This incident inspires him to change to the study of natural phenomena, instead of natural philosophy. From that point on, he concentrates on electricity and galvanism.

Notes

The author portrays the relationship of Victor and Elizabeth as an ideal one. It illustrates the attraction between opposite natures that is characteristic of the Romantic love relationship. The fact that Victor never mingles with his classmates is reminiscent of Robert's childhood, which is also spent in solitude and among books. But Victor had one friend: Henry Clerval. Again the theme of friendship is highlighted.

Victor's passions for learning the secrets of nature are revealed. He mentions three writers: Paracelsus, Cornelius Agrippa and Albertus Magnus. These authors are not regarded as serious scientists in Victor's world. Paracelsus, for instance, was a Swiss physician and alchemist (1493-1541). Alchemists were engaged in seemingly impossible endeavors, like producing gold from iron. Henry and Elizabeth, who are busy with moral reflections on life, stand in contrast to Victor and his curious obsessions.

The mood now becomes more somber. Victor assumes a tone of regret at having gone overboard in his thirst for knowledge. But Victor subtly lays the blame on his father. He feels that his father's dismissal of such authors as Paracelsus had in fact provoked him to venture further into this territory.

His father's disapproval inspired him to learn more about natural philosophy. He begins to experiment. What he finds most interesting is the raising of ghosts and devils. Here, the reader sees the more passionate side of Victor. His thirst for knowledge seems to be manifesting itself in strange ways. But it may be noted that Victor's is a harmless game so far: it merely prepares the readers for what is to come later.

After he witnesses the tree being struck by lightning, he temporarily loses interest in the sciences. He calls the incident the attempt of a guardian angel to keep him from this dangerous inquiry. But it is not long before he has taken up his study again, this time with a vengeance.

It is interesting to note that Victor never once holds himself responsible for his actions. The guardian angel, or fatality, stopped him from going any further with his experiments. At the same time, it is this destiny that makes him carry his experiment further and leads him to his own doom. (Romanticism and fate?)

 

CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 3

Summary

Victor's parents now expect him to study at Ingolstadt. But before he can go ahead with his plans, Elizabeth falls ill with scarlet fever. His mother nurses her back to health but becomes ill herself. She dies soon after, leaving Elizabeth in charge of the younger children and wishing Elizabeth and Victor to get married.

The family gets over the loss of the beloved mother, and Victor prepares to leave for Ingolstadt. It is a sad departure. He reaches his university with mixed feelings; although he had wanted to continue his studies, he did not want to leave his family.

At the university, he meets his professor, M. Krempe, whom he finds rather rude, but knowledgeable. Krempe is contemptuous of Victor's having read the ancient masters (Agrippa et al), and he insists that he begin his studies anew. In total contrast to Krempe is Professor M. Waldman, to whom Victor takes an instant liking due to his mild manners and kind disposition. Victor meets him after a lecture and finds him even more likable. He wants to be a disciple of Waldman's, and with his help, he renews his studies with vigor. He spends sleepless nights thinking about Waldman and his own progress in his field. He visits the laboratory with Waldman, secures the list of required books and begins a new life.

Notes

Victor's departure for Ingolstadt is delayed by Elizabeth's illness, which he believes is like an omen of his future misery. Victor is now completely overcome by guilt when he looks back at wanting to pursue his studies in the forbidden field.

This chapter marks Victor's first exposure to death. The death of Caroline, Victor's mother, is followed by a spate of deaths. Strangely enough, she dies taking care of Elizabeth on the sickbed. It is her altruism that leads to her death. This confirms that she is the virtuous, ideal mother: an angel.

Elizabeth is now in charge and plays the role of the strong, stoic figure who understands that things must be managed somehow. Victor prepares to leave for Ingolstadt. Henry, too, would like to join him but is forbidden to do so by his narrow-minded, merchant father. Some sectors of this society require a family profession to be taken up by the children.

Victor is now alone in Ingolstadt; not only is he among strangers, but he feels isolated in his interests. This is the first time that Victor has to face separation from his loved ones. His distress is related in detail.

He meets his professors. M. Krempe appears as a grumpy scientist who is contemptuous of young talent. This merely reinforces Victor's dislike for the ideals of modern, natural philosophy, which focuses on "realities of little worth." He is chiefly interested in the question of immortality and power, however futile this may be. But the reader sees later that Victor is determined to prove otherwise.

M. Waldman is the exact opposite of Krempe. He is more tolerant of the enthusiasm of youth. Victor finds himself changing his opinions about modern science, thanks to Waldman's nature. He is infused with a new spirit of vigor and excitement at returning to his studies in his beloved field. Waldman expresses the opinion that Victor ought not to be just a petty experimentalist, but a man of science, and therefore should devote himself wholly to the study of every branch of natural philosophy. In Victor he finds a willing disciple.

CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 4

Summary

Victor has now started enthusiastically working on his studies. He reads a great deal, attends all lectures and meets the influential people at the university. He gets to know his professors a little better, so much so that he finds a true friend in Waldman.

Waldman is the one who always encourages him in his experiments. Victor spends two years in the university without once visiting his family in Geneva. He has made progress. He is so engrossed in his experiments that he begins to venture into new fields.

He searches for the origin of life. He studies the relevant branches of the sciences and finally succeeds in giving life to lifeless matter. He now begins to think in terms of creating an actual human being whom he could bring to life. He decides to "create" a human being of about eight feet in height and proportionately large. He starts working on it. At times, he does feel appalled at his own audacity but burning ambition gets the better of him as he continues working, regardless of all else, including letters from the family.

Notes

Victor's enthusiasm about his studies is on the one hand rather commendable, but on the other, it is chilling to note how he uses--or rather, misuses--his knowledge, capable as he is now of bestowing life on lifeless matter. By seeking "the principle of life" in the human body, Victor gains dangerous knowledge. His curiosity knows no bounds as he learns the science of anatomy, despite the warnings of his father, who would have disapproved of Victor's dabbling in "the supernatural."

Victor observes the cause and progress of decay in the dead human body, and he spends his nights in charnel houses (where dead bodies are deposited) as if he belongs there, or as if he were a ghost himself. He is evidently not deterred by darkness and superstition. His excitement at wanting to create a new human being and bring it to life sends shudders down one's spine. The mood is turning more and more horrifying. This chapter exemplifies Romanticism's fascination with death.

The worst part is that Victor has "made progress" with his creation but cannot retrace his steps in order to undo his work. Now he is in no position to "un-create," so to speak, his creature because he is overwhelmed by ambition. The fact that he chooses to create a human of about eight feet in height indicates the extent of his ambition. Although he is aware that his mission is dangerous, he persists in his efforts until he creates a large creature out of the parts of dead humans.

But Victor does not want to limit his ability to the creation of just one being. He wants to make more such beings and be called the father of them and thus earn their gratitude. He gives himself up totally to this task, and he loses all sense of time. The language that the author uses is striking: phrases such as "profane fingers" and "unhallowed damps of the grave" mark this text.

Victor's ambition overcomes guilt as he pursues nature in all her "hiding places." However, Victor starts off with what he thinks is a noble aim. He is sure that overcoming death by creating life will benefit humanity. Victor admits that any kind of study that disturbs a person or weakens one's affections or makes one unable to enjoy simple pleasures is unlawful. But he defends himself by saying that history would not have been created otherwise.

The process of creation takes its toll on him as he now becomes slightly nervous (even a falling leaf can disturb him), and he is also abnormally aloof from fellow humans. Yet he believes that the completion of this creation could finally restore him to health and peace.

CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 5

Summary

The action reaches a climax in this chapter: Victor's creation is complete and he gives it life. Victor does not know how to react although he feels disgust at the creature's appearance. The features are ruined by his watery eyes, shriveled complexion and straight black lips.

He laments that the charm of a cherished dream vanished as he beheld the "horrid" sight of the creature. He runs out of the room in disgust. He goes to his own room. Sleep and rest have deserted him. He now tries to avoid the creature. He wants to get some sleep but has a terrible nightmare. He imagines that he is about to kiss Elizabeth, but she turns into the corpse of his dead mother. The creature, in the meanwhile, comes to his bedside to speak to him. But Victor rushes out of the room on seeing him.

He awakes the next morning and goes out on the streets to ease the load on his mind. Fortunately, he meets his dearest friend, Henry Clerval. This brings back memories of his home and family. Henry has been able to convince his father to let him study at Ingolstadt.

Victor brings him home, albeit fearfully, as he is dreading the appearance of the "monster." He behaves strangely, and Henry notices that Victor is not well. It is obvious that Victor fears that the monster will return. Victor imagines that he is seated beside the monster, struggles furiously, and then collapses in a fit. After this, Henry tries his best to take care of Victor. He even conceals Victor's serious condition from the family.

It is some time before Victor is restored to health. He is now in a position to re-establish contact with his family and reads letter of Elizabeth's.

Notes

Victor finally succeeds in his attempt to bring to life the gigantic creature. But he rejects the living creature (and his own achievement), however, when he sees its ugliness. He nearly regrets his decision as "horror and disgust" fill his heart at the sight. He avoids the creature as if he were trying to escape from reality, and as if he were afraid to confront the larger-than-life image of his ambition that now stands before him.

The nightmare he has is highly symbolic of his guilt at having set off a chain of casualties. He holds himself responsible for having the potential to lead Elizabeth to her death. He is now terribly overcome by guilt, even though he has realized his mistake. He is aware of the fact that he has overstepped his limits. Furthermore, he is oppressed by the image of his glorious dream turned into a nightmare.

Morning dawns but brings no hope, only rain from a "comfortless" sky. The weather itself seems to embody Victor's despair. The only solace he receives that day is the arrival of Henry, who realizes that something is amiss but cannot discover the reason.

The relationship between Clerval and Victor develops here, as Henry nurses his friend back to health while Victor tries to get over his disgust, fear and apprehension about the monster. His recovery is reflected in the weather, too, as it is now spring time, and buds and green shoots appear everywhere. Victor now gets his priorities straight and decides to re-establish contact with his family and especially with his beloved Elizabeth.

 

CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 6

Summary

Victor opens Elizabeth's letter and is rather depressed at the contents. Elizabeth and the family have been extremely concerned about him for the past few months. They had become anxious because he never kept in touch, and they learned of his illness from Henry. Victor's father had wanted to pay him a visit, but Elizabeth stopped him from doing so. She says that Ernest has grown up to be a splendid young lad. He wants to start a military career. He is not interested in gaining bookish knowledge but would rather be outdoors in nature.

She goes on to tell the tale of Justine Moritz, who was badly treated by her own mother and later adopted by Caroline, Victor's mother. Justine was very attached to Caroline, and even became ill after her death. In the meantime, her siblings had died, leaving her mother virtually childless. Justine's mother called her back home after the death of her siblings. Then her mother died. Justine has now returned to live with the Frankensteins.

She also mentions William, who is now five years old and already has two "wives." She ends the letter with the general gossip about the town, but not without repeated pleas for him to write back.

