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 the beginning of Chapter XVII, the storytelling voice again becomes Victor's first-person account of the past. To the monster's request, Victor responded in anger. He knew that the construction of another creature would only bring more horror to the world. The monster threatened Victor's life and argued with him. Finally, Victor decided to make the monster's mate under the one condition that the monster would leave Europe forever. The monster promised. Victor headed home to Geneva, stopping at a fountain to weep. He wished the stars would take pity on him and make him disappear.

In Chapter XVIII, Victor tells how he had many doubts about agreeing to the monster's plan. It made him sick to think about having to devote time and energy to another revolting creature. He knew he'd have to go to England to get the right materials for the project.

Wanting to cheer up his son, Alphonse proposed that they all celebrate the impending marriage between Victor and Elizabeth right away. Victor knew he needed to work on the monster immediately, so he suggested he first go with Clerval on a trip to England. Alphonse and Clerval agreed, and the Victor set off with his friend.

Detailed Summary

In the beginning of Chapter XVII, the storytelling voice becomes Victor's first-person account of past occurrences. He'd heard the monster's entire wretched story, and his demand for a female companion who would be so grotesque she could only choose the monster as her mate. To this request, Victor responded in anger. He had been bewildered by the monster's story and was shocked that the monster would ask for a second creature. Victor adamantly refuses to comply with the monster's wishes, knowing that the construction of another creature would only bring more horror to the world. The monster threatened Victor's life, promising to destroy him if Victor refused him. The monster also pointed out that with the affections of another creature, he would no longer want to murder or get revenge.

After reflecting on the monster's arguments, Victor decided to make the monster's mate under the one condition that the monster would leave Europe forever. The monster sincerely promised to put a great distance between himself and the human race. He told Victor he would retreat with his companion to the fields of South America, surviving on berries and acorns.

The monster was overjoyed that Victor would agree to his demand, yet still wary of his creator. He told Victor he would supervise the creation of his mate, just in case. Watching him, the monster would know when his mate was ready for him, so Victor did not have to contact him when everything was done.

Victor headed home to Geneva, stopping at a fountain to weep. He wished the stars would take pity on him and remove him from the world. At his father's house, he would not answer his family's inquiries about how worn-down he appeared to be. Finally, he firmly decided to go through with the monster's demand.

In Chapter XVIII, Victor tells how he delayed beginning another monster, doubting whether it was wise to have agreed to the monster's plan. It made him sick to think about having to devote so much time and energy to another revolting creature. He knew he needed to go to England to gather information about the project, though in order to get his father's consent he would have to conceal his reasons for the trip.

Victor's father, Alphonse, mistook Victor's downtrodden appearance to be caused by doubts about marrying Elizabeth. Alphonse believed Victor thought of Elizabeth as a sister and didn't want to marry her. Victor assured his father that he wanted to marry Elizabeth and expected a happy future with her.

Wanting to cheer up his son, Alphonse proposed that they celebrate the marriage right away. This suggestion horrified Victor, as he was bound to the promise he had made the monster. Victor told his father he wished to travel around for a while first, particularly to England, and he would take Clerval with him on his journey. Clerval was excited to pick up with his studies again after spending much unpleasant time working with his father. In lovingly reflecting on his friend Clerval to Walton, Victor quotes a few lines by William Wordsworth to describe the beauty of nature that Clerval so cherished and admired.

In September, Victor and Clerval left Geneva and voyaged through France to Germany and Holland. Finally they arrived in London, England in December.

Analysis

In the monster's request for a mate, there is a parallel to Walton's much earlier desire for a companion, equal to him in intellect. Though Shelley is not explicit about it, however, it is assumed that the monster wishes to have a companion for sexual reasons as well as for friendship.

At this point in the story, Victor and the monster are equals. The monster is more powerful physically and perhaps mentally, but he still doesn't have the knowledge needed to create a companion. Victor is weaker, but he possesses something the monster deeply wants.

Victor's situation is difficult. He brought the monster into the world, and therefore has a certain responsibility to him and his happiness. Yet the monster has brought so much pain and destruction to Victor's life already that the thought of making a second to accompany him is terrifying. These thoughts plague Victor and he is utterly distraught about his unfortunate position. He promises the monster because he is afraid of what might happen if he doesn't create the monster's companion.

It is significant that even when he returns to Geneva, the beauty of nature fails to comfort Victor. Nature has always helped him in the past, but Victor's fear and sadness go too deeply for him to be influenced by his surroundings. Still, Shelley describes the scenery, especially in Victor and Clerval's journey to England, as lovely in a Romantic way. She even quotes from Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey," which was a majorly influential Romantic work.

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