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 returned from his outing with Clerval to find a letter from his father, Alphonse. The letter is quoted from first-person point of view of his father. Alphonse writes the horrible news that Victor's youngest brother, William, had been murdered by strangulation in nearby woods. Alphonse implores Victor to come home.

The narration shifts back to Victor's account of past events. Victor said goodbye to Clerval and began his journey. He stopped for a few days in a nearby village. Finally Victor arrived in Geneva at night. He decided to visit the spot in the woods where William had been murdered. Suddenly he noticed a huge, dark shape nearby and he realized the shape was that of the monster he had created.

Victor soon decided the monster had murdered William. He mulled over his past and realized that he had created a murderous creature. In the morning Victor hurried towards his father's house. He went to the library to wait for the others to awake. Victor's brother Ernest entered the library and told Victor that all evidence pointed to Justine Moritz, the family's servant, as William's murderer. Justine's trial was set for that day. Victor's father entered the library and greeted Victor, who insisted again that Justine was innocent. His father hoped she would be acquitted at the trial. Elizabeth arrived and grieving the injustice of the accusations against Justine. Victor assured Elizabeth of Justine's innocence, and she was relieved.

Detailed Summary

Victor returned from his outing with Clerval to find a letter from his father, Alphonse. The letter is quoted from first-person point of view of his father.

Alphonse begins the letter alluding to a tragedy that has befallen Victor's family, as a warning to Victor to not anticipate a warm and happy home on his return to Geneva. Alphonse agonizes over how he can tell Victor the horrible news before stating that Victor's youngest brother, William, had been murdered.

The previous week, Ernest and William had been playing a hiding game when William disappeared and Ernest could not find him. Alarmed, the family began searching for the boy. Night fell and they looked with torches until Alphonse found Williams' body, with marks of strangulation on his neck.

When Elizabeth saw his neck she cried out that she had caused the murder and then fainted. Reviving her, Alphonse learned that Elizabeth had put a locket necklace with the picture of Victor's mother, Caroline, around William's neck, and she believed the murderer had strangled William for the locket picture. The necklace remained on William, but the picture of Caroline was gone. They are all convinced it was the motive of the murderer, of whom they have not found a trace. Alphonse implores Victor to come home and comfort Elizabeth and to grieve with the family, and not to seek out the murderer for revenge. He thanks God that Caroline was not alive to experience William's death.

The narration shifts back to Victor's account of past events. Victor threw down the letter and began to cry. Clerval looked at him with bewildered concern, and then read the letter while Victor paced the room. Crying as well, Clerval expressed his feelings of helplessness. Victor wanted to start for Geneva right away, and Clerval walked with him to order the horses. On the way, Clerval mourned for the angelic William, and then decided that he was safe and peaceful now and pity should be reserved for those who were grieving. Victor said goodbye to Clerval and rode from Ingoldstadt.

At first, Victor hurried his journey to Geneva, but soon began to worry that his hometown would have changed dramatically. The thought troubled him until he realized that the most soothing surroundings, those of nature, wouldn't have changed. He continued on to Geneva. At the sight of familiar mountains and lakes, Victor wept at their serene beauty, believing they mocked his sorrow, but also delighted in these natural reminders of his happy youth.

Dusk fell as Victor drew closer to his family's home and he became frightened and sad. In his mind, he predicted a future for himself in which he was a miserable old man. It was dark when Victor arrived in Geneva. He decided to visit the spot where William had been murdered. Lightning appeared in the distance and soon a storm broke. Thunder crashed above him and bright lightning illuminated the sky. Victor walked in the storm and screamed out that it was William's funeral song. Suddenly he noticed a huge, dark shape nearby. Looking more closely he realized the shape was that of the monster he had created.

Victor soon decided the monster had murdered William. He believed no human being could have harmed a child as cherubic as William. Overwhelmed, Victor leaned against a tree and the monster passed by him. Victor considered chasing after him, but in the flashes of lightning saw that the monster had already traveled too far. The thunder stopped and the rain continued to fall in deep darkness.

Victor mulled over his past and realized that he had created a murderous creature and turned him loose to destroy those he loved. He spent the night outside, in despair. When day broke Victor hurried towards his father's house. At first he intended to put out a search for the monster, but upon further reflection he decided that would make him look insane. Also the monster would easily be able to avoid capture. Reaching his father's house, Victor went to the library to wait for the others to awake. He gazed at an historical painting of his mother, depicting her grieving at her father's coffin. Below the painting was a miniature of William, and Victor wept at the sight of it.

Victor's brother Ernest entered the library and welcomed Victor with mournful happiness. Ernest was relieved Victor had come, and said that Elizabeth was still feeling responsible for William's death even though William's murderer had been found. Ernest told Victor that all evidence pointed to Justine Moritz, the family's servant. Justine's trial was set for that day.

Justine had fallen ill for several days, and on the night of William's murder a fellow servant found the tiny picture of Victor's mother in Justine's pocket. When questioned about the murder, Justine had been confused. Victor heatedly declared that he knew who the murderer was and Justine was innocent. Victor's father entered the library and greeted Victor, who insisted again that Justine was innocent. His father wanted to believe that and hoped she would be acquitted at the trial.

Victor was certain of the monster's guilt and felt confident that no sufficient evidence could be brought against Justine. He kept these thoughts to himself. Elizabeth entered the library and welcomed Victor. He remarked on her beauty, which had increased with age and intelligence. Elizabeth bemoaned the injustice of accusing Justine of a crime, and she foresaw a joyless future for herself if Justine were taken from the family. Victor accused Elizabeth of Justine's innocence and Elizabeth was relieved that he shared her beliefs. Victor's father said that the truth would come out in the trial, which he promised would be fair.

Analysis

When Victor returns to Geneva after the death of his youngest brother, William, he realizes that his own creation has murdered his brother. This chapter is significant because it is the first time that the monster shows himself to be an active character with real motives and abilities. Previously the monster had been simply a passive receptor for Victor's experimental project. With the murder of Victor's brother, the monster becomes a character, asserting himself in the outside world.

Dramatic natural images are characteristic of Romantic literature. Many times flashes of lightning during a storm, or at the onset of a storm signal the presence of the monster. Lightning in the novel was first used when Victor learned about electricity. This knowledge encouraged Victor to pursue science and ultimately led to the creation of the monster. Victor had first learned about electricity when lightning had struck a tree, reducing it to a stump. Thus lightning signifies destruction and danger, and is a warning image that the monster (another form of destruction) is nearby.

The concept of psychic communication is an aspect of the Gothic genre of literature. This element is present in Chapter VII when Victor sees the monster and instantly knows that the monster is his brother's murderer. Also, the monster finding the Frankenstein home is another example of psychic ability.

Victor knows for sure that Justine did not kill William, yet he is unable to tell anyone how he knows so certainly. He can only hope and trust in the justice system to acquit Justine without having to reveal his secret to anyone. The Frankenstein family did not want to believe that Justine was capable of such a crime, yet she had been so easily accused. Perhaps Shelley included Justine's story in order to show her own opinions about the English justice system, especially in regard to the poor, during the time when she was writing Frankenstein .

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