Victor immediately decides to write to his family, whom he has ignored for so long. He introduces Henry to some of the professors at the university. The sight of laboratory instruments is now loathsome for Victor. Henry notices this and tries to keep him away from them. But Professor Waldman cannot be avoided, and he praises Victor for his accomplishments. Henry, realizing that Victor is rather uncomfortable, excuses himself and gently changes the topic.

Henry is at the university to study the "oriental languages" (Persian, Arabic and Sanskrit), and Victor joins him. The summer passes away and they head homewards. A harsh winter delays their departure for Geneva until the following May. Clerval proposes a walking tour of Ingolstadt. Victor returns to his previous enjoyment of nature. He is trying to forget the past, and Henry helps him in this attempt.

Notes

Elizabeth's letter to Victor is rather touching. It reveals her genuine concern for him. The author here introduces Justine Moritz, a character who is later further developed. It is interesting to note that Justine's background resembles Elizabeth's. The fact that Justine looked upon Caroline as her role-model and wants to be exactly like her shows the extent to which Caroline influences people, albeit unintentionally. Again, the Frankenstein family's sympathy for the poor and disadvantaged is highlighted when they adopt Justine. Romantic literature often displays compassion for the alienated or the disenfranchised.

The letter makes Victor somewhat homesick, and he desperately wants to regain contact with his family. The mood has now changed, and Victor is consciously trying to avoid anything that reminds him of his gruesome past. Waldman is happy with the progress he has made, but Victor would like to avoid this topic at any cost. Clerval is sensitive enough to sense Victor's irritation and comes to his rescue. The reader sees the development of a life-long friendship here, as both men seem to be helping the other. Henry is nearly a guardian angel for Victor: he saves Victor when he is on the verge of destruction, emotional as well as spiritual. Although Victor gradually returns to "normal," it is clear that he has not truly recovered. Another shock could threaten his health.

Waldman's praise at his progress could easily have encouraged him to continue his experiments or to make further progress in his field. But he has evidently reached a saturation point and questions his earlier ambition.

The chapter focuses on Henry's role as a friend. It also concentrates on the domestic scene, which has so far been neglected. It prepares the readers for Victor's return home, and one wonders what is to happen next. The absence of the monster in the next few chapters changes the mood of the novel significantly.

 

CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 7

Summary

Victor is now expecting a letter from his family giving him a fixed date to return home. Instead, he receives news of William's murder. The letter relates how Victor's father, Elizabeth, William and Ernest had gone for a walk in Plainpalais, when William suddenly got lost. All attempts to find him proved futile. They also checked the house, but he was not to be found. The next morning they found William's body lying on the grass. It is presumed that he was murdered; a miniature portrait of Caroline that William carried with him is now missing. Elizabeth holds herself responsible for William's death because she had given him the miniature of Caroline that the murderer was apparently willing to kill for. The letter ends on a note of hope, with his father appealing to Victor to return home as soon as possible.

Clerval, too, is disturbed by the news. Victor now leaves for Geneva immediately. On his way, he observes scenes that he has not witnessed in six years. He remains at Lausanne for two days and resumes his journey later.

It is dark as he reaches Geneva. The town gates are already shut. So he passes the night at Secheron, a village some distance away from the city. He decides to visit the spot where William was murdered. He crosses the lake in a boat to arrive at Plainpalais. This is where he sees the "filthy demon to whom I had given life." He suddenly realizes that the monster must certainly be William's murderer. He decides to pursue him, but the monster disappears on the summit.

The next morning he leaves for town. He considers seeking out the murderer but admits it is futile. He realizes that people around him would never believe his story. He reaches home early in the morning but does not wake the family. Ernest arrives to welcome him and informs him that the murderer is Justine Moritz. Victor is shocked and denies the charge. But the circumstances do not seem to favor Justine. The mystery around William's murder is supposedly discovered: one of the servants has found the miniature of Caroline in the pocket of Justine's dress. This confirms her involvement in the crime.

Neither Victor nor Elizabeth wants Justine to be punished because they believe that she is not guilty. Victor repeatedly vouches for her innocence. He assures the family that she will be proved innocent and acquitted. The chapter ends with the family hoping that the law will save the innocent Justine.

Notes

Just as Victor is starting to live life afresh, he receives the news of William's murder. This proves to be another setback for him. When he leaves for Geneva, nostalgia captivates his imagination. The author deliberately focuses on nature in this chapter. This reinforces the fact that nature has not changed, but Victor, who once sought solace in nature, now feels threatened by the very sight of it.

The style of description changes as well. The narration assumes a sharper tone, and events become more dramatic, with the occurrence of storms and lightning. Secondly, nature at this moment (the storms and the lightning) seem to be highly symbolic of the constant turmoil in Victor's mind. To add to the mood of foreboding, he spots "the monster" once again, which revives all his past memories. He spends a sleepless night in the open and talks of the creature as an extension of his own evil nature. He feels that "his own spirit let loose from the grave and forced to destroy all that was dear to me."

The news of Justine Moritz's trial for murdering William comes as an even greater shock and only adds to the consciousness of his guilt. Yet he knows he is nearly helpless in the case. No one would believe his story. But at the same time, it is strange that Victor does not stand up for Justine's case by proving her innocent.

Victor's naïveté leads h im to believe that he can still protect Justine, despite concrete evidence. Victor's father and Elizabeth, in the meanwhile, are also highly disturbed by recent events. Victor's father becomes convinced by circumstantial evidence and is sure that Justine has been ungrateful. However, Elizabeth staunchly believes that she is not guilty. This reveals the loyalty of Elizabeth's character. She would do anything to have Justine saved from the gallows and trusts Victor completely. He does not want to see Justine die, but he does not have the moral courage to offer the proof that will refute the charges.

 

CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 8

Summary

Victor and the family attend Justine's trial as witnesses. The collected evidence is quite incriminating. It is pointed out that Justine was not in the house on the night of the murder. Furthermore, the next morning she had been spotted by a woman near the place where William's corpse was found. The woman had asked Justine what she was doing there but had received a confused reply.

Justine's behavior also indicates her involvement in the case. She had returned home late in the evening. She had inquired about William. On being shown his dead body, she had become hysterical and confined herself to her bed. It was then that the servant found the miniature in her dress. Elizabeth later confirms that it is the same one she had given to William.

Justine defends herself quite simply. She says that she had spent the night of the murder at her aunt's place at Chêne, a village near the town of Geneva. She had returned around nine o'clock when a man had asked her about the lost child. Alarmed, she had looked for him for a long time until the gates of the town were locked. She therefore had to spend the night in a barn outside the town. She had been half-asleep when somebody came and disturbed her. Then she left to look for William again. Naturally, she was bewildered on encountering the village woman because she had spent a sleepless night worrying about William. As for the miniature, she has no idea how it came to be in her pocket.

Other witnesses testify to Justine's good character. At the same time, they are overwhelmed by the enormity of the crime and the evidence against her. Elizabeth then goes on to defend Justine, but it is of no use. Justine is condemned to death. She finally confesses to the crime, and Elizabeth is horrified at this.

Elizabeth and Victor go to visit Justine in prison. Justine pleads her innocence before Elizabeth, who had believed her guilt after her confession. But again, Elizabeth changes her opinion. Justine explains that if she had not confessed, she would have had to face excommunication. Repeated attempts by Elizabeth and Victor to convince the court of Justine's innocence again prove to be pointless, and Justine dies a condemned murderer.

Notes

Justine's plight is horrible: she is left helpless by her so-called protectors, the Frankensteins. Victor is caught up in his thoughts, his guilt and his horror. Therefore, he cannot rectify the situation. The author focuses on Victor's fear of being labeled a "madman" if he were to proclaim his story publicly. This aspect of his feelings is prominent in the earlier chapters, as well. He tries his best not to succumb to his feelings of horror and guilt that keep growing stronger by the minute. These feelings are especially strong at the time of Justine's trial.

The chapter also talks about Justine's character. Her tranquillity under pressure is strongly reminiscent of Caroline's character. Her simple beauty shows itself under trying circumstances.

The author also criticizes the society in general. People who have known Justine to be an extremely kind and gentle person would have spoken in her favor, but the "fear and hatred of the crime . . . rendered them timorous and unwilling to come forward." Such cowardice leads to Justine's unjust condemnation. Only Elizabeth stands up for what she believes is right and does not hesitate to speak in defense of her playmate, "her sister," Justine. But Elizabeth, too, is taken in by Justin's confession of the crime. This shows that she is only human. Yet it is Justine's own confession that makes Elizabeth suspect her guilt, and not the accusations of others.

Elizabeth and Victor see Justine in prison, where the latter is not able to confront her. There is a touching episode between Elizabeth and Justine, as they prepare to part from each other forever.

Justine's good heart lets her die condemned, but fearless. She is reassured by the fact that the people she holds most dear are sure of her innocence. In other words, her death does not matter to her as much as her innocence. The fact that Elizabeth and Victor are convinced that she is innocent makes it easier for her to die. This concentration on the plight of the innocent within a system of injustice is another common theme in Romanticism.

Victor is thrown into a state of despair at Justine's death because of his "thrice accused hands." Thus far, there have been two victims of his ambition: William and Justine.

 

CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 9

Summary

The recent events have taken their toll on the family members, and particularly on Victor, who admits that he had never fully recovered from the first shock. He chooses to be alone all the time. However, his father mistakes his wish for solitude as excessive sorrow at William's death. He urges him to come to terms with it.

The family moves to Belrive for a change in atmosphere. The gates of the Geneva house are shut by ten o'clock every night, which makes it impossible for Victor to go out. He sometimes takes the boat out on the lake and sails for hours. At other times, he just lets the wind lead him. He even contemplates suicide, but the thought of further distressing his family discourages him. His desire to take revenge on the monster intensifies.

The father, too, is shaken by events, and his health suffers. Elizabeth has changed tremendously. She is no longer the "happy creature" that Victor once knew. She keeps reiterating Justine's innocence, and she continually refers to the crimes perpetrated by the murderer. This makes Victor uneasy.

He finds that since he cannot bear the anxiety any more, it would be a good idea to go for a visit to the alpine valleys. He particularly wants to visit the valley of Chamounix, which he used to frequent in his boyhood.

It is August, nearly two months since the death of Justine. He travels deep into the Alpine ravine and soon enters the village of Chamounix. He gazes at Mont Blanc for a long while.

Notes

This chapter concentrates on the emotional anarchy let loose in the house of the Frankensteins. Victor's emotions of vengeance, malice and despair can be contrasted to those of Elizabeth and their father, who give in to resignation and sorrow. Victor tries desperately to lead a good life, yet he finds no solace in it. The horrifying memories of his past life do not let him rest.

