Frankenstein Summary

  • Last updated on March 25, 2021
"infobox Book "
name Frankenstein
image
image caption 2003 Penguin edition
author Mary Shelley
country England
language English language
genre(s) Science-fiction, Gothic horror
publisher Penguin
release date 1818
media type Hardback and Paperback
pages 273
isbn 0141439475
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a classic tale of a man-made monster seeking acceptance from society in light of his ghastly appearance and strange upbringing. With Europe in the 1790s as its backdrop, the story begins with a series of letters exchanged between Captain Robert Walton and his sister that chronicles the story of a man, Victor Frankenstein, whom he meets on the North Pole.

After being rescued from near death, Victor Frankenstein tells Robert Walton the story of his upbringing in a warm Swiss family and his fascination with studying how life was formed. He was an avid, amateur scientist who created a "perfect" human from spare body parts - only to have his plan backfire when the monster turned out to be extremely hideous and unappealing. During a brief study and recovery period with Henry Clerval, his closest friend, Frankenstein’s monster navigated the social scene, desperate for human friendship, but was turned down again and again. After observing a family living in a small cottage, Frankenstein's monster mustered the courage to seek an invite before getting rejected again. The last straw, he ventured out to seek revenge on the person who created him.

During his trip back to Geneva, Switzerland - the monster met Frankenstein’s younger brother and killed him for revenge. After his brother’s death, Frankenstein went back to Geneva and found the monster canvassing the same woods his brother was last seen, coming to the realization the monster was responsible for this brutal act. After a short trip to the mountains, the monster caught up to Frankenstein and ordered him to create a female monster from scratch for companionship. After agreeing, he fled to England to start and scrapped the project midway, citing the possibility of further disarray. Knowing his days were numbered after Henry Clerval’s murder, he hastily married his cousin Elizabeth only to find his new wife killed by the monster later.

After paying a visit to the cemetery to meet with his fallen family members, Victor realizes that his life’s goal from that point forward was to hunt down the monster and kill him. Prior, Victor already determines his fate and goes ahead with his wedding day, knowing the monster would catch up to him. Now, he sought to kill the monster to save humanity from his menace. Victor chases after him throughout Europe and the North Pole, where he temporarily loses track of the monster through a crack in the ice where he also meets Robert Walton and his crew. Ambitious, Victor gives a thorough lecture on how chasing glory was his Achilles heel and the dangers of being too ambitious, citing "tranquility" as one of life’s goals.

The story ends with Victor’s death a while later and the monster’s cries for forgiveness. After a short contemplation by Robert Walton, who promises to kill him if offered the chance, the monster convinced him otherwise - disappearing back North to be never seen again.

 

Main Character List

Robert Walton

The official chronicler of Frankenstein, with the story told in a series of letter exchanges to his sister Margaret. He travels to the North Pole to find an Arctic passage to connect both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans when he meets a man named Victor Frankenstein whom he finds sick in the ice along with a dog sled. Citing Walton’s own personal ambition in "conquering" the North Pole, Victor Frankenstein tells him his own story of ambition gone bad.

"The Monster"

The product of an experiment gone awry. Assembled out of spare human parts by Victor Frankenstein, he turns out to become hideous - albeit with a gentle heart upon childhood. His outlook on life turns sour with repeated failed encounters with humans where he seeks friendship and acceptance. After a rejection from a small family living in a cottage, Frankenstein's Monster blows up and seeks revenge against his creator by going on a killing spree and demanding a female companion.

Victor Frankenstein

Born to a rich family, Victor Frankenstein started out childhood with an avid interest in how life is formed. As a college student, he rummages for spare parts and uses them to manufacture a hideous being with no second thoughts on murder. The monster goes on to kill Victor’s loved ones as retaliation for his cruel circumstances.

Henry Clerval

Victor Frankenstein’s best friend; murdered by monster Frankenstein in retaliation to Victor’s unfulfilled promise of creating a female companion for him.

Elizabeth Lavenza

Victor Frankenstein’s adopted sister turned wife; killed by monster Frankenstein in response to Victor’s unfulfilled promise of creating a female companion for him.

 

Chapter Summaries

Chapter One

Victor Frankenstein becomes acquainted with Robert Walton and discusses his family history detailing how his father, Alphonse, rescued Victor’s mother Caroline from poverty after finding her father dead in their home. Alphonse takes Caroline to Geneva, Switzerland where they get married and travel throughout Italy where they conceive their first child, Victor. It is here where Caroline meets a young peasant girl whom she adopts. Victor starts to develop feelings for the girl from the get-go.

Chapter Two

Victor Frankenstein continues to discuss his childhood with the birth of two more brothers along with his growing friendship with Elizabeth. During his childhood years, Victor takes interest in several antiquated theories that address the creation of life. After witnessing a tree being obliterated by lightning, he investigates electricity further and discovers that it could be used to "breathe life" into nonliving objects.

