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

The chapter is in Elizabeth's voice, from a letter she sent to Victor. Elizabeth writes that she has known all along that Victor was ill, and regrets that she was unable to care for him. Elizabeth asks that Victor return to their home. Victor's father is in good health. Victor's brother, Ernest is sixteen and desperately wants to go into foreign service. Elizabeth then refers to the family's sweet and joyful servant, Justine Moritz. Recently, Justine's mother called her home. Justine returned to her mother's house and endured the extreme highs and lows of emotion to which her mother was prone. Soon, however, Justine's mother died and Justine went back to Elizabeth and the family. Elizabeth writes about Victor's youngest angelic sibling, William, before begging Victor to write to calm her anxiety.

Victor's narration takes over. He quickly wrote a long letter to Elizabeth. His recovery continued and he was able to leave his room. He wanted to introduce Clerval to his professors, though the mention of science made Victor anxious. Victor visited his professor Waldman, who lavishly praised Victor's accomplishments, upsetting Victor.

Victor joined Clerval in his studies of languages, and he spent the summer in that way, planning to return to his family in the fall. Winter, however, arrived early, so Victor was stuck in Ingoldstadt. Spring came and Clerval suggested they take a walking tour before Victor departed. Victor's health and mental state improved even more, as he felt invigorated by his surroundings.

Detailed Summary

Victor begins the chapter by stating that the following words are in Elizabeth's voice, from a letter she sent to him. Elizabeth writes that she has known all along that Victor was severely ill, and managed to convince Victor's father not to make the journey to Ingoldstadt to visit his sick son. Elizabeth regrets that she was unable to care for Victor, and assumes a mean old woman had been his nurse. Yet Clerval recently wrote saying Victor was getting better, and that had cheered her.

Elizabeth asks that Victor return to their happy home. Despite his age, Victor's father is in good health and high spirits. Victor's younger brother, Ernest is sixteen and desperately wants to go into foreign service. Victor's father is delaying Ernest's entry into the military until Victor is home again. Ernest has no interest in education or studying, and Elizabeth worries what will happen to him if he doesn't apply himself to foreign service.

Their cozy, content home in Geneva has changed very little, besides the growth of Victor's younger siblings. Elizabeth then refers to one change that has occurred with the family's servant, Justine Moritz. Justine had come to live at the family's home when Victor's mother, Caroline, had observed the abuse Justine received from her own mother. Elizabeth states that because class divisions are not so large and cruel in Geneva as they are in England and France, and because people in their town treat servants like human beings, this transition into servitude for Victor's family was a smooth one.

Elizabeth reminds Victor that Justine had been his favorite, as she was so true-hearted and joyful. Caroline grew very fond of Justine, and provided her with an excellent education. Justine in turn became extremely grateful, and adored Caroline so much that she would try to imitate Caroline's mannerisms and voice. When Caroline died, the other members of the family barely noticed Justine, who had closely tended to Caroline when she was ill. Justine became very sick as well.

Justine's siblings died one by one, leaving her mother at home without any children. Believing herself punished for having chosen the other children as favorites over Justine, her mother called Justine home. Reluctantly, Justine returned to her mother's house and endured the extreme highs and lows of emotion to which her mother was prone. Soon, however, Justine's mother died and Justine went back to Elizabeth and the family. Elizabeth claims that Justine reminds her of Caroline, as Justine had tried so hard to be like her.

Briefly, Elizabeth writes about Victor's youngest sibling, William, who has the perfect and sweet appearance of an angel. She writes that he already has a five-year-old wife in mind. Elizabeth continues to tell Victor about the latest news in who is marrying whom in their town, and various other bits of gossip. She closes the letter thanking Clerval for his correspondence while Victor was ill, and she begs Victor to write, even one word, to calm her anxiety.