His mental and physical health deteriorate. He is interested only in a death-like solitude as a kind of consolation. His going to sail all alone in the night reveals his loneliness. He even contemplates suicide. Again, the themes of isolation, despair and suicide are typical of Romantic literature. A feeling of concern for his family, and for Elizabeth in particular, stops him. He realizes that it would not be right to leave them unprotected when his sworn enemy, the monster he has created, runs loose. Victor is constantly on edge worrying about what the monster will do next. He makes vengeance the sole aim of his life.

Elizabeth, on the other hand, is more resigned to her fate. She requests Victor to abandon any notion of despair, or of revenge over the murderer. Yet she finds it unbelievable that anyone could be so brutal to an innocent child. She unintentionally reminds Victor of his past actions. The chapter shows a steady development in the Victor-Elizabeth relationship. Both of them are more concerned about each other than ever before. Both are also highly protective of each other.

The scene also shifts back to nature, with Victor exploring the mountains on his own. There is a distinct sense of nostalgia as Victor relives his boyhood experiences. At the same time, Victor's escape into the mountains seems to be a deliberate attempt at escaping from his feelings, his memories and his past. He definitely feels more at ease in the mountains. The fact that he is able to sleep soundly is proof enough. This recalls the Romantic tradition of seeking solace in nature.

The author chooses to emphasize Mount Blanc, a towering mountain, which is remarkable for its size and power. It is an important landmark in the novel as Victor looks up to it and gains some amount of courage from it.

 

CHAPTER 10

Summary

Victor spends the next day roaming through the valleys near the source of the river Arveiron. He takes great pleasure in the landscape. But the next morning it rains, and there is a thick fog that makes the mountains nearly invisible. Victor nevertheless goes riding to the summit of Montanvert. He goes on to describe the steep path and its short windings, intersected by ravines of snow with stones rolling down them.

By noon he has nearly reached the summit of Montanvert, above which Mont Blanc can be seen. He is relishing the scenery and is in high spirits when he sees the monster approaching him. At once he decides to have a "mortal combat" with him. He is so blinded by his own fury and hatred that he fails to notice the pain and disdain on the monster's face.

Victor hurls a volley of accusations at the monster, addressing him as the "devil." But the monster is calm and merely asks Victor to recall the duty he has towards his creation. The monster assures Victor that he will leave him in peace if he agrees to comply with his "conditions." He also warns him that if his wishes are not fulfilled, he will wreak havoc in the form of death on his creator's family.

He talks about how all of mankind hates him and how he in turn is forced to hate them. He draws a parallel between his situation and that of Milton's Satan. He claims that he has been forced to hate his "creator," just as Lucifer had turned against God. He decides to tell Victor his tale before sunset, and Victor is more than willing to find out if he has killed William and pinned the blame on Justine.

Notes

This chapter again focuses on the landscape and Victor's escape into nature. It lessens his grief and proves to be a good diversion for him after all that he has been through. The next morning it is raining in torrents and the mood is rather melancholic. The weather is again symbolic of Victor's circumstances. The fact that he chooses to ascend to the summit shows his courage and determination to overcome the difficulties which may later come his way.

Victor is not allowed any peace of mind. Just as he is beginning to enjoy himself, the monster approaches him. His first reaction is to fight with the monster. This is a strong indication of his rage. The monster, having expected this reaction, is quite calm. He is now in control of the situation. He manages to convince Victor to think about his duty to him and threatens him with dire consequences if he does not comply with his wishes.

The monster has every reason to hate Victor. He claims how he was "benevolent" and "good" but is forced to hate people because they despise him. It may be noted that the monster is quite human as he reflects and interprets his circumstances. The comparison he draws with Milton's Satan is interesting. However, the monster was not guilty of a transgression when Victor rejected him. Indeed, Victor had tried to play God in creating a superhuman creature. And the fact that he abandoned him gave that creature the liberty to despise his creator and to cause him harm.

The monster's plea to be heard is quite genuine. He is in a desperate condition because his very creator rejects him. Like Victor, he has been isolated and lonely. He, too, is entitled to some kind of justice. Victor realizes that, as his creator, he "ought" to make him happy before complaining of his "wickedness."

CHAPTERS 11 - 13

Summary

The monster now begins to narrate his tale. In the beginning he tries to familiarize himself with his surroundings. He begins to understand his senses and gets used to the idea of being a human. At first he only wanders around looking for shelter. He is surrounded by nature. He enjoys the sights and sounds and tries to imitate the latter, but the sound of his own voice discourages him.

He comes across fire and uses it to roast nuts and roots. He starts to wander again, and early one morning, he finds a small hut "meant for a shepherd." As he enters it, the old man who occupies the hut runs out, terrified. The monster has some food and falls asleep.

The next morning he sets out again and arrives at a village at sunset. The children shriek and the women faint on seeing him. The villagers begin to attack him until he is forced to leave, all bruised and battered. He seeks refuge in a low hovel, which is close to a cottage. The next day he creeps out and sees a man outside but decides to stay there. He then sees a young girl with a pail on her head and a young man who takes the pail from her and carries it to the cottage. The monster finds a place in the cottage and remains there, unseen by any of the inhabitants. He observes them: there is an old blind man who plays the guitar excellently, a young girl who is busy cleaning the cottage and a young man who does the outdoor tasks. Later he reads aloud to the old man. But the monster cannot understand, as he is not yet familiar with language.

The next day the monster finds them at their daily chores. But he sees they are unhappy and later attributes it to their poverty. The monster steals some of their food, but he stops himself when he sees that they are hungry. Moreover, the monster also chops wood and, unseen, performs other tasks for them. He learns a few words, like "bread," "fire," "milk" and "wood," as well as the names of the boy and the girl: Felix and Agatha. He spends the winter and the beginning of spring there.

Chapter 13 marks the arrival of Safie, a friend of the family's. She is apparently a foreigner, an Arabian, who does not speak their language. So Felix's attempts to teach her their language prove to be useful to the monster, too.

As the nights grow shorter, the monster cannot ramble about much in the dark. He is still afraid of meeting humans.

The monster gains knowledge in the meanwhile from Volney's Ruins of Empires, from which Felix reads to Safie. He learns a great deal about being a human.

Notes

The monster awakens to his existence. He is confused, having already been rejected by his master and creator. This leads to loneliness, a sense of desolation and fear. He is like a lost child, but the pleasant sight of the moon comforts him. He draws strength from nature's wonders, the moon and the bubbling stream; in this he is quite similar to Victor.

He begins to explore things for himself and experiments with food. His plight is similar to that of a primitive man. He is fascinated by the sight of a hut and on walking in frightens a shepherd away. This is the beginning of his rejection by other humans. It is sad that although he means no harm, the people around him drive him away with sticks and stones, as if he were an animal. He receives the same treatment every time he encounters a human. These incidents leave an indelible impression on his mind. His hatred for mankind starts off as an intense fear of people.

It is not until he reaches the cottage that he understands the emotion of love. His experiences observing this family show that he is capable of sympathy. He comes across as more humane than any other human.

The gentle manners of the girl win him over. The love shared by the members of the family leads to feelings of pain and pleasure, such as he has never before experienced, and he finds that he is not able to bear these emotions. However, the feeling of concern for this family grows in him, and he longs to share their lives. But again, the treatment he had received from the unkind villagers deters him from reaching out. He displays an almost phobic reaction towards socializing.

The monster is touched by the actions of the two young people, who go without food in order to feed their father. The monster is definitely a sensitive being. He does his share for the family by bringing them firewood, and he refuses to steal from them. Moreover, he is shown to be curious and eager to learn.

This chapter also presents the characters of Felix and Agatha. The family is rather unhappy under the present circumstances. They are living in poverty, and are barely able to sustain themselves. Yet they try their best to rise above their sorrow and to be cheerful. They need each other, and it shows in the way they love each other. The entry of Safie further heightens their spirits, and they now lead a fuller life, no matter how poor they are.

The most touching episodes are those when they all sit together and sing. The life of the monster is now greatly enriched by the life of the family, and the situation seems almost perfect for him to introduce himself to this family. However, something holds him back.

CHAPTER 14

Summary

The monster now learns the history of his "protectors." He has been living on the property of a French family by the name of De Lacey. This family is quite well known in France: Felix was a soldier, while Agatha figures among ladies of high distinction. They were once quite well off, but now they are in exile in Germany.

Safie's father, a Turkish merchant, was accused of betraying the French government, for which he was tried and imprisoned. Felix, who was present at the trial and enraged at the injustice he saw, decided to help him to escape from prison, and in the process, he fell in love with Safie. Her mother is a Christian Arab who had been enslaved by the Turks.

A day before the execution, Felix helped the Turk to escape from Paris. Felix had passports for himself, Agatha and their father, who were residing in some obscure place in Paris. Felix took them through France to Lyon and across Mont Cenis to Leghorn, where the Turk tried to depart for Turkish territory.

Little did Felix know that the Turk was using him to escape. He did not want Safie to marry Felix, but instead wanted her to return to Constantinople. In the meantime, Agatha and Felix's father were imprisoned. Felix decided to rescue them. He insisted that Safie should be lodged at a convent at Leghorn.

Agatha and De Lacey were in prison for months. They lost their wealth and were sent into exile. The monster finds them living in Germany.

The Turk and Safie escaped from Italy, and the former sent Felix a sum of money to aid him in future plans. The Turk had expected Safie to forget all about Felix, but she refused to do so. He learned that they were not safe at Leghorn anymore and planned to leave for Constantinople. However, Safie left Italy for Germany. She traveled with an attendant who spoke her language. Some distance away from the cottage of De Lacey, the attendant fell ill and died. After this, Safie was on her own until she arrived safely at the cottage of the De Lacey family.

Notes

This chapter concentrates on the story of the De Lacey family and how they have ended up in their present condition.

They had been an affluent family. However, they are brought to ruin by Safie's father, a cunning man, who uses Felix for ulterior motives. His daughter stands in stark contrast to him. She is kind-hearted and mild mannered and does not betray her lover, Felix.

The reasons for the Turk's betrayal of the government are not specified. However, everyone considers the death sentence pronounced on him to be a severe judgment. They believed his wealth and religion had been the major cause. This indicates a criticism of the government for its nationalist tendencies.

In addition, Safie's plight as a woman is well portrayed. Her mother, a Christian Arab, is enslaved by the Turks. She has taught her daughter an independence of spirit, which was perhaps rare for female followers of Mohammed. The status of women in the society is illustrated. Safie's defiance of the orthodox rules dictated by her religion and her bold move in marrying a Christian are notable.

CHAPTER 15

Summary

One night, the monster, on his daily rounds for firewood and food, finds a leather portmanteau containing books and several articles. Books like Milton's Paradise Lost, Plutarch's Lives, and Goethe's Sorrows of Young Werter excite his imagination, and he eagerly begins to read them.

He also finds some papers in the pocket of Victor's cloak, which he had stolen from the laboratory. These papers contain Frankenstein's notes on creating the monster and other minor details about domestic occurrences. The monster, lonely and sorrowful, decides to seek protection from the De Lacey family. He plans to approach the old man when the others are out.

