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 XXII, Victor had just learned he was accused of a murder and then was taken by the townspeople to see Mr. Kirwin, the town magistrate. The witnesses claimed that just before finding the strangled corpse they had spotted a boat on the water that looked very much like Victor's. Mr. Kirwin had Victor identify the body to see his reaction. The victim was his dear friend Clerval, and Victor reacted with horror. He then fell into a feverish illness.

When Victor awoke from his fever two months later, he learned that Mr. Kirwin had contacted Victor's family. Victor's father, Alphonse, had come to Ireland for his son. In the court hearing, Victor was found innocent and released. He and Alaphonse started their journey to Geneva.

In Chapter XXII, Victor and Alphonse stopped in Paris on their way to Geneva. While there, Victor received a letter from Elizabeth in which she expressed her concerns that Victor loved another woman and was marrying Elizabeth out of a sense of obligation. Victor wrote that he indeed loved her and wanted to marry her. Elizabeth's letter made Victor remember the monster's promise that he would be with Victor on his wedding night. Victor and Alphonse returned to Geneva and they made plans for the wedding. Victor grew paranoid that the monster was ever near, and armed himself with weapons.

The wedding went off smoothly, and afterwards the newlyweds left for a cottage to spend the night.

Detailed Summary

In Chapter XXII, Victor had just learned he was accused of a murder and then was taken by the townspeople to see Mr. Kirwin, the town magistrate. The witnesses claimed that there was evidence that showed Victor to be the murderer. The witnesses who testified were a man, his son, and his brother-in-law. The previous night they had been out fishing when they stumbled upon the body on the beach. The body had terrible finger marks on its neck and the witnesses attempted to revive the person, but nothing worked.

Just before seeing the body, however, they had spotted a boat on the water that looked very much like the one in which later Victor landed on shore. In the boat, the main witness claimed, was one solitary man. The people believed Victor had tried to flee the crime scene, but had been pushed back to land by the wind.

The magistrate, Mr. Kirwin, decided it would be telling to see what kind of reaction the murdered body would have on Victor. He believed it would be evident in Victor's response whether or not he was connected to the crime. Victor was told to identify the corpse. The victim was his dear friend Clerval, and Victor reacted with great, debilitating horror. The dark marks of the monster's fingers on Clerval's neck deeply shocked and upset Victor. He convulsed violently and fell ill. For over two months, Victor was in bed, suffering a fever.

When Victor awoke from his fever, he found himself in prison still. He learned that Mr. Kirwin had bestowed kindness and compassion on Victor during his long illness. He had located and contacted Victor's family. Mr. Kirwin checked on Victor when he'd awakened and informed Victor that he had a visitor. Briefly, Victor was terrified that it was the monster, coming for more revenge. In fact, the visitor was Victor's father, Alphonse, who had rushed to Ireland from Geneva for his son.

Victor was thrilled to see his father and they remained in the town together until Victor's court date. Partially due to Mr. Kirwin's efforts and partially due to a lack of solid evidence, Victor was found innocent and released. Despite this relief, Victor was still horribly miserable and full of dread. He wised to die, in order to escape his anguish. No longer able to sleep naturally, Victor began taking a small dose of laudanum in order to fall asleep. He and Alaphonse boarded a ship headed for Havre-de-Grace, and Victor looked forward to seeing Geneva again.

At the beginning of Chapter XXII, Victor and Alphonse stopped in Paris on their way home to Geneva. They stayed in Paris for a short while so Victor could recover some more from his illness. Victor was unable to be around people, and believed he would ultimately be the cause of their deaths. In what Alphonse believed to be a delirium, Victor often insisted that he was responsible for killing William, Justine and Clerval.

Just before they left for Geneva, Victor received a letter from Elizabeth in which she expressed her concerns that Victor loved another woman and was marrying Elizabeth out of a sense of obligation. She worried about Victor's health. In a response letter to Elizabeth, Victor wrote that he indeed loved her and he wanted to marry her. He promised to tell her of the problems he'd faced on the day after their wedding, but until then she had to wait for more details.

Elizabeth's letter made Victor remember the monster's promise that he would be with Victor on his wedding night. Assuming the monster wanted to kill him, Victor vowed he would respond in full force until one or the other was killed and Victor could be at peace.

Finally Victor and Alphonse returned to Geneva and they made plans for the wedding. For a short time, Victor and Elizabeth courted, enjoying each other's company. Elizabeth was still concerned about Victor due to his health and appearance, but Victor would always tell her that life would be good again after the wedding. He wanted to tell her his secret, but he assured her it was best that he wait until they were married. Victor grew paranoid that the monster was ever near, and armed himself with weapons.

The wedding itself went off fine, and afterwards Victor and Elizabeth left for a cottage/inn where they would spend the night.

Analysis

It has been a pattern in the story before that after each murder of someone Victor loves and cherishes, he falls into a feverish illness which makes him delusional and weak. This illness is partially brought on by Victor's overwhelming guilt. His regret at causing so much horror and his fear of the monster causes Victor's body to shut down temporarily and prevents him from having to deal with the monster for a brief period of time. The monster usually waits until Victor recovers before he kills again.

In the preceding chapters, Clerval's bright and sunny demeanor contrasted with Victor's fearful and nervous state. Now Victor's only remaining sources of joy and comfort are Elizabeth and Alphonse. As a parallel and a foreshadowing, Shelley describes Elizabeth's joy as they travel to their honeymoon inn.

When Victor and Clerval had been traveling together, Clerval served to coax Victor out of his haze of gloom from time to time. He reminded Victor that there was a world of nature and society outside Victor's own mind and burdened conscience. Even in death, Clerval proved this once again, as his death brings Alphonse to Victor's side. Victor desperately needs someone to care for him and support him unquestioningly because he is harming himself with tremendous self-blame.

It helps Victor to spend time with his father and then with Elizabeth, arranging for the wedding. He is reminded of the importance of family and interpersonal connections. This renewed understanding makes Victor feel simultaneously good and yet even more filled with trepidation. He is split between wanting to be loyal and good to his family, and his gruesome promise to the monster that, if he doesn't keep it, will ensure more strife for those Victor loves so much.

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