Frankenstein Study Guide

Frankenstein

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein is presented as a frame tale, told by Captain Walton while on an expedition to the North Pole, where he finds Frankenstein. Frankenstein is a scientist who created a monstrous human-like Creature. The Creature tried to explain his murders to Frankenstein, claiming that people rejected and feared him, begging Frankenstein to make him a mate. Frankenstein first agrees then destroys the mate. The enraged Creature kills Frankenstein's wife, fleeing to the North Pole. After Frankenstein dies, Walton sees the Creature mourning as he floats away on a raft.

Brief Summary

Victor became obsessed with science, in particular chemistry, and devoted all of his time to studying. For two years, Victor was thoroughly engrossed in his studies, earning the admiration of his fellow students and his professors. He didn't visit his hometown of Geneva or his family once during that time.

Victor wanted to figure out where and how life was created. In order to understand life creation, Victor reasoned, one must first examine death. He explored catacombs and bone repositories. Soon, Victor had a breakthrough scientific realization, claiming he found the secret to life creation. He was overwhelmed and enchanted by his discovery.

Victor addresses the audience of his story, Robert Walton, explaining that this secret is dangerous knowledge, and Walton will see exactly how dangerous at the end of Victor's story.

Victor then wanted to build a physical frame in which to place the life he could create. Feverishly he labored over creating an eight-foot tall human being. He barely slept or ate, and grew emaciated. Often, he was repulsed by his activity, and yet driven by an unstoppable passion.

A year passed and Victor became a nervous wreck about his project. Victor failed to keep up correspondence with his friends and family. He was consumed project, to the point where he preferred to have no emotional affection for people at all while he worked. He believed that when his task was complete, he would become healthy again.

Detailed Summary

Victor became obsessed with science, in particular chemistry, and devoted all of his time to studying. He attended lectures, and found that even the repulsive professor Krempe had valuable knowledge to share. His chemistry professor, Waldman, became Victor's friend as well as his tutor. Waldman had an honest and easy approach, and made difficult concepts understandable to his students. Victor's dedication to his studies became so great that he started staying up all night in his laboratory.

For two years, Victor was thoroughly engrossed in his studies, earning the admiration of his fellow students and his professors. He didn't visit his hometown of Geneva or his family once during that time. Science, according to Victor, is different from any other field of study because there is always more to explore. At the end of those two years, Victor discovered how to improve upon some chemical instruments, which brought him great respect from the entire university.

In his studies up until this point, Victor had been especially preoccupied with figuring out how life is created. He wanted to answer the question, From where does life spring? In order to understand life creation, Victor reasoned, one must first examine death. He had no fear of ghosts or the supernatural, and found it easy to explore catacombs and bone repositories, studying the decomposition of the body. He observed that what lives must decay and die, and then what has died becomes food for new life, as the worm benefits from the remains of the deceased. From these conclusions, Victor had a breakthrough scientific realization.

Victor takes a moment to assure the reader that his ideas were not temporary and insane. Rather, he devoted even more time and energy to proving his theories. After much work and exhaustion, Victor claims he found the secret to life creation, and was able to bring life to things that were dead. Victor was overwhelmed and enchanted by his discovery. He believed he was in possession of the answer to what every scientist before him had desperately longed to understand. He felt like he himself was given new life, after being buried with the dead.

Here Victor addresses the audience of his story, Robert Walton, explaining that while Walton may wish to know this secret himself, it is dangerous knowledge, and Walton will see exactly how dangerous at the end of Victor's story. Instead of learning the secret to creation, Victor wants for Walton to learn from the mistakes Victor made with such information. He ardently believes that ignorance is bliss, and he tells Walton so.

For Victor, understanding the mystery of creation was one thing. Building a physical frame in which to place the life he could create, was quite another daunting task. At first he had some hesitations about creating a being like himself, but soon his imagination took over and though it would be a difficult undertaking, he was sure of his success. He believed this project was a practical move, as it would lay the groundwork for future progress in science.

Victor gathered together his necessary tools and began working on creating an eight foot tall human being. Feverishly he labored over this project, anticipating the ultimate gratitude of a creature whose entire being existed because of Victor and his genius. Looking further ahead to the future, Victor hoped to be able one day to put life back into creatures that had died. Victor describes this period of invention when, again giving nature feminine attributes, he followed explored her hiding places. He barely slept or ate, and grew emaciated. His desire to accomplish his goal took over his own life, and he became frenzied in this project, scouring graves and torturing animals. He collected bones and other necessary materials for the body from a slaughterhouse and from corpse storehouses. Often, Victor was conflicted, feeling repulsed by his activity, and yet driven by his passionate desire to create a human being.

Victor remembers that the summer that went by while he worked was beautiful, yet he barely noticed his surroundings. Also, he failed to keep up correspondence with his friends and family, causing his father concern. Yet Victor was consumed project, to the point where he preferred to have no emotional affection for people at all while he worked. In reflecting on this period of time to Walton, Victor explains his belief that a perfect human should always be tranquil and calm. Any activity that serves to weaken your affections is unhealthy to the human mind. However, Victor admits, if every human stopped such pursuits, the greatest accomplishments in history would have never occurred.

Victor continued and a year passed outside his solitary laboratory, though he hardly took notice of the changes in nature. He increasingly avoided any human contact, and became a nervous wreck about his project. The energy pushing him to finish his creation was the only energy he had. He believed that when his task was complete, he would exercise and become healthy again.

Analysis

Victor's interest in science and in using science as technology becomes more and more obsessive. There are many references to light and dark, with varying meanings for each. Nature has countless dark secrets that Victor wants to uncover, and when he figures out how to create life, he describes it as a great light dazzling him. This revelation about creating life comes to Victor only after he has spent time in the darkest, death-filled areas, such as catacombs and cemeteries. He essentially tries to use dead, dark materials to create a spark of life, a new light in a decaying body.

In this chapter Victor spurns nature for his own scientific pursuits. Victor himself admits that his was an unhealthy project, that to concentrate on technological advancement in place of noticing the beauty of nature is foolish and dangerous. Additionally he avoided contact with other humans during the time when he was building a creature, and in retrospect he understands that that was unhealthy. Victor's transition into adulthood is almost complete with this task of creating a human being. Gone are the days of simply studying science and wishing he knew the secrets of nature. Now his desire has turned into active attempts to control nature, and through this project he grows ill, weak and pale. This is the misuse of knowledge, and Victor's declining health is only the first of many negative results from using knowledge for evil.

This act of control is also Victor's effort to be Godlike. He tries to force life where life has passed and will know the consequences of such actions. Furthermore, he tries to reason that his creating a human, and possibly an entire race, is a service to the world. In particular, it is a service to the world of science. Toward the end of the chapter he tells of the distress he feels about the project, and how he shuns his peers, as though he is guilty of a crime . Deep down, he does understand how morally vile his project is.

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