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 and Clerval decided to remain in London for several months. Clerval was the only person that Victor could bear to be around. In general, people annoyed him and he preferred to be alone. In Clerval, however, Victor was reminded of the innocent and eager curiosity with which Victor used to see the world. Clerval was often excited and happy, contrasting with Victor's bleak demeanor.

Victor and Clerval received an invitation to go to Scotland. Clerval wanted to go, and Victor liked the idea of seeing the Scottish landscapes. The two friends set off and toured old towns on the way. Victor enjoyed their travels to the best of his ability, but every experience was tainted with melancholy. He was tormented by the idea of the monster's whereabouts, and he worried that the monster would get impatient and take out his wrath on Victor's loved ones. Any happy or peaceful moment was ruined by these preoccupations.

Eventually Victor expressed his desire for solitude and told Clerval to continue on to tour Scotland with friends, so that Victor could be alone for a couple months. Victor found a remote island where he could set up his laboratory. He was disgusted with his work and it became increasingly difficult to complete.

Detailed Summary

Victor and Clerval decided to remain in London for several months. Victor asked esteemed natural philosophers there many questions about the task of creating another monster he was about to undertake.

Clerval was the only fellow human being that Victor could bear to be around. Strangers annoyed him and he preferred to be alone. In Clerval, however, Victor was reminded of the innocent and eager curiosity with which Victor used to see the world. Clerval wished to travel to India and was often excited and happy, contrasting starkly with Victor's bleak demeanor. With anguish, Victor was forced to put his mind to his gruesome project.

Some months into their stay in England, Victor and Clerval received an invitation to go to Scotland. Clerval deeply wished to go, and Victor liked the idea of seeing the beautiful Scottish landscapes. At the end of March, the pair left England for Scotland. They toured old towns and Victor felt the presence of ancient spirits. Victor enjoyed their travels to the best of his ability, but every experience was tainted with melancholy. He alludes here to the tree he saw splintered by a bolt of lightning when he was fifteen and first learned about electricity. He claims he felt like the blasted tree.

Throughout their travels on the way to Scotland, Victor was often morose and Clerval was blissfully content. Clerval was constantly inquisitive and interested in his surroundings. If he grew restless, he simply redirected his attention elsewhere. Victor was tormented by the idea of the monster's whereabouts, and he worried that if he didn't get to work on the monster's companion soon, the monster would take out his wrath on Victor's loved ones. Any happy or peaceful moment was ruined by these preoccupations. Victor anxiously awaited letters from home and assumed the worst when they were late. At times Victor was convinced that he and Clerval were being followed by the monster, and he became earnestly protective of his friend.

Eventually Victor expressed his great desire for solitude and told Clerval to continue on to tour Scotland with friends, so that Victor could be alone for a couple months. The two parted ways and Victor wanted to find a secluded spot where he could complete his project. He decided on a remote and impoverished island. Mornings he would work on his creation and at night he would walk along the shore.

Spending every day in this way wore Victor down and he was disgusted with his work. It became increasingly difficult to complete. Victor was constantly anxious and feared seeing the monster any time he raised his eyes from his work. He tried to simply work diligently, looking forward hopefully to the end of his repugnant work.

Analysis

Shelley makes a point of describing the beautiful and historic places where Victor and Clerval visit in their trip to Scotland. The beautiful landscapes are Romantic in their descriptions, and Clerval is an appropriately Romantic character, feeling moved by his surroundings and deriving joy from them. With Victor, however, there must be something wrong, for he cannot seem to muster up any kind of enthusiasm. He is distracted with the prospect of having to create another monster, and he is deeply fearful of the monster following him and his friend.

Finally Victor finds a remote and desolate island on which he can pursue his repulsive project. He remarks how different the environment is from his lovely Switzerland. In a way, Victor is punishing himself with these harsh surroundings, not allowing himself the beauty and comfort of lovely nature.

The Gothic novel is well represented in this chapter. Victor's isolated laboratory, in all its eeriness, creates a frightening and foreboding setting. There are very few inhabitants on the island, and yet Victor seems to have no problem with finding parts for his creature. This is a supernatural element that is in keeping with Gothic storytelling. Also, the chapter ends with Victor working and simply hoping to finish with his horrid project soon, which is a bit of a cliffhanger for the reader. Tension is built in this way, and the reader is a bit afraid, not knowing what will come next. Instilling fear is something Gothic authors hoped to do.

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