In the meanwhile, the family is living contentedly, thanks to the arrival of Safie. Autumn also passes and winter arrives. The monster has now made up his mind and musters the courage to speak to the old man. He introduces himself as a weary traveler in need of rest. They make conversation as the old man asks him if he is a Frenchman. The monster replies that he has been educated by a French family. He admits that he wants to seek protection from this family but that they are prejudiced against him. The old man assures him he will do his best to convince this family to accept him.

Just then the children enter and are horrified at the sight of the monster kneeling at the old man's feet. Safie rushes out of the cottage, Agatha faints and Felix tears his father away from the monster. He also hits him with a stick and is about to strike another blow when the creature retreats into his hovel.

Notes

This chapter shows the monster in a new light. On discovering a portmanteau full of books, he is quite excited and takes great pleasure in reading them. It is not a problem for him since he has already learned the language. The books have a profound effect on his mind, and each book leaves him with a sense of great satisfaction. At the same time, he begins to "experience" the books as an involved reader would. He also forms his own opinions about the books. He cannot help weeping on reading Goethe's Sorrows of Young Werter, or on reading Milton's Paradise Lost, which tells the story of mankind's fall and removal from the Garden of Eden. Paradise Lost shares many parallels with Frankenstein: the theme of the hunger for knowledge, which plagues both Frankenstein and his monster, is underlined. Likewise, the problematic relationship between a creator and his creation is at the core of both works. The whole set up of the book fascinates the monster. He finds it difficult to identify completely with Adam although their plights are similar. However, while Adam had come prosperous into the world, the monster is rejected from the very beginning. He is therefore better able to relate to the character of Satan, who was condemned to hell and left to envy the other angels. The monster now admits to being envious of the life of his "protectors."

Plutarch's Lives, on the other hand, takes him to greater heights, far above his own plight. It helps him to experience on outer world that is far away from the cottage and woods. It is very important to note his inclination towards virtue and his abhorrence for vice. This is in keeping with the Romantic belief in man's basic goodness.

The papers he finds in Victor's coat only serve to cause further agony. At this point, he speaks probably the most powerful lines in the novel. He admires the notion that God made man in his own image: beautiful. In contrast, his form is a filthy reflection of Victor's. The fact that he wants to be a part of the De Lacey family shows his courage and his identification with goodness. This indicates his effort to overcome the problem of his appearance and to fit into a normal lifestyle. The family, in the meanwhile, seems to be quite contented with Safie's arrival. As he compares his life to theirs, he realizes that his increase of knowledge has only made him feel more wretched as an outcast.

His loneliness leads him to think about an Eve for himself. He can no longer bear it, and one day he approaches the old man when the others are out for a walk. On being questioned by De Lacey, he answers that he was "educated by a French family," with whom he would now like to seek refuge, but they are prejudiced against him.

But the arrival of the others spoils everything. They are all terrified to see the monster clinging to the old man's knee. Felix hits him with a stick, out of fear for his father's safety. The monster could have destroyed everything and even killed Felix on the spot, but he chooses not to do so. This proves that he is really not aggressive; circumstances can force him to turn aggressive. His anger is replaced by grief and sorrow at not being accepted.

CHAPTER 16

Summary

At night he leaves the hovel to start wandering. The next morning he cannot proceed because he hears a few men close by. So he settles down in some thick woods to reflect on the events of the day. He decides to take the old man into his confidence again and returns to the cottage. He finds two strangers talking to Felix and later learns that the family is leaving the cottage because they fear for the life of the old man. The creature sets fire to the cottage and moves on towards Geneva, a destination he finds in Victor's papers.

He usually travels only at night, but once he goes out in the daytime. He comes across a young girl who falls into a rapid stream. The monster rushes to rescue her and saves her. But her guardian is terrified to see her with him and tries to shoot him down.

For a few weeks he stays in the woods to let the wound heal and continues in the direction of Geneva. On reaching Geneva, he meets a beautiful child whom he wants to keep as his own. But on learning that the child is of the Frankenstein family, and on being insulted by him, he strangles him to death. He then takes the miniature of the beautiful lady and plants it in the dress of another young lady, whom he finds sleeping nearby. In this manner, the facts surrounding William's murder are finally revealed.

The monster concludes by demanding that Victor should create another creature, a female, to keep him company.

Notes

The creature curses his creator as the one responsible for his miserable existence. Besides, when the very people whom he cares for reject him, it only serves to provoke him further. He no longer remains the weak, timid monster who bore the blows of the villagers and traveled only at night for the fear of being discovered. He has now realized that he is powerful and is prepared to misuse his power to give vent to his frustration and anger. He declares "ever lasting war against the species" and naturally, also, against his creator.

But the monster still had hope, even after he was rejected by the family. He decides to return to the cottage. He should have become acquainted with De Lacey, won his confidence and then gradually revealed himself to the other family members. This observation reveals his capacity for rational thinking. This reasonable proposition appeals to him, and comforted, he lies down. But the nightmare of the assault against him continues to haunt him, and so he can have no rest.

Unfortunately, he is not to be united with the family, and despair sets in. His only link to the world has been cut-off. Now he is truly provoked into hatred and vengeance. His activities become more devilish. He lights a dry tree branch and dances with fury around the cottage, destroys the habitation around it and retreats into the woods.

He only has one mission in life: to destroy his creator. His thirst for vengeance is enormous, but he never becomes completely consumed by it. The spring is still able to cheer him up. He is still sensitive enough to be touched by the sweet sounds of the birds. He declares that he "dared to be happy" under such circumstances. His suffering makes him wonder if he could ever manage to be happy. He is aware of the fact that his happiness is always viciously snatched away. For instance, he is punished for having saved a little girl's life. He is always misunderstood due to his enormous size. One cannot help but think about Victor's overambitious plans of creating an eight-foot monster.

The thought of murdering William seems to give him great pleasure because he belongs to the Frankenstein family, which the creature by now detests. The biggest irony of the novel is that Victor's own creation is out to destroy him and his loved ones.

The monster's wish for another being, as deformed and horrible as himself, is therefore inevitable, and somehow justifiable.

CHAPTER 17

Summary

The creature completes his tale and puts forward his suggestion. Victor is shocked to hear this and refuses to comply at first. But on reflecting upon the monster's plight, for which he has been responsible, he consents. Moreover, the creature promises to stay as far away as possible from humankind. He assures Victor that he would escape with his female companion into the fields of South America. He claims that he would survive on berries and acorns.

The monster announces that he will return as soon as the creature is ready. He also warns that he will observe his creator throughout. Victor now heads home at sunset and reaches a fountain where he cries bitterly. He reaches Chamounix in the morning and returns home. He refuses to answer any questions about his haggard appearance. He finally resolves to fulfill the monster's request.

Notes

Victor is bewildered and perplexed at his creature's story. But his first reaction to the monster's request is anger. He refuses to take a further burden of responsibility by creating another monster, which would bring more death and destruction into the world. It is strange that he should choose to blame the creature totally. After all, he has heard the whole story and knows how helpless the monster actually is, regardless of his physical strength.

The author never once shows Victor to be truly repentant for his deeds. The monster has been wreaking havoc, but mainly because he has had to bear rejection at the hands of Victor. This had left him distraught in the first place. The monster is presented as a sensitive being, capable of love and caring. But when his master deserts him, he is on his own, helpless and harassed.

Victor consents to the creature's demands on one reasonable condition, that the monster leave Europe. His dilemma is rather peculiar. On the one hand, he is responsible for the creature's sad plight, and therefore it is his duty to keep him happy by providing him with a female of the species. On the other hand, two monsters are capable of much more destruction. Again, only Victor would be responsible for this possible catastrophe.

He again seeks to escape and wishes the stars and clouds would take pity on him and turn him into nothingness. Agony has found a place in his life again.

CHAPTERS 18 -19

Summary

These chapters concentrate on Victor' leaving Geneva. He initially goes to England, where he can access further information that he needs for the new creation. Next, he looks for a desolate place where he can work in peace on this project.

Although Victor is afraid of the monster, his conscience does not allow him to continue working on his new assignment. Therefore, he keeps delaying the work. Victor's father suggests that he should marry Elizabeth. But he puts it off until the year after he returns from his tour abroad. He is also supposed to meet his friend, Henry, in Strasbourg.

He leaves for his tour with his instruments towards the end of September and arrives at Strasbourg. He waits for Clerval to arrive here. They travel along the Rhine from Strasbourg to Rotterdam and then go to London. They also visit Cologne and Holland, and they reach Britain in December. In London they receive a letter from an acquaintance, inviting them to visit Scotland. By March they leave for Scotland, visiting Oxford, Matlock, Cumberland and Windsor, and completing their tour by the end of July.

Victor expresses his desire to visit Scotland alone. He wants to look for a remote place where he can start on his work. He comes to the northern highlands and settles on "one of the remotest of the Orkneys as the scene of (his) labors." There are three huts on the island, one of which is very isolated. He rents it for his laboratory. The hut is in a miserable condition, and he has it repaired and buys some furniture for it. His choice of such a place raises a few eyebrows, but it does not matter to Victor, who has started working on the creature. In no time he has nearly finished it.

Notes

The author gives a great deal of importance to geographic details in this chapter. She describes Victor's journey from place to place, in keeping with the literary style of the time, and emphasizing the Romantic fondness for places like Scotland.

Victor wants to get away from it all, and it is assumed that he would like Henry as company. Henry's mood on the tour is rather cheerful, which helps to lighten the atmosphere somewhat. Nevertheless, Victor cannot get over his own apprehension. But he tries not to show his anxiety and spoil Henry's enjoyment. Henry, however, does sense that something is wrong. Victor has always drawn strength and solace from nature, but on this tour, even nature does not help his suffering. The nagging fear of the monster and the thought that he has to create another one prevent him from enjoying himself.

Victor, meanwhile sees in Henry an image of his former self. Henry, eager to acquire knowledge, desires to see India and to explore it. Victor seems to be saturated with knowledge, in contrast to his former self. It is interesting to note that listening to the monster only once has brought such a major change in him. Peace of mind continues to evade him.

It is strange that he still feels an "eager hope" when his work is at an advanced stage, but this sentiment is not without foreboding.

CHAPTER 20

Summary

Victor reflects on his past and realizes that it has been three years since he first created the monster. Now he is creating another, and he contemplates the consequences of a similar creation. Most of all he fears that the two creatures may try to have children.

Just then the monster arrives, and Victor, in a fit of desperation, destroys the almost completed creation. He vows not to resume his labors and confronts the creature. Victor thinks of calling for help but feels totally helpless. He fights with the monster unsuccessfully, and then the creature departs, threatening that he will appear again on Victor's wedding night.

He later receives a letter from Clerval asking him to join him in Perth. Clerval says that he cannot delay his departure and must prepare for his expedition to India. But Victor first needs to get rid of the body of the monster's partner. He decides to dump it into the sea late at night. He completes this task but stays a little while longer on the sea until he falls asleep. He wakes up in the morning to find himself totally lost.

