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

In Chapter XIII, the monster tells how spring had come at the cottage. One day, a woman arrived on horseback at the cottage. She asked for Felix in a strong accent. When Felix came to the door he was overcome with elation. He guided her into the cottage. Her presence brought incredible joyfulness to the cottage. She wished to learn their language and the monster decided to learn along with her. One evening, Felix bid her goodnight, and called her Safie.

From the book that Felix would read to Safie, the monster learned about great civilizations of man. The men in the stories seemed godlike to the monster, yet when he heard the parts about wickedness and vicious warfare, he was repulsed by their activities. He had difficulty understanding why there was such an emphasis on wealth and rank in human society. The more the monster understood about the world, the unhappier he grew. The cottagers were one kind of creature and he was another. He questioned who and what he was.

In Chapter XIV, the monster goes on to tell the story behind the family at the cottage. He learned that the old man's last name was DeLacey. He had lived an affluent life in Paris, well respected and admired.

Safie's father, a Turkish merchant, had done something to aggravate the French government. He was imprisoned, tried and sentenced to death. Felix had been at the man's trial and was horrified at the outcome. He promised to help him escape. In exchange for Felix's help, Safie's father vowed to give Felix his daughter's hand in marriage.

Felix helped him to escape and had his own family sneak away from the city at the same time. Soon, however, the French government discovered Felix's plans and they threw his father and Agatha into prison. Felix returned to Paris to try to free his father and sister. They had a trial and were sentenced to exile from France. They moved into a cottage in Germany. Felix became bitterly depressed. Safie was infuriated that her father had not helped Felix. She escaped safely to the DeLacey's cottage.

Detailed Summary

The monster, telling his story to Victor, wishes to speed up to "the more moving part" at the beginning of Chapter XIII. Spring had arrived and the monster was enjoying his first real season change, delighting in the beauty and wonder of nature. When the monster observed Felix, however, he was still just as melancholy as ever.

One day, however, a woman arrived on horseback at the cottage. She had on a thick black veil and asked for Felix in a strong accent. She apparently couldn't say much else in the cottagers' native language. When Felix came to the door, she threw up her veil and looked at him with dark, beautiful eyes. Upon seeing her, Felix was overcome with elation. The woman held out her hand and he kissed it happily before guiding her into the cottage. Inside, she knelt at the old man's feet, but he helped her to stand and then embraced her.

The foreign woman could barely communicate with the cottagers, and she did not understand them, but her presence brought incredible joyfulness to the cottage. The monster did not know why, but Felix looked especially happy. The stranger wished to learn their language and the monster decided to learn along with her. One evening, the monster learned her name when Felix bid her goodnight, and called her Safie.

Safie was affectionate, cheerful and gentle. She would sit at the old man's feet and play his guitar so enchantingly that the monster would cry from both joy and sadness. The days passed peacefully and blissfully. The monster learned most of the words used by his "protectors."

The book that Felix would read to Safie to help her learn the language was the compte de Volney's Ruins of Empires , from which the monster learned about great civilizations of man. He pondered the stories he heard of powerful men who were brilliant and honorable, yet also cruel and corrupt at the same time. The men in the stories seemed godlike to the monster, yet when he heard the parts about wickedness and vicious warfare, he was repulsed by the activities of civilized men.

He had difficulty understanding why there was such an emphasis on wealth and rank in human society. It made him examine his own placement in the world. He had no possessions, no money and no family to indicate his class status. Could he even say he was of the same type as man? Did this mean he truly was the monster he looked like? These thoughts deeply disturbed him. He cursed that he knew anything about himself or the world at all. Knowledge brought pain, he concluded, and the only escape from pain was death, which he did not yet understand.

The more the monster understood about the world, the unhappier he grew. The cottagers were one kind of creature and he was another. They were loving and affectionate with one another, and the monster was forbidden to enjoy the same comforts. He noticed the ways of nature the birth and growth of children, the way a mother nurtures her young, and how animals and humans conduct relationships. He saw that all this existed and he had little part in it. He didn't know if he had a family and he had no friends. His life was a large blank area. He questioned who and what he was.

In Chapter XIV the monster tells the story behind the family at the cottage. He learned that the old man's last name was DeLacey. He had lived an affluent life in Paris, well-respected and admired. Agatha was a lady of good merit and Felix was brought up to nobly serve his country.

