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 monster was completely absorbed in the goings on of the cottage that he had discovered. He wanted badly to join them. He decided to watch them from afar.

The younger two were kind and respectful to their older companion, and he was gentle and sweet to them. They were all sad, however, and often wept.

During the night the monster took to supplying wood for the cottagers' fire. The young cottagers were surprised and delighted at this gift. Soon the monster realized that the people had a way of communicating verbally. He began to understand basic words, and he learned the names for each of the cottagers. The young woman was Agatha, the young man's name was Felix and the elderly man was called father by the younger two.

The monster hoped that knowledge of their language would make them overlook his grotesque appearance. He had recently seen his image in a pool of water and been horrified. He wished to know why Felix and Agatha were usually so sad, and he believed that he himself might be able to cheer them up.

Winter passed and spring arrived. The warm spring season relaxed the monster and he was charmed by the sweetness of nature.

Detailed Summary

The monster was completely absorbed in the goings on of the cottage that he had discovered. They appeared to be milder creatures than he and he wanted badly to join them. He decided to lay low and watch them from afar, to figure out what made them do the things they did.

He noticed that each of the cottagers had basic routine activities. The young man was often working outdoors, while the young woman worked indoors. The elderly man, who the monster realized was blind, sat and played his instrument or appeared to be deep in thought. The younger two were extremely kind and respectful to their older companion, and he was gentle and sweet to them. They were all sad, however, and often wept. The monster did not know why they were like this, but it validated his own misery. He reasoned, If such lovely creatures were miserable, it was less strange that I, an imperfect and solitary being, should be wretched. He wondered what their tears meant.

The monster knew that one of the cottagers' grievances was a lack of food. As it was winter, they could get little food from their garden, and the cow was not giving much milk. At times the two younger ones went hungry but put food before the older man. This action touched the monster. He had gotten used to stealing a bit of their food during the night, but when he realized how much they suffered, he stopped. Instead, during the night he used the young man's tools to obtain wood for their fire, and set it next to the cottage for them. The young cottagers were surprised and delighted at the seemingly magical gift, and the monster happily observed that his providing the firewood allowed them more time for other things.

Soon the monster realized that the people had a way of communicating verbally. He had trouble following it, but desperately wanted to learn. He began to understand basic words for day-to-day life, and he learned the names for each of the cottagers. The young woman was Agatha, the young man's name was Felix and the elderly man was called father by the younger two. Gradually learning more and more, the monster's joy at obtaining this knowledge increased.

Throughout the winter the monster watched the family and learned from them. He used the moon as a way of telling how much time had passed. He was in tune with the emotions of the cottagers, feeling sad when they were sad, and sharing their happiness. The elderly man frequently tried to lift his children's spirits. Agatha was often melancholy, though she sometimes appeared more upbeat after speaking with her father. Felix was the most unhappy, yet he attempted to conceal his sadness for his father. He was a sweet brother and a doting son. He labored hard for the family, and read at night to the other two.

Watching Felix read, the monster was captivated. It occurred to him that reading might improve his language skills, and since his greatest desire was to introduce himself to the cottagers, he wanted to master the language thoroughly. He hoped that this knowledge would make them overlook his grotesque appearance. The monster had recently seen his image in a pool of water and been horrified. He began to feel like the monster that he saw in the reflection, and it depressed him.

Winter passed and spring arrived, bringing beauty to the monster's surroundings, as well as more food. During nights when there was enough moonlight, the monster collected food for himself and carried out the duties he had seen Felix do for the cottage. In the mornings he watched their astonished delight as they praised whatever spirit had helped them. The monster wished to know why Felix and Agatha were usually so sad, and he believed that he himself might be able to cheer them up. He entertained fantasies of winning over the cottagers despite his appearance.

The warm spring season relaxed the monster and he was charmed by the sweet changes that took place in nature. He felt nurtured and cheered by his environment. With the change in season came surges of hope and joy for him.

Analysis

The monster marvels at the family's affectionate and peaceful ways of interacting with one another. He admires them and envies the goodness and warmth that he constantly observes. The family of cottagers serves to prove to the monster that human goodness exists, yet at the same time he feels more distinctly isolated and alone, as he is never the recipient of their kindness and affections.

The monster catches sight of his reflection in a pool of water and understands that he is physically abhorrent. Still, he continues to wish for love and companionship, and he continues to do generous deeds for the cottager family. In reality, the young cottagers do praise the monster, and extend warm thanks to him (or, whomever provided them with firewood) but at the time, the monster could not understand the strange noises coming from their mouths. He did not know that he was being acknowledged. He felt acutely left out and alone.

Again, the theme of knowledge as a dangerous force appears. The more the monster understands about the family and the more he learns, the more miserable he becomes about his own life. He only desires to be a part of the family more, and he knows that he cannot. He curses knowledge as the source of pain. Once more, nature takes on the role of nurturer. After such a long and arduous winter, the monster is cheered and comforted by the onset of gentle spring.

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