Hungry and fatigued, he arrives in a strange land. He is greeted rudely and told to appear before a magistrate. Since a dead body has been found under suspicious circumstances, he is suspected of committing the murder.

Notes

Although Victor has started work on the monster, he is evidently not comfortable with the idea. He finds himself thinking about the consequences again and again. This is very much unlike the last time, when he was concerned only with his ambition and new found knowledge. This time he fearlessly destroys the creation right in front of the monster. For once, he stands up for what he believes is right and refuses to be deterred.

It is ironic that the monster refers to him as "slave" and proclaims, "you are my creator, but I am your master, obey!" But Victor is not convinced. The monster threatens him. Victor is now concerned about Elizabeth and cannot get the monster's words about his wedding night out of his mind.

Victor becomes lost at sea. The irony is that now that he has finally overcome his conflict, he is still rather lost and purposeless. He finds himself in a strange land where he must now face the consequences of his deeds. Victor's present situation is similar to that of the monster, who had similarly been cold and hungry, lost and helpless in a strange land. The monster was treated with hostility for being a stranger, as Victor is treated in Ireland.

CHAPTER 21

Summary

Victor is charged with murder and the case is supported by circumstantial evidence. The witnesses, a man, his son and brother-in-law, were out fishing. They had landed at a creek and the main witness had stumbled upon the body of a man. They tried everything to restore his life but failed. The corpse apparently had finger marks on his neck. This information reminds Victor of William's death. The main witness gives additional information, saying that he saw a single man out in a boat that night. The people conclude that Victor was trying to leave the scene of the crime, but that the wind had steered his boat back to the land.

Victor is told to identify the body, and he is shocked to find that it is Henry's. He breaks into convulsions and takes to bed for over two months.

Mr. Kirwin, the magistrate, has in the meanwhile contacted Victor's family, and his father arrives to see him. Thanks to Mr. Kirwin's efforts, Victor is spared criminal charges and allowed to return home. They sail on a vessel bound for Havre-de-Grâce. Victor tries to sleep but has a nightmare. He is now taking laudanum every night in order to be able to rest.

Notes

The chapter reinforces the similarity between Victor's situation and the monster's. Both are lost and hopeless and in a foreign land. Both are received at first with hostility; while Victor finds a benefactor in Mr. Kirwin, the monster gets some comfort from the De Lacey family. It is largely due to Mr. Kirwin that Victor is taken care of and reunited with his father.

Victor now seems to be paying for his ambition. He is going through the very same situation that Justine suffered through: he is tried for a murder that he has not committed.

Victor again asks for death as a form of escape. He cannot bear the anguish any longer. He asks for forgetfulness and rest. He wonders why he is still alive after so many shocks. And he wonders if he is alive only to be miserable and to suffer.

The author mentions class difference in this chapter. A nurse, the wife of one of the prison guards, represents the lower class. The prejudices of the higher class against the lower are reflected in Victor's statement that the nurse possesses bad qualities, which characterize her class.

The mood here is rather depressing. Words such as "gloomy," "frightful" and "misery" are constantly used.

CHAPTER 22

Summary

Victor and his father have reached Paris. Victor cannot socialize with people and feels that he will be responsible for their eventual deaths. He constantly accuses himself of the deaths of William, Justine and Henry. His father attributes this behavior to delirium.

Before they leave for Paris, Victor receives a letter from Elizabeth. She assures him of her love and wants to know if he is marrying her of his own free will and love or because of a feeling of obligation. Victor writes back saying that he loves her and will tell her of all the problems he has faced on the day after their marriage. Until then, she must be patient.

He returns home and courts Elizabeth for a while. He is extremely paranoid about the monster attacking him at any moment and arms himself with many weapons. Elizabeth has inherited some property on the shores of Lake Como, and they plan to spend time at Villa Lavenza.

They spend a happy time together, enjoying each other's company.

Notes

Elizabeth and Victor seem to share an undying love for each other and are now certain that they want to be married. Elizabeth's love for Victor seems to be the only comforting factor in his life now that he has lost everyone he loves. He holds himself responsible for the deaths of William, Justine and Henry. This attitude is reflected in his solitude and in his inability to socialize. Although he reiterates that he is responsible for these deaths, he is also worried that he will be labeled a madman.

Victor and Elizabeth share each other's lives during the courtship. It is one of the most beautiful times they have together. Victor makes the most of it although he is terrified that he will die on their wedding night. Victor interprets the monster's threat only as it relates to himself, and not to Elizabeth. He is curiously unaware of the fact that the monster seeks to destroy him through the murder of his loved ones. However, his paranoia is constantly apparent. He seeks solace in nature on the banks of Montalègre and at Mont Salêve.

CHAPTER 23

Summary

Both Victor and Elizabeth take a walk on the shore for a while and then return to the inn. It begins to rain that night and Victor's terror mounts. He goes to check the surroundings and is startled by screams from Elizabeth's room. He finds her dead in their bed with the monster's marks on her. Victor collapses into unconsciousness. On recovering, he sees the monster grinning at him and fires a shot, but misses. He tries to chase him and fails.

He decides to see if his father and Ernest are still alive, and he goes home. His father cannot bear the grief of Elizabeth's death and dies soon after.

Circumstances take their toll on Victor's mental health. He is kept in solitary confinement for a while. He is released and approaches the magistrate directly.

Victor seeks revenge and requests the law for help. He tells his tale to the magistrate, who, although incredulous, assures him that he will help. But Victor is not convinced, and with rage in his eyes, he decides to settle the matter himself.

Notes

Victor's happiness is short-lived, as was the monster's. Finding Elizabeth dead is the ultimate shock. His love for her pours out after her death. He embraces her body ardently and weeps over her.

In extreme fury he tries to attack the escaping monster, but fails. He now realizes that the monster may want to kill his brother and father, too, so he goes back to Geneva. Unfortunately, his father dies, unable to bear the horror of the situation. In this respect, the monster has been successful in his mission to destroy his own creator. He aims at reducing Victor to a state of isolation not unlike his own.

Victor chooses to confess his story to the law, although it is almost too late. The thought of being labeled a madman no longer bothers him. He is consumed by a desire for revenge. The magistrate sees the madness and the rage in Victor's eyes. He tries to convince Victor that he is suffering from delirium, and Victor ironically replies, "Man . . . how ignorant art thou in thy pride of wisdom!" This is exactly what Victor himself has done: he has carried his "pride of wisdom" so far that he has betrayed his ignorance of the deadly consequences.

CHAPTER 24

Summary

Victor decides to leave Geneva to look for the monster. He goes to the cemetery where his loved ones are buried. He vows to avenge their unnatural deaths. Just then, the monster whispers that he is satisfied that Victor has decided to remain alive.

Victor now follows the monster everywhere he goes, to the Rhône, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, but the monster always escapes. In the wilds of Tartary and Russia, he follows him. Sometimes the peasants inform him of the monster's tracks, which are found on the snow. Victor endures all kinds of hardships to remain in pursuit of the monster.

Victor often dreams of his loved ones, and this comforts him. Sometimes the monster leaves inscriptions on the bark of trees. This further provokes Victor to seek revenge. He pursues the monster northward and procures a sled and dogs to cross the snow. He arrives in a village in two days where he hopes to intercept the monster. The monster has stolen his food supply and disappeared. They think he is probably dead.

Victor gets himself a new sled and stocks up with provisions for his journey. Then he sees the monster before him at barely a mile's distance. Unfortunately, he loses track of the monster once again, and now the sea itself separates him from his enemy. Several of his dogs die during the journey, and he becomes intensely depressed. It is at this point that he encounters Robert Walton's vessel. Victor now pleads with Robert to kill the monster, since he has been unsuccessful in his attempt.

The chapter concludes with a return to the epistolary form. There are five more short letters that Robert Walton writes to his sister, and these convey to the reader the end of Frankenstein's story. Robert writes that he believes that the monster really exists. He has even tried to acquire the secret of his creation, but Victor has discouraged him in this matter.

Victor himself corrects or adds to the notes that Robert has been making regarding the former's history. Robert, who has so far longed to have a friend, is now afraid of losing Victor. Victor has realized the value of his loved ones and teaches Robert a few lessons in companionship.

Robert is still rather enthusiastic about his voyage despite the perils involved. But his sailors demand that they return home once they can break free from the ice. Victor reprimands them and scoffs at their "manliness." But all efforts to continue are useless, and they are obliged to return to England. Victor finally dies, requesting that they destroy the monster. Then, Robert is witness to the monster's repenting for his evil deeds.

He hears something in Victor's cabin, and he discovers the monster standing over his creator's dead body. The monster confesses that he did feel pity for Victor, especially after he had killed Henry Clerval. But his envy and outrage always got the better of him. Nevertheless, the monster insists that he was naturally good, but that Victor's rejection and man's unkindness made him evil. He decides that he will kill himself with fire. The monster, regretful and repentant, is soon lost "in darkness and distance."

Notes

The concluding chapter of the book ends on a tragic note with Victor's death. For a long time, his only aim in life has been the destruction of the monster. What one finds striking in the novel is that the monster does not have a name. Victor had created him and given him life, but he never gave him an identity through a name. This shows the alienation and anonymity that oppress the monster.

The mood becomes distinctly eerie as Victor enters the cemetery where his loved ones are buried. He talks about the solemnity of the atmosphere. He says the "spirits of the departed seemed to flit around and cast a shadow, which was felt but not seen, around the head of the mourner." He feels only deep grief, which is later replaced by rage and despair. As if to strengthen his motivation, he vows to find the killer. Even at the grave, he does not find peace but is carried away by vengeance. In this mission of destruction he believes that the spirits guarded him and gave him strength so that he could fulfill his "pilgrimage."

Every time he comes close to the monster, he loses track of him almost as quickly as he sees him. Once, he is actually separated from the creature by the sea. Destiny seems to have a hand in preventing Victor from killing his creation. Victor knows that he may not be successful in his attempt, and he therefore leaves Robert in charge, assuming that Robert, too, believes the monster is evil and must die.

Victor fails to realize until his death that the monster, too, had taken a vow of vengeance: he vowed to destroy Victor by isolating him from his loved ones, and he has succeeded. Now that the monster has destroyed his family, he has destroyed Victor. Therefore, one could conclude that Victor's fears of the monster's killing other humans are unfounded, since the monster does not go on a killing spree. It is Victor's desire for vengeance that spurs him to track him down and destroy him.

It is interesting to note that Robert wants to learn the secret of creating a human being, even after hearing this cautionary tale. Victor's saga has proven that human curiosity knows no bounds; the need to probe into the forbidden, the unknown and the supernatural is human.