Safie's father had been brought about the DeLacey's downfall. A Turkish merchant, he had done something to aggravate the French government. He was imprisoned, tried and sentenced to death. Felix had been at the man's trial and was horrified at the outcome. He made a promise to help the man to escape. He fixed to release him from prison and Safie was exceedingly grateful to him. In exchange for Felix's help, Safie's father promised Felix his daughter's hand in marriage. Felix didn't accept the offer, but assumed it would happen regardless.

While making preparations for the escape, Safie wrote Felix letters of joy and gratitude, translated into French by a family friend of Safie's. The monster later found these letters and interrupts his tale to tell Victor he will hand over the letters in order to prove his story.

Safie's mother had been a strong and intelligent woman. She had taught Safie about independence and the importance of knowledge before she had died. While in France, Safie became delighted at the idea of marrying a Christian, and living in a society where women were allowed to have rank.

The night before Safie's father was to be executed, Felix helped him to escape and travel far from Paris. He also had his family sneak away from the city at the same time. Felix and Safie used an interpreter to help them get to know each other, and she often sang songs from her native country to him. Safie's father, while tolerating the pair's blossoming affection, had no intention of allowing his daughter to marry a Christian. He was determined to leave the DeLaceys and bring Safie with him.

Soon, however, the French government discovered Felix's plans and they threw his father and Agatha into prison. Anguished by guilt, he left Safie and returned to Paris to try to free his father and sister. After five months, they had a trial and were sentenced to exile from France. Their fortune was also taken from them. They found a cottage in Germany, where the monster encountered them.

Safie's father had kept his daughter with him and never tried to help Felix except for sending him an insultingly small sum of money. Having lost Safie, been offended and betrayed by her father, and being thrust into poverty, Felix had sunk into a bitter depression.

For her part, Safie had been infuriated by her father's actions. He had intended to send her back to Turkey, but the idea of a life there was disgusting to Safie. She discovered the address of the DeLacey's cottage and devised a plan of escape. She left for Germany with an attendant who could translate for her. The attendant became sick and died on the way, however, and Safie was left helpless and alone. Luckily, she ran into kind people who helped her to make it safely to the DeLacey's cottage in the woods.

Analysis

In Chapter XIII, the monster begins to learn about the mode of communication employed by the cottagers. He learns more vocabulary and listens to Felix read to Safie, acquiring language skills along with her. Gradually, the monster understands the book that Felix reads to Safie, Ruins of Empires , and through the monster's contemplation of the novel, Shelley contemplates her own questions about the nature of man. The monster wonders how man can be so evil and so good at the same time. The monster's language skills increase, and he gets a sense for the world outside the woods and cottage.

The way that the monster learns his language skills, however, is by being only the receptor of information. He cannot practice speaking with anyone else, and he cannot use his newfound ability to express himself. He only observes the cottagers and takes in facts. Thus, his separation from society is more heightened. Because he cannot get to know the cottagers, too, he romanticizes their lives as being perfect and their relationships as being purely sweet. The sweeter those relationships seem to him, the more desperate the monster is to be have a companion.

The monster questions himself and his life and increasingly realizes how different he is from all other humans. He lacks possessions and familial ties. He would have no idea what rank he has in proper society, and most of all, he looks quite different from all other humans. This theme of "otherness," of being an outsider, continues with Safie's story of going to Paris from her native Turkey, and then being exiled from there and settling in Germany with the DeLacey family. Safie is foreign, she looks different from them and cannot speak their language. Yet though she is an outsider, the family of cottagers warmly receives her, Felix most of all. Partially this is because of her history with Felix and his family, but partially it is because she is physically beautiful. The monster observes the close, giving relationship between Felix and Safie, and he longs to have that, whether it be with his creator or a companion who is equally monstrous as he.

Up until this point in the novel, the main female characters (Caroline, Elizabeth, Justine, Agatha) have possessed similar qualities: passivity, gentleness, mild-manners, angelic sweetness, and great selflessness. Safie, however, is starkly different from these. She rejects the patriarchal rule of obedience and submission to men's decisions when she sneaks away from her father and pursues Felix. She makes the bold decision to set out in the world on her own and face the challenges of such a journey, without male protection or guidance. Shelley also makes a clear cultural remark through Safie's opinion that her life as a woman in the largely Muslim Constantinople is oppressive and suffocating, while living in Europe would afford her much more freedom and more opportunities.

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