Here the letter ends and Victor's narrates in the past tense. He quickly wrote a long letter to Elizabeth, the act of which made him very tired. His recovery continued, however, and in two weeks he was able to leave his room. He wanted to introduce Clerval to his professors, but even the mention of natural philosophy sent Victor's otherwise healthy body into an agonized state. Clerval had taken all of Victor's scientific instruments from his apartment, upon seeing the effect they'd had on Victor. Victor insisted on visiting with his professor Waldman, who lavishly praised Victor's accomplishments. Interpreting Victor's reactions as modesty, he turned the conversation to the subject of science, which only upset Victor more. He attempted to hide his torment, but Clerval saw that Victor was uncomfortable and steered the conversation toward more general topics. Victor was very grateful to his friend and wanted to tell him about his project, but was afraid that the retelling would make him feel more anxious. Victor's other professor, M. Krempe, was not as sensitive as Waldman, talking loudly about Victor's appearance of humility, and then commending it, before launching into a long speech about himself.

At the university, Clerval wished to become fluent in Asian languages, and was particularly interested in Persian, Arabic and Sanskrit. Not wanting to be idle, Victor joined Clerval in his studies, relieved to be examining something thoroughly different from science. He found the languages soothing, and the study of them was a form of amusement for him. Reading writings from the East, to Victor, was joyful and lovely, unlike the masculine and brash works of the Greeks and Romans.

Victor spent the summer studying with Clerval, and planned to return to his family in Geneva in the fall. Winter, however, arrived early and lasted an unusually long time, so Victor was stuck in Ingoldstadt. He didn't mind spending that time with his friend, and finally spring came and Victor's spirits lifted. Clerval suggested they take a walking tour around the outskirts of Ingoldstadt before Victor departed. In the two weeks they spent out and about together, Victor's health and mental state improved even more. Clerval was a gentle and kind companion, reminding Victor of the beauty of nature and sweetness of children. The spring passed into early summer and Victor felt invigorated by his surroundings, barely thinking about the hideous project that had devastated him the year before.

Delighted with Victor's happy state, Clerval would amuse his friend with imaginative tales and poems, or engage Victor in debates. The two returned to the college one Sunday and everyone in town appeared to be in a festive mood, which Victor could finally share.

Analysis

In Elizabeth's letter to Victor, she tells him the latest news concerning Justine, the family servant, and she explains Justine's background. These bits of information are important because they show how miserable Justine was with her old family, and therefore how much she was helped by being included in the Frankenstein family. In her mother's eyes, she was also somehow tied to the deaths of her siblings, which foreshadows more unjust accusations to come for Justine. The story of Justine highlights the theme of poverty, about which Shelley felt very strongly. Caroline observed the abuse Justine endured and she took Justine on as an employee. She treated Justine with common decency and respect (unlike the way servants are apparently treated in England and France), and Justine blossomed in the Frankenstein home. Caroline provided Justine with an education, and was extremely kind to her. In this relationship Shelley is perhaps showing an ideal vision of what class division could be like.

Clerval shows himself again to be an attentive and supportive friend to Victor. Their friendship is sweet and Clerval has an incredibly generous nature. It is a Romantic element of the novel that there is such an emphasis placed on friendship--particularly the brotherhood-type friendship existing between two men. That kind of close, emotional connection is valued and portrayed as a necessary aspect to life.

In his efforts to draw Victor away from anything scientific, Clerval introduces Victor to the languages that he is studying: Persian, Arabic and Sanskrit. The softness and the subtlety of these languages appeal to Victor, and studying them relaxes him. He remarks that the languages are refreshingly different from those he was accustomed to, the Greek and Roman languages. Those languages strike Victor as manly and heroic , which repels him in his recovering state. After having ignored the emotional, feminine aspects of life for months while he worked on his monster, Victor is relieved to concentrate on a project in which he doesn't have to so aggressively work towards victory. Like the characters in Greek and Roman works, Victor had craved power and control, disregarding the emotional part of being a human being.

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