Victor still retains his idea of "manliness" and cannot tolerate the sailors' request to return home. He reproaches them for not being man enough to overcome obstacles. Victor's ambition is to live through these young sailors. At the end of his life, Victor remains essentially unchanged. He has been destroyed mentally, he has been wrecked emotionally, but at the core, he is still the bright, ambitious and immature Victor, whom the readers first encounter in the laboratory. He dies unfulfilled, repeating his cherished request to Robert. He feels he is justified in this desire for vengeance because he is backed by "reason and virtue."

On encountering the monster, Robert reprimands him and tries to take charge. He is evidently influenced by Victor's words. But the monster himself admits his remorse at Victor's death and declares that he will destroy himself. He talks about having fallen prey to feelings yet unsatisfied, but the meaning is left ambiguous by the author. It is unclear whether his unquenched desire--for love, or for murder and destruction--lies dormant within him.

Nevertheless, he chooses to kill himself, repenting his evil deeds, and is lost in darkness and distance, like a fading memory. The author leaves the book open-ended and this further evokes a sense of horror. One does not know if the monster will return again to haunt mankind.

 

 

 

OVERALL ANALYSES

CHARACTER ANALYSIS

Victor Frankenstein

He is a young scientist, thirsty for knowledge. He studies the forbidden sciences, questions the principle of life and gives birth to an "inhuman" creature. In this venture, he overreaches himself. He gathers tremendous knowledge, defies his parents and dabbles in the supernatural. He shows a natural human tendency to pursue the forbidden. But his knowledge nevertheless leaves him ignorant of the consequences of his act. His burning ambition influences him in such a way that he is no more an ordinary mortal but can be compared to Dr. Faustus. (Faustus, or Faust, is a character from literature and legend who enters into a pact with the devil in exchange for knowledge and power.) Victor undergoes emotional and mental change. He suffers from feelings of remorse and guilt at seeing the untimely deaths of the people around him. However, he never once truly repents for what he has done. Instead his fury is always directed against the monster. He is afraid of confessing his guilt for fear of being labeled a madman.

One can say that he never really changes as a person. In the end, one sees this clearly, as he reprimands the sailors for wanting to go back home empty-handed. He tells them to be "men," who fight and conquer all obstacles. The burning ambition has still not left him. And he still believes he can avenge his family's death by killing the monster.

Elizabeth Lavenza

The kind, gentle female who is "more than sister" to Victor and "more than daughter" to his father marries Victor. Her devotion to Victor is total and undying. Elizabeth's love for Victor rivals the love of Caroline for Alphonse. In this case it is Elizabeth's love which gains prominence, and not Victor's.

Elizabeth has never complained of the ambiguity of their relationship. She has totally given up her life for the Frankenstein family, raising William and Ernest as her own children. She is a fearless being, ready to stand up for what she believes is right. When the whole world turns its back on the innocent Justine, Elizabeth defends her. She even blames herself for William's death because she had given him the miniature of Caroline, for which, it is presumed, he was murdered.

Elizabeth, too, falls prey to the monster because she is an important part of Victor's life. The monster exacts vengeance by depriving Victor of such total love and devotion.

Henry Clerval

He is a devoted friend to Victor. He is like a savior, coming at the right time to rescue Victor from the brink of destruction. He wants to be with him so that they can study together and share their joys and sorrows. In short, he wants to be the perfect friend. It is tragic that Victor does not trust him enough to reveal his deepest, darkest secret to him.

Henry is a perceptive person, and he knows when something is amiss. He is one of the few people who knows how to manage Victor during a crisis.

Henry is a very caring person. It is he who nurses Victor back to health. He stays by his side day and night and gives him cheerful company to raise his spirits. He keeps memories of the laboratory away from Victor, because he knows Victor has developed an aversion for the place. This indicates that Henry is aware that Victor has been up to something. However, he has the decency not to intrude upon Victor's privacy.

He, too, sacrifices his life for Victor's ambitions.

The "Monster"

He is the nameless creature who is the product of Victor's ambition, curiosity, and forbidden knowledge. He remains anonymous until the end of the novel. It is ironic that one has to refer to him as a "monster" or a "demon" when he starts out as more humane than many of the other characters.

His sensitivity is touching at times. The reader sees him enjoying the De Lacey family sessions. At that time, love as an emotion is dominant, and aggression is still dormant in him.

It is unfortunate that he is always misunderstood due to his size and his horrible appearance. One cannot help feeling sorry for him when he bears the violence of people rather timidly. He can never be termed truly evil. In keeping with the ethos of Romanticism, Shelley shows that it is circumstances that force him to use his dormant aggression against people. He cannot be expected to respect or to love people when they loathe him. It is only then that he uses his strength to destroy the things around him. He becomes inflamed by a desire for vengeance. He must bring his creator to ruin, and after that, he must seek peace in death.

It is ironic that he, too, possesses the thirst for knowledge, quite like his master.

Robert Walton

The sea captain can be said to be an extension of Victor's personality. He is rather passionate about voyages and discoveries, and he will go to any extent to attain his goals. His purpose is commendable, but not the means he employs to achieve it.

The story of Victor's childhood runs parallel to Robert's. Both have books as companions, and both are highly passionate about their goals in life. Robert has an important lesson to learn from Victor's story. But Robert displays the typical human tendency not to learn a lesson the first time. He still asks Victor about the secret of creation, even though he has heard a tale of horrible suffering.

Caroline Frankenstein

This gentle, kind-hearted lady struggles all her life. She loses her father at a young age. She has to take care of him before his death and works extremely hard to make ends meet. Her efforts to survive are remarkable, particularly because she came from a rich family.

Alphonse enters into her life as a benefactor and a husband. Despite the age difference between them, they get along well, have three children and adopt one child, Elizabeth. Her benevolence is touching when she decides to save Elizabeth from a life of poverty. Her altruism leads to her death, as she falls ill after attending to her "more-than daughter," Elizabeth, who has scarlet fever.

M. Waldman

His mild manners and goodness win Victor's admiration. It is because of him that Victor changes his opinion about modern science and approaches his studies with great vigor. He is not contemptuous of Victor's having read Cornelius Agrippa and Albertus Magnus. Nevertheless, he encourages him to be a proper scientist.

Justine Moritz

Her character is very similar to Caroline's. After all, Caroline was a major influence on her, and she wanted to follow in her footsteps. Everything she does is exactly what Caroline would have done.

Her composure in court and her simple defense when accused of William's murder speak volumes about her character. She is the typical self-sacrificing female of nineteenth-century literature. She is highly submissive and gives in to her mother's complaints, but she never complains herself. She even lets herself be blamed for her sibling's deaths. She is very generous and unafraid of death. She dies peacefully, knowing that her loved ones, Elizabeth and Victor, are convinced of her innocence.

She is another victim of Victor's ambition.

AUTHOR'S STYLE

Frankenstein as a gothic novel

The gothic tradition highlights the grotesque, relies on mysterious and remote settings, and is intended to evoke fear. All of these qualities are evident in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The "monster" around whom the novel revolves is itself a product of Victor Frankenstein's attraction to the grotesque, which results in deformity and deviation. The monster towers over other human beings. While he has a good soul, he strikes fear in all who lay eyes on him.

The fine settings within the novel are striking and distinctively gothic. Appropriately, the creature first breathes on a "dreary night of November." Victor creates his monster in a remote laboratory at Ingolstadt, while the second "monster" is begun in a desolate area of Scotland. Elizabeth is killed on a stormy night, the perfect time for a dramatic murder.

The eerie atmosphere of Frankenstein is typical of the gothic tradition. Victor, unafraid of the dark, spends his time in "vaults and charnel-houses." He boldly visits the cemetery at night and vows to avenge the murders of his family members. Such details as the creaking doors, the soft blowing of the wind in the still of the night, and the quiet footsteps in the house all lead to a feeling of fear and suspense. Frankenstein succeeds as a gothic horror and as a "ghost story."

In the gothic there is a strong reliance on the fantastic and the supernatural, which often overrides inconsistencies within the details of the plot. The fact that the monster unfailingly follows Victor everywhere he goes is rather questionable. Almost no mention is made of the obstacles he could have faced along the way. It is equally striking that the murders committed by the "monster" have all gone unwitnessed.

Finally, the gothic takes the theme of death in an interesting direction: overcoming the limits of mortality is a major concern. On a certain level, Victor's interest in creating life is an extension of this desire to escape death. By assembling the body parts of the dead, Victor makes a "monster" who is part human and part ghost. Like a tormented spirit, his creation haunts the living.

PLOT STRUCTURE ANALYSIS

The author has taken great care in structuring this novel. It starts with letters from the sea captain, Robert, to his sister, Margaret (Mrs. Saville). The story of Frankenstein, as well as that of the monster, is covered in his letters. In other words, Robert meets Victor, who then tells his story. Victor meets the monster, who also tells a story, and finally, the novel concludes with another set of Robert's letters. The plot is presented in a structure of concentric circles, with Robert in the outermost circle, Victor in the second circle, and the monster in the innermost circle.

In the twenty-four chapters of the novel, the monster's story is placed in the center, from Chapters 11-16. The first four letters are to be taken individually; the content of each differs from the others. The first ten chapters then tell the story of Victor, to which the readers return at the end of the book. Robert also concludes his letters to Margaret at that point.

The author never leaves a loose thread in the novel and sees to it that every character is fully developed. Ernest is probably an exception to this, but usually, the other minor characters get their due. Each character is representative of some particular quality.

The pace of the book is carefully controlled. The killings, while horrific, occur at regular intervals. Events generally seem to follow a natural (or supernatural) course, and almost nothing seems out of place. In the end, the author brings everything together to show Victor's desolation and frustration at the disappearance of his loved ones.

THEMES ANALYSIS

Main Theme

Mary Shelley's novel, Frankenstein, gains increasing significance in the modern world with its relevant theme of "man playing God." Creation lies in the hands of God/Nature, but man tries to interfere in this process.

Shelley shows Frankenstein, the young scientist, questioning the principle of life: "Whence, I often asked myself, did the principle of life proceed?" Frankenstein is an idealist who believes in his goals and will go to any lengths to achieve them. "It was a bold question, and one which has ever been considered as a mystery, yet with how many things are we upon the brink of becoming acquainted, if cowardice or carelessness did not restrain our enquiry." His intention is to rid the world of death, to "renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption."

By examining the consequences of Victor's ambition, Shelley questions the goal of science itself: is science a way of improving life, or does it threaten life? Victor's creation comes back to haunt him and ultimately tries to destroy him. His plan backfires, and his "progress" remains on paper. The experiment he attempts turns into his own enemy.

Minor Themes

Frankenstein's creation is unnatural. The monster is nothing but an assemblage of body parts which belong to dead people. This contrasts with the natural process of procreation through which life begets life. The monster never has a mother or a father.

Nevertheless, like man, the creature is basically good. This "creation" turns into a "monster" only after his love is not reciprocated. Shelley shows that monsters are made by their environment and their experiences in life.

IMPORTANT QUOTATIONS

Theme - Guilt/Regret

Pg. 24 "I regret that I am taken from you; and happy and beloved as I have been, it is not hard to guilt you all..."