Chapter Three

Victor’s college life begins to head into turmoil with his departure to Ingolstadt College. As he is packing, Elizabeth contracts scarlet fever and finds an ailing mother on her deathbed who expresses her wishes to have them both marry. After a few days, Victor sets off for Ingolstadt alone after a plan to go with best friend Henry goes awry. Once there, he meets a chemistry professor named Waldman who introduces him to the study of human creation and the use of electricity to bring inanimate objects to life.

Chapter Four

Victor Frankenstein continues to study multiple subjects to solve the questions about the creation of life. Shortly after realizing Ingolstadt was too easy for him, he discovers the "spark" that creates life and constructs a man out of spare body parts taken from dead bodies. All letters to his family stop while he works for nearly a year. Although his health is in shambles, Frankenstein remains diligent and doesn’t stop until the entire body is finished.

Chapter Five

Victor Frankenstein’s coveted product turns out as a foul beast. Although body parts are the right size and shape, the final result is a hideous brute that forces him to leave the lab and collapse in his room. Waking up again, the sight of the monster prompts Victor to flee into the city where he meets with his best friend Henry. Constant anxiety forces Victor to become bedridden under Henry’s care. Frankenstein keeps mumbling and rambling over his monstrous creation, though Henry thinks nothing of it and attributes it to paranoia and fevers. In letters to the Frankenstein family, Henry downplays his friend’s sickness which turns to steady recovery over time.

Chapter Six

Elizabeth sends Victor a letter discussing a sick servant named Justine Moritz. She joined the Frankenstein household after being "rescued" by Victor’s mother from an abusive mother. Victor quelled fears of his supposed catastrophic health, assuring Elizabeth he was fine. Meanwhile, Victor continues to have flashbacks of the monster and avoids studying as a result. Before the end of the chapter, Victor and Henry return to Ingolstadt.

Chapter Seven

Victor and Henry return from a trip to Ingolstadt when father Alphonse sends Victor the news (via letter) that his younger brother William was murdered. In detail, Alphonse explains how William’s disappearance led to a search that eventually led to his body.

In a twist, a locket given to him by Caroline that he always wore around his neck turns out missing. Victor sprints to Geneva soon after to reunite with his family and becomes accustomed to his old surroundings. Before reaching Geneva, Victor visits William’s death site and spots monster Frankenstein in the woods. After monster Frankenstein runs away, Victor discovers that Justine had the missing locket in her dress. Much doubt arises over William’s true killer, with Victor 100% sure the monster framed her.

Chapter Eight

The trial takes place, and Justine cannot give jurors a valid reason for the locket’s placement on the dead body. Meanwhile, Frankenstein has the monster in his conscience the whole time. After a failed appeal, Justine is proven guilty and sentenced to death.

Chapter Nine

Victor continues to express sorrow and regret over the deaths of William and Justine. In addition, he feels responsible for the sorry state of his father’s health and Elizabeth’s mental state. These feelings manifest in plenty of alone time and suicidal thoughts of drowning himself in the lake. With all of his pent-up feelings, none of his family members know of the existence of the Monster.

Chapter Ten

Victor and the Monster finally meet on the top of a mountain, where Victor readies himself to kill the Monster until the Monster speaks of being a good creature turned bad by unforgiving humans who scoffed at friendship. Victor initially wants to brush off the Monster’s words, but the Monster threatened to kill his entire family if he ran away. Scared and a bit sympathetic, Victor follows the Monster to the mountains.

Chapter Eleven

The Monster explains to Frankenstein how his senses were imbalanced and poorly configured during his first days of life in the laboratory. Coordinating all of his senses to work together took time, and his early days in the forest were a struggle as he tried to feed himself and harness the power of nature’s elements to protect himself.

The Monster speaks of an encounter with a shepherd and his confused reaction when he ran away out of fear, and a crowd of villagers who shooed him away with rocks. The Monster finally sought refuge by spying on a cottage in the forest that housed a family who regularly played music. Here, the Monster learned to differentiate between feelings of happiness and sadness - although his understanding of these emotions remained clouded, at best.

Chapter Twelve

The Monster decided to chop wood and shovel snow for the family as they slept. Their poverty drifted them into an envelope of sadness, so the Monster figured these good deeds would enable them to tend to the garden more. The Monster also developed his communication skills by lip-reading words as family members read every night and gained a limited vocabulary. Before showing himself to the family, the Monster wanted to learn their language to draw attention away from his appearance. He was intent on winning their love.

Chapter Thirteen

The Monster stayed until the spring, where he discovered an Arabian woman moving in with the family. Speaking no French, the family welcomed her as a guest and teach her the language; words the Monster picked up by lip-reading through the window. Given that a large portion of the readings were dedicated to world history, the Monster learned about humanity and how different he was from the rest. His loneliness took a turn for the worst at this realization.

