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 continued a solitary journey in the mountains. He felt consoled by his tranquil surroundings. Despite stormy weather, Victor wanted to ride his mule up the summit of Montanvert. Victor reached the top of the summit and rested on a rock overlooking the icy sea. Victor spotted a figure coming toward him and as it grew closer Victor realized with horror that it was the monster. The monster reached Victor and his expression was a mixture of suffering and anger.

Victor was enraged and screamed at the monster, threatening to destroy him. The monster replied eloquently that his was a miserable fate, as everyone hated ugly creatures. Angrily, the monster proposed that Victor do something for him and in exchange the monster would not murder Victor's friends and family. He said there was one thing Victor could do for him to make him happy. Victor responded that the two of them were enemies and they should fight until one of them was killed. The monster begged Victor to listen to his tale and then decide how he felt about his creation. He then turned and started to lead the way to a hut on the mountain where he would tell Victor his tale.

Victor followed and decided to hear the story, out of curiosity and because he wished to hear for certain if the monster had killed his brother, William. Victor's first-person narrative ends here.

Detailed Summary

In the last chapter narrated by Victor, he continued his solitary journey in the mountains and ravines. He felt consoled by his tranquil surroundings, and was reminded of how huge the natural world was, and thus how small his feelings were. He slept another night, calmed by the day's peaceful sights. In the morning, however, a storm had arrived, bringing torrents of rain and thick fog. Despite the weather, Victor wanted to ride his mule up the summit of Montanvert. The climb was dangerous and full of severe images, such as trees ruined by avalanches. The world appeared melancholy to Victor and he considered the fate of man. He wondered why humans set themselves so highly above animals, when animals had far less capacity for misery, and therefore were perhaps not so inferior.

Here there is an excerpt from a poem by Percy Shelley entitled Mutability. The excerpt describes man's freedom to feel a wide range of emotions and that everything in the world changes. The only fact that is persistent is that everything changes.

Victor reached the top of the summit and rested on a rock overlooking the icy sea. He marveled at the beautiful and astounding nature before him. Feeling his sorrow dissolve and be almost replaced with pleasure, he cried out to the wandering ghosts to either let him enjoy his pleasant feelings or else take him away from the living world. At that moment, Victor spotted a figure coming toward him at an impossible speed. It grew closer and Victor noticed it was larger than any human he'd seen. He realized with horror that it was the monster. The monster reached Victor and they stood face to face. The monster's expression was a mixture of suffering and anger, and its features were sickening.

Victor was enraged and screamed at the monster, asking him how he dared confront Victor after the atrocious crimes he had committed. He threatened to destroy the monster. The monster replied eloquently that his was a miserable fate, as everyone hated wretched creatures. He wondered how even Victor, his creator, could hate him so much and wish to kill him. Then, angrily, the monster proposed that Victor do something for him and in exchange the monster would not murder Victor's friends and family. Victor lunged at the monster, shouting insults and his intentions to murder him.

The monster easily avoided Victor's attempts. He tried explaining to Victor that he alone was the unhappiest of creatures, but still his life was dear to him and he would defend it. He had wanted to be like Adam to his lord, Victor, but instead was like the devil. He said there was one thing Victor could do for him to make him happy. Victor responded that the two of them were enemies and they should fight until one of them was killed. The monster then begged for Victor to not hate him so much. He told Victor that he was lonely and shunned because no human would accept him. In fact, all humans abhorred him deeply, and therefore he hated them as well. He had come to life with the inclination for goodness, but had been so despised that he became bitter. He implored Victor to listen to his tale and then decide how he felt about his monster. After telling his tale, the monster offered, Victor could destroy him if he still wanted to.

Victor cursed the monster and demanded he leave him alone. Still, the monster asked Victor to be compassionate enough to at least hear his story. At the end of the story, the monster would either live quietly at a safe distance from all humans, or else he would wreak havoc on Victor's life and demolish those who Victor cared about. He then turned and started to lead the way to a hut on the mountain where he would tell Victor his tale.

Victor followed and decided to hear the story, out of curiosity as well as out of some small kindness. Also, Victor wished to hear for certain if the monster had killed his brother, William. And he felt a kind of duty, as the monster's creator, to try to make him happy. As the two reached the hut, the rain began to fall. Victor sat down by the fire and prepared to listen to his monster's story.

In the next chapter the narrative point of view shifts from Victor's to the monster's.

Analysis

As in the previous chapter, nature is a healing and refreshing influence on Victor. The beauty of his environment brings serenity to his mind. His surroundings sometimes look dramatic or even dangerous. There is an ever-present threat of avalanche, which pleases Victor. He sees an avalanche as the solution to his problems by either destroying him, or his monster, or both. At one point, he even addresses this most important influence in his life, speaking aloud and requesting that the wandering spirits either allow him to continue admiring nature and benefiting from it, or else kill him. One way or another, nature helps him, and he expects as much.

A storm flares up, complete with thunder and lightning. So far in the novel, lightning has signified the presence of the monster and this is no exception. By the flashing glow of the lightning, Victor spies a large figure nearby and determines that it is his monster. Shelley also has used storm imagery to indicate that something important--and probably frightening--is about to occur. In this way, the reader is prepared for bad news whenever a storm begins.

The monster confronts Victor and compares himself and his story to that of Adam in the Bible. He refers to himself as Victor's creation, like Adam, but instead of feeling good and loved, he is hated and spurned. In this way, the monster concludes, he is more like the fallen angel in the Bible, Satan. In the Bible, Adam went against his God's wishes by eating the forbidden fruit, and therefore he was punished. Yet the monster feels he has been punished for no fault of his own and he wishes to get revenge on Victor, who is his God.

The monster is an example of a Romantic belief that man is born good, but becomes corrupt and evil through societal pressures. Victor concludes that he ought to hear the monster's story and attempt to make him happy, in a way, before he could call the monster thoroughly evil. Victor's decision to give the monster a chance even after all the pain that the monster caused is a distinctly Romantic character move.

In this chapter, the monster reveals himself to be eloquent and sensitive. He is well-spoken and well-read. It is clear that he is not the scary monster that he appears to be. He even talks with great sorrow about how dearly he wishes to be loved and to love, as is the right of every creature. The monster, concentrating on his desire for love and friendship, appears to be more human and more humane than the actual human being, Victor, who is consumed by hatred and murderous thoughts.

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