Pg. 53 "A thousand times rather would I have confessed to render her happy life, now all was to be obliterated..., and I the cause!"- Victor Frankenstein.

Pg. 58 "I did confess, but I confessed a lie... but now the falsehood lies heavier at my heart than all my other sins."- Justine

Pg. 60 "From the tortures of my heart, I turned to contemplate the grief of Elizabeth"- Victor

Pg. 61 "Justine died; she rested; I was alive. The blood flowed freely through my veins, but a weight of despair and remorse pressed on my heart, which nothing could remove it."-Victor

Pg. 70 "Cursed (although i curse myself) be the hands that formed you!"- Victor talking to the monster

Pg. 85 "Oh that I had forever remained in my native wood, nor known nor felt beyond the sensation of hunger, thirst, and heat."

Pg. 89 "His blind and aged father and is gentle sister lay in a noisome dungeon while he[Felix] enjoyed the free air and the safety of her whom he loved."

Theme - Responsibility of Parents/Parental Duties

Pg. 32 "My children....my firmest hopes of future happiness were place on the prospect of your union."

Pg. 33 "I know that while you are pleased with yourself, you will think of us with affection, and we shall hear regularly from you."

Pg. 40 "You will find a happy, cheerful home, and friends who love you clearly."

Pg. 87 " The young girl spoke in high and enthusiastic terms of her mother.... She instructed her daughter in the tenets of her religion and taught her to aspire to higher powers of intellect ..."

Pg. 88 " This lady died; but her lessons were indelibly impressed on the mind of Safie.

Pg. 100 "Unfeeling, heartless, creator, you endowed with perceptions and passion and then cast me as an object for the scorn and horror of mankind."

Pg 19 " My parents were possessed by the very spirit of kindness and indulgence."

" We felt that they were not the tyrants to rule our lot according to their caprice, bu the agents and creators of all the many delights which we enjoyed."

Pg 23 " When I had attained the age of seventeen, my parents resolved, that I should become a student a at the university of Ingolsdat."

" ...but my father thought it necessary for the completion of my education..."

Pg 24 " Elizabeth...you must supply my place to my younger children."

Pg 42 " One by one, her brothers and sisters died; and her neglected daughter, was left childless."

 

Theme - Friendship/Companionship

Pg 78 "They often, I believe, suffered the pangs of hunger very poignantly, especially before the old man when they reserved none for themselves."

Pg 79 "The gentle manners and beauty of the cottagers greatly endeared them to me....and if only others happened to enter the cottage their harsh manners and rude gait only enhanced to me the superior accomplishments of my friends"

Pg. 63 "Remember the friends around you, who center all their hopes in you."

Pg. 48 "During our walk, Clerval endeavored to say a few words of consolation; he could only express his heartfelt sympathy."

Pg. 37 "Nothing could equal my delight on seeing Clerval..."

Pg. 37 "I felt suddenly, and for the first time during many months, calm and serene joy. I welcomed my friend..."

Pg. 4 " You may deem me romantic, my dear, sister but I bitterly feel the want of a friend."

Theme - Isolation and Loneliness

Pg.71 "It was as a child when I awoke, I felt cold also, and half frightened as it were instinctive finding myself so desolate."

Pg. 103 " I am alone and miserable, man will not associate with me, but one as deformed and horrible as myself would not deny herself to me."

Pg. 34 " I shunned my fellow creatures as if I had been guilty of a crime."

Pg. 25 "I, who had ever been surrounded by amiable companions, continually engaging in endeavoring to bestow mutual pleasure, I was now alone."

Pg. 25 "My life and hitherto been remarkably secluded and domestic; and this had given me invincible repugnant to new countenances."

Pg. 19 " ...The lives of my parents were passed in considerable seclusion"

Pg. 19 "It was my temper to avoid the crowd..."

Pg. 2 "I am required not only to raise the spirits of hers, but sometimes to substain my own, when theirs are failing...."

Pg. 2 "The absense of the object of which I now feel as a most severe evil. I have no friend, Margaret...no one will endeavour to substain me in dejection."

Pg. 4 "You may deem me romantic, my dear sister, but I bitterly feel the want of a friend."

Pg. 4 "I have no one near me...."

Pg. 4 "I greatly need a friend who would have sense enough not to despise me as romantic."

Pg. 5 "I shall certainly find no friend on the wide ocean, nor even here in Archangel, among merchants and seamen...."

Pg. 75 " ... I escaped to the open country and fearfully took refuge in a low hovel..."

Pg. 77 " ... I would remain quietly in my hovel..."

Pg. 77 "That I, an imperfect and solitary being, should be wretched."

Pg. 85 "I possessed no money, no friends, no kind of property."

Pg. 85 "...was I, then a monster, a blot upon the earth, from which all men fled and whom all men disowned."

Pg. 85 "I had forever remained in my native wood"

Pg. 85 " I was unseen and unknown"

Pg. 86 "Where were my friends and relations?"

Pg. 4 "....but they want (as the painters call it) keeping; and I greatly need a friend who would have sense enough not to despise me as romantic..."

Pg .101"....I shunned the face of man, all sound of joy, or complacency was torture to me; solitude was my only consolation..."

Pg. 93 "These were the reflections of my hours of despondency and solitude..."

Theme-Knowledge/Learning

Pg. 1 "I may there discover the wondrous power which attract the needle."

Pg. 2 "Or by ascertaining the secret of the magnet."

Pg. 2 "I imagined that i also might obtain a niche in the temple where the names of Homer and Shakespeare are consecrated."

Pg. 11 " One man's life or death were but a small price to pay for the aquirement of the knowledge, which I sought"

Pg. 71 " I learned to distinguish between the operations of my various senses."

Pg. 72 " I found...that the fire gave light aw well as heat."

Pg. 73 " I examined the sight with great curiosity."

Pg. 77 "I would remain quietly in my hovel, watching, and endeavoring to discover the motives which influenced their [the cottagers'] actions"

Pg. 77 "I discovered one of the causes of the uneasiness of this amiable family: it was poverty, and they suffered that evil in a very distressing degree."

Pg. 78 "This trait of kindness moved me sensibly . . . steal a part of their store for my own consumption . . . this inflicted pain upon the cottagers, I abstained, and satisfied myself with berries, nuts, and roots, which I gathered from a neighboring wood."

Pg. 78 "during the night, I often took his tools, the use of which I quickly discovered, and brought home firing sufficient for the consumption of several days."

Pg. 78 "I discovered the names that were given to some of the most familiar objects of discourse; I learned and applied the words 'fire,' 'milk,' 'bread,' and 'wood.' I learned also the names of the cottagers themselves. I learned the ideas appropriated to each of these sounds, and was able to pronounce them."

Pg. 80 "Knowledge might enable me to make them overlook the deformity of my figure."

Pg. 80 "Rain, as I found it was called when the heavens poured forth its water."

Pg. 83 "The stranger was endeavoring to learn their language, and the idea instantly occurred to me that I should make use of the same instructions to the same end. The stranger learned about twenty words; most of them were those which I had before understood, but I profited by the others."

Pg. 83 "I ardently desired to understand [Felix and his father]."

Pg. 83 "I improved rapidly in the knowledge of language, and in 2 months I began to comprehend most of the words uttered by my protectors."

Theme - Anger

Ch.16 "Cursed, cursed creator! Why did I live? Why... did I not extinguish which you had so want only bestowed? ... My feelings were those of rage and revenge."

"I... wished to tear up the trees, spread havoc and destruction around me and then to have sat down and enjoyed the ruin."

Pg. 81 "I shall realte events, that impressed me with feelings which from what I had been, have made mw what I am"

Pg.84 "For a long time I could not concieve how one man could go forth to murder his fellow, or even why there were laws and governments; but whe i heard details of vice and bloodshed, my wonder ceased, and I turned away with disgust and loating."

Pg. 85 "miserable, unhappy wretch!"

Pg. 86 "What was I? The question agin recured, to be answered only with groans"

Pg. 63 "But even if I were condemned to suffer from the scaffold for the same crimes, I would not change place with such a wretch."

Theme - Against Creator

Pg. 68 " I expected this reception,"said their daemon."All men hate the wretched; how then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things!"

Pg. 68 "Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature, to whom thou art bound by ties---". "You propose to kill me."

Pg. 68 "Have I not suffered enough, that you seek to my misery?"

Pg. 68 "You, my creator, abhor me; what hope can I gather from you fellow creature, who owe me nothing? They spawn and hate me."

Pg, 104 "Am I not shunned and hated by all mankind? You, my creator, would tear me to pieces."

Theme - Obsession

"My application was at first fluctuating and uncertain; it gained strength as I proceeded, and soon became so ardent and eager, that the stars often disappeared in the light of morning whilst I was yet engaged in my laboratory."

"Winter, spring, and summer passed away during my labours; but I did not watch the blossom or the expanding leaves - sights which before always yielded me supreme delight - so deeply was I engrossed in my occupation.

"The summer months passed while I was thus engaged, heart and soul, in one pursuit."

Theme - Death

pg. 9 "His limbs were nearly frozen and his body dreadfully emaciated by fatigue and suffering"

pg. 10 "He is generally melancholy and despairing; and sometimes he gashes his teeth; as impatient of the weight of woes that oppressed him"

pg. 10 " his countenance instantly assumed an aspect of the deepest gloom"

pg. 11 " One man's life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which...acquire and transmit over the elemental foes of our race"

pg. 12 " he appeared to despise himself"

pg. 13 " I have suffered great and unparalleled misfortunes. I had determined, at the time, that the memory of these exil's should die with me"

"I will endeavour to resign myself cheerfully to death and will indulge a hope of meeting you in another world."

"She died calmly."

"Her countenance expressed affection even in death."

"My mother was dead, but we had still duties which we ought to perform."

"What glory would attend the discovery, if I could only banish disease from human frame and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death."

KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS

SETTING

The novel starts with a sea-captain writing from St. Petersburg to his sister in England. Robert Walton, the sea-captain, is traveling towards the North Pole via Archangel when he encounters Victor Frankenstein. The focus of the book then shifts to Victor Frankenstein, whose story begins in Geneva, Switzerland, where he is born. Other European cities, which Victor's parents visit early in their marriage, are mentioned.

At the age of seventeen, Victor leaves for the university at Ingolstadt, where he spends six years. He creates the monster in an old deserted house in this city.

The novel is set mainly in Geneva against the backdrop of the Swiss Alps. Plainpalais in Geneva is the place where Frankenstein loses his brother, William. The mountains and lakes of Switzerland are prominent in the protagonist's life. Victor seeks refuge in the village and valley of Chamounix. For a change of scenery, Victor stays at his house in Belrive. It is on Montanvert that Victor encounters the monster.

The story of the monster is set largely in Germany, since he is created in Ingolstadt. He spends much time by a cottage in the hills of Germany, where he observes the De Lacey family. But the narrative is not restricted to Europe alone. The De Lacey family originates in France and has ties to the Near East. The monster wanders about in the woods and mountains of Europe. He crosses them in order to reach Geneva.