Chapter Fourteen

The Monster learned about the history of the Arabian woman as being helped out by father De Lacey and Felix, who sought to free the Arabian woman’s father, Muhammadan, who was wrongly jailed for religious practices and money. Grateful, Muhammadan gave Felix his daughter’s hand in marriage contingent upon his escape from an Italian prison to Turkey. Citing Turkey’s societal limitations on women, Safie refused to return with her father. A short time later, the French government learns of De Lacey and his connection with the escape. After a jail term, Felix and his family were sent to Germany. Here, Muhammadan changed his mind and tells Safie to go to Turkey. After believing she would head there after a short stint in Italy, Safie changed course and went to Germany to see Felix instead.

Chapter Fifteen

In this chapter, the Monster finds some books in the forest which he reads with the intent to broaden his horizons, only to find it backed his current state of affairs as a hideous creature. In addition, he finds Victor’s journal where he reads an entry that vividly describes how disappointed his creator was. His loneliness finally drives him to visit the De Lacey home. He speaks to blind De Lacey first before Felix and Safie arrive. Here, the woman faints and Felix orders the Monster out of the house.

Chapter Sixteen

The Monster is a complete mess,  a mixture of loneliness and pure anger. From that point, he acknowledged it was impossible to partner with the human species and casts himself out voluntarily. When he returns to the cottage, he finds out the family moved out of fear of what they had seen earlier. The Monster burns the cottage down and journeys out to hunt down the cause of his misery, Victor.

Near Geneva, the Monster finds Victor’s younger brother in the woods and plots to kidnap him for companionship. When he finds out his identity as a sibling, he strangles the boy to death and plants his locket inside of Justine’s dress a short time later. After finishing his story, he orders Victor to create a female companion for him.

Chapter Seventeen

Victor has second thoughts over creating a female companion for the Monster, believing both could lead to a path of irreversible destruction. The Monster convinces Frankenstein that he would take the female companion to a faraway land. After much squabbling, the Monster threatens Victor's life if he will not do the job.

Chapter Eighteen

Victor has second thoughts over creating the female companion and fights bouts of sadness. His father Alphonse misinterprets his feelings as doubt towards marrying Elizabeth. When Alphonse demands marriage, Victor asks to go to England to steer the Monster away from his family during the construction process with the intent to marry upon returning. The Monster travels with Victor to monitor his progress.

Chapter Nineteen

Victor is finding it harder and harder to work on the female companion. Although his family is in danger, he still has second thoughts over the entire project.

Chapter Twenty

Victor begins to realize the female companion could wreak much havoc by giving birth to more monsters and refusing to be with the Monster as a mate altogether. After finishing the female, he destroys her. The Monster warns him that it will make its presence felt at Victor and Elizabeth’s wedding. Here, Victor decides to dump the female monster’s remains into the ocean on his boat. Upon waking up after a long sleep, he pulls into a harbor and meets an angry group of Irish men who suspect him of murder.

Chapter Twenty-One

Victor discovers that the dead body in question is Henry from court testimony and flies into a rage, intent on destroying the Monster once and for all. He is found innocent, relapses into a heavy fever, and is taken care of by his father while in jail for a short period. After being proven innocent, both head home to Geneva with Victor in terrible shape.

Chapter Twenty-Two

In this chapter, Elizabeth writes Victor a letter telling him he shouldn’t feel obliged into marrying her if there is another woman in his life. Victor promises to marry her when he returns to see her. Despite the Monster’s threat, Victor decides to accept his fate. Nothing happens during their marriage and Victor grows increasingly suspicious of what the Monster has in store as he sets out with Elizabeth on their honeymoon.

Chapter Twenty-Three

The Monster finally strikes and strangles Elizabeth while Victor is conducting a check around the inn they are staying in. Victor runs after the Monster and fails to catch him with his trusted gun and dagger. Victor’s father dies shortly after hearing the news of Elizabeth’s death, and Victor is banished to a madhouse for a short period before his release where he tells a disbelieving court official about the Monster. At this point, Victor is committed to killing the Monster himself.

Chapter Twenty-Four

Victor pays a visit to the cemetery where his family is buried and promises revenge. After hearing the Monster laugh somewhere behind him, he storms after him and chases him throughout Europe and to the North Pole. At the North Pole, Victor loses track of the monster and meets Robert Walton instead. He teaches Walton and crew about glory and what goes awry when you chase it too much. After his death, the Monster begs his dead body for forgiveness. Walton contemplates killing him but reneges after the Monster assures him he will go to the North Pole and kill himself. After leaving the ship, he boards a dogsled and heads back North where he disappears for the last time.

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