Victor wishes to travel abroad. He begins with a trip to England. Then he and Henry meet at Strasbourg and descend the Rhine River to Rotterdam, from where they head for London. From London they proceed to Perth, Scotland. Victor travels the northern highlands, and on a remote island he finds the place where he can create the second monster.

The action now moves to Ireland, where Victor finds himself lost. His father and he are then bound for Havrede-Grâce, away from the Irish shores. They then proceed to Paris and later leave for Geneva again, where Elizabeth and Victor enjoy their courtship. They get married and spend some brief time on the shores of Lake Como, where Elizabeth has inherited property. Victor returns to Geneva alone, but leaves soon afterward in search of the monster. Later, the readers are taken along the Rhine and visit the Mediterranean and Black Seas, as well as the wilds of Tartary and Russia. The action eventually reaches the North Pole, where Robert and Victor meet. Robert is forced to return to England.

Thus, the novel is set all over Europe. The North Pole is uncharted territory for Robert, but for Victor, it is a place where he can destroy the monster.

LIST OF CHARACTERS

Major Characters

Victor Frankenstein

The young scientist, around whose creation the story revolves. He can be said to be an example, or role-model, for Robert.

Elizabeth Lavenza Frankenstein

The "more than sister" of Victor Frankenstein. She is an adopted child, and she later marries Victor. The monster murders her after her marriage.

Henry Clerval

The son of a merchant and a dear friend of Victor's. He is often Victor's protector, and he becomes one of the victims of the "monster."

The "Monster"

The result of Victor's ambition. He is an enormous creature and a misfit in society. He is feared by all because of his appearance, and he learns to despise humankind. His goal is to destroy his creator, Victor Frankenstein.

Minor Characters

William Frankenstein

The younger brother of Victor. He falls prey to the "monster".

Ernest Frankenstein

Also the younger brother of Victor. He wants to join the military and remains the sole surviving member of the Frankenstein family.

Alphonse Frankenstein

Victor's father. He is a man of character.

Caroline Frankenstein

The kind, devoted wife of Alphonse Frankenstein. She dies before Victor leaves for the university.

M. Krempe

A professor of Victor's at the University of Ingolstadt.

M. Waldman

Also a professor of Victor's. He becomes a mentor and a friend to Victor. He appreciates Victor's passion for learning and encourages him to study science.

De Lacey

An old man from France; he lives in exile in Germany. He is the father of Agatha and Felix.

Robert Walton

The sea-captain and explorer who meets Victor and learns his story.

Agatha De Lacey

The daughter of De Lacey. She is a mild-mannered and sweet girl.

Felix De Lacey

The loving son of De Lacey. He marries Safie after helping her father escape from France.

Safie

Felix's love interest. She breaks free from Arab tradition and marries Felix, a Christian.

The Turk

Safie's father. He is a Turkish merchant in France. He is strongly opposed to Safie's marriage to Felix.

Mr. Kirwin

An Irish magistrate who takes care of Victor when he is imprisoned in Ireland.

Justine Moritz

An adopted child of Caroline Frankenstein. She is tried for the murder of William and executed, thus she is an indirect victim of the monster's violence.

Margaret Saville

The sister of Robert Walton and the recipient of his letters. She is married and has children.

CONFLICT

Protagonist

Victor Frankenstein is the creator of the "monster." Because of his thirst for knowledge, he goes too far and creates a huge monster, whom he immediately rejects. This rejection contributes to the monster's hatred for humankind.

Antagonist

The protagonist's creation turns against him. He is a creature with no name or identity. He is sensitive but highly misunderstood. His rejection by humankind leads to his violence. He is forced to hate humans and sets out to destroy his creator, Victor.

Climax

The desolation of the "monster" causes him to destroy Victor's life. He commands Victor to create another creature; this time it must be a female who will become his companion. Victor consents and nearly completes the second creature. However, overcome by disgust, he suddenly destroys this monster before bringing it to life. He is horrified at the possible union of two such monsters.

The monster's ultimate act of vengeance, the murder of Elizabeth on the Frankensteins' wedding night, is the climax of the novel. After this point, Victor vows to kill his creation.

Outcome

Victor does not succeed in killing the monster. His creation, however, succeeds in destroying almost everyone that Victor loves. Victor dies without realizing the full implications of his role as creator. The outcome is thus doubly tragic for Victor. Before departing to kill himself, the monster tells Robert Walton of his experiences. The tragedy of Frankenstein lies in the fact that the monster is driven by mankind to be evil.

The end is tinged with a sense of the supernatural: the monster is last seen alive, whereas the creator dies. One is horrified at the possibility of the monster's return.

SHORT PLOT/CHAPTER SUMMARY (Synopsis)

The plot deals with the conflict within Victor Frankenstein, who, due to his love of the natural sciences, produces a monstrous creature. Victor himself is disgusted at the sight of his creature and rejects him. All other humans likewise reject him because of his horrible appearance. The monster, frustrated and misunderstood, ultimately kills the people who are closely related to his creator, Victor Frankenstein.

This is the tale told by Victor to Robert Walton, a sea-captain on a voyage to the North Pole. Both Victor and Robert have much in common in terms of their childhood and their passion for knowledge. Both are explorers of a sort: Robert loves voyages, while Victor loves science. Each is prepared to go to any length to achieve his goals. Victor tells Robert his story so that he can learn to curb his extreme enthusiasm about achieving his goals.

The monster, too, has his own tale to tell. His sensitivity is awakened by Nature and the gentle manners of the family that he lives near. This is the De Lacey family, which is in exile. The family is brought to ruin and forced to seek refuge in a cottage in Germany, where the monster finds them.

When these people reject him, the creature destroys everything in sight. He now feels a tremendous hatred towards the human race. This is what sets him against his creator, whom he intends to destroy by isolating him from those he loves. He kills Victor's brother, his friend and his wife. The innocent Justine is accused of a murder (committed by the creature) and dies a murderess, thus increasing Victor's feelings of guilt and his need for revenge.

Victor makes it his mission to destroy the monster, who has been wreaking havoc in his life. In the meanwhile, he is approached by the monster, who requests that he create another being who can be his companion. Although Victor feels threatened, he consents. Eventually, he is caught between two moral responsibilities. He has a responsibility towards his own creation, and he has a responsibility towards the human race. At the last minute, he decides not to give life to the second creature, regardless of what the monster may do to him.

The monster threatens to be there with him on his wedding night. Victor interprets this as a threat against his own life, but instead he finds his beloved Elizabeth murdered. By this point, Henry has also been killed by the creature.

Victor reaches the North Pole in his pursuit of the monster, who evades him every time. Cold, tired and hungry, he meets Robert and narrates his saga. Afterwards, he dies. The monster makes an appearance, tells Robert his tale and vows to burn himself in a grand funeral pyre.

THEMES

Major Theme

The author explores the theme of playing God in a society which is constantly making "progress," or technological advancement. Science appears as a savior, or so people think. Science is the last refuge of modern people, who believe it to be the panacea (cure-all) for all evil, regardless of the evil it brings with it. Playing God in this novel leads to chaos and gruesome murders.

Minor Themes

Another theme deals with Frankenstein's new, unnatural mode for "creating" life. This new mode of creation, involving neither God nor womankind, leads ultimately to destruction. There is no nurturing involved, and nature itself is bizarrely manipulated. Frankenstein has become even more relevant in the present time. Cloning procedures and other technological advancements have raised questions about the ethics of mankind's involvement in "creation."

Another minor theme is the human tendency to judge a person based on his/her appearance. It is true that the monster appears horrifying, but he is shown to be more "humane" than the other humans; indeed, he is at first more sensitive and tolerant. Unfortunately, no one tries to understand him or to accept him the way he is.

Finally, Shelley treats the theme of love, but in this novel, it is the absence of love that is most striking. The lack of love between the creator (Victor) and his creation (the monster) can lead only to misery and destruction.

MOOD

The mood is quite somber throughout the novel, particularly with the entry of the monster. It does have some touching episodes of happy family life among the Frankensteins, as well as among the De Laceys. But these are not sufficient to counter the sense of horror and brutality that is aroused by the atrocities enacted by the monster.

The mood is almost cold towards the end of the novel, with Victor coming to terms with the deaths around him. But vengeance and rage still have a place in his heart, as in that of the monster.

 

BACKGROUND INFORMATION - BIOGRAPHY

MARY SHELLEY

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was born in London in 1797. She was the daughter of the philosopher, William Godwin, and his wife, Mary Wollstonecraft, who wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792).

In 1814 she met and fell in love with Percy Bysshe Shelley, the English Romantic poet. She eloped with him in July of 1814, taking along her stepsister, Claire Clairmont. But Mary and Shelley could not marry until Shelley's wife, Harriet, died in 1816. Of Mary Shelley's four children by the poet, only Percy Florence survived.

Some of her works include The Last Man (1826) and Lodore (1835). She also edited a book of Percy Shelley's poems in 1839. She lived in the shadow of Shelley's genius for a long time. Shelley died in 1822. Mary Shelley lived until 1851, having enjoyed some literary success.

Although Mary Shelley came from a large family, full of half-sisters and half-brothers, she often felt very alone. Her relations with her father were strained, as is depicted in some of her writings. Frankenstein (1818) has been said to be a product of the horror she felt in losing her children. The trauma, hopes and fears of reanimating a corpse are transferred to the character of Victor, through whom the author re-lives the experience, and in a way, purges herself of it. Whether or not one accepts this particular interpretation of Frankenstein, the novel for which she is famous is a masterful achievement. It is her original contribution to the literary themes and obsessions of the Romantic period.

LITERARY/ HISTORICAL INFORMATION

The idea for Frankenstein developed when Lord Byron, Shelley, Mary and Polidori came together in the summer of 1816 in Switzerland. On a fateful day, they were confined indoors due to rain. Byron came up with the idea that each of them should write a ghost story to pass the time.

Byron's tale was included in a fragment at the end of his poem "Of Mateppa." Shelley based his story on the early experiences of his life, while Polidori's story was flimsy. Mary Shelley alone succeeded in creating a story that could "awaken thrilling horror."

She had learned about various philosophical and scientific doctrines. Galvanism (the re-animating of a corpse) was a popular topic of discussion at that time. In the preface to Frankenstein, Mary Shelley states that the book was conceived in a dream in which she saw a "pale student of unhallowed arts putting together the hideous phantasm of a man." She writes, "the idea so possessed my mind that a thrill of fear ran through me, and I wished to exchange the ghastly image of my fancy for the 'realities around'." She realized that what terrified her would also terrify others, and so she formulated her story.

Frankenstein is also in keeping with the spirit of the times. The novel reflects many elements of the Romantic period (1798-1832): the primacy of feeling, the importance of nature, the individual and his quest, the supernatural and the exotic, and solitude