Who is writing the letters? Robert Walton
To whom is he writing? What is their relationship? Mrs. Saville, who is his sister.
Where is he when he writes letter 1? Why is he there? What are his plans? He is in St. Petersburg, Russia hiring a crew for his ship. He intends to sail to the North Pole to discover the secrets of magnetism and whether it is cold and desolate or beautiful.
What does he tell us about himself? That his father died, that he once wanted to write but wasn’t any good at it, but then at some point he realized he loved discovery and adventure, and he’s self-educated.
Where is he now? What do you think of his question “what can stop the determined heart and resolved will of man?” He is sailing north. It shows his faith in humanity and the Romanticism present in the author’s writing.
How much time has elapsed between letter three and letter four? What happened? One month – the ship has been trapped in ice and fog.
Why does the man picked up by the ship say he is there? What shape is he in? He says he is “seeking the one who fled from me.” And he is about to die.
What sort of person does he seem to be? How does Walton respond to this man? The man is mysterious and Walton is intrigued by him.
How much time has elapsed when Walton begins writing again? What has happened in the meantime? How does the man respond to Walton’s project? How is Walton responding to the man? Walton begins writing the next day. Victor has regained his strength because the crew and Walton have taken care of him. Victor tells Walton that his curiosity and yearning for knowledge led to his demise and defeat. Walton is very interested and wants to hear the man’s story.
How much time has elapsed when Walton begins writing again ? What has happened in the meantime? How does the man respond to Walton’s project? Why does the man agree to tell his story? The man agrees to tell his story because he notices that Walton is seeking knowledge as Victor himself once did. Victor hopes that Walton’s seeking of knowledge will not lead to disaster as it did for Victor. “I do not know that the relation of my disasters will be useful to you; yet, when I reflect that you are pursuing the same course, exposing yourself to the same dangers which have rendered me what I am, I imagine that you may deduce an apt moral from my tale.”
What is the man’s background? (Do we know his name yet?) Where is he from? He was born in Geneva, Switzerland and he was raised in a good household. Both of his parents loved him very much. His name is Victor.
What is the story of the man’s mother, Caroline Beaufort? How does the man feel toward his parents, and what responsibilities does he feel they had toward him? Caroline’s father was friends with Frankenstein Sr, and Caroline’s father went into poverty and died. When Caroline came of age, she married Frankenstein Sr. Later, Victor’s sister, Elizabeth, got a bad case of scarlet fever and his mother could not help but attend to her sickbed to help her. His mother got sick and soon died. Victor loved his parents very much, and their duty to him was to raise him to be a good child. He holds them responsible for his future happiness or sadness.
Who is Elizabeth Lavenza and what is her story? What gift does the man’s mother give him? Do we know the man’s name yet? Do we know his family name? Elizabeth Lavenza was an orphan whom Victor’s parents adopted. Victor’s mother says to him, “I have a pretty present for my Victor—tomorrow he shall have it.” This present was Elizabeth. This is the first time we learn Victor’s name. However, we find out his family name in chapter 3.
Who is Henry Clerval and what is his relation to Victor? Henry Clerval “was the son of a merchant of Geneva” and is Victor’s best friend.
How does Victor characterize the interests and characters of Clerval, Elizabeth, and himself? Clerval’s interests include studying romantic literature a lot, and enacting plays with Victor. He was interested in being moral and a medieval knight hero. Elizabeth “was the living spirit of love to soften and attract.” She was interested in poetry, but not in learning. Victor was always yearning for more and more knowledge. He was very interested in science.
Who is Cornelius Agrippa and how does Victor find out about him? How does Victor’s father respond, and how does Victor comment on that response? On a rainy day while on vacation, Victor reads books he finds. Agrippa is an ancient scientist who studied alchemy. His books are outdated and unscientific. Victor’s father criticizes Victor for reading such nonsense. Victor decides to read even more on the subject after his father’s criticism.
What sort of science (“Natural Philosophy”) is Victor learning from Agrippa, Paracelsus, and Albertus Magnus? How would a modern scientist respond to this sort of thinking? Alchemy and the search for the fountain of youth. Modern scientists know these pursuits are foolish.
What happens when Victor sees an oak tree destroyed by lightning and hears an explanation? What does Victor then begin to study? Victor decides to study electricity and galvanism – the process of using electricity to reanimate dead creatures.
Who or what does he credit for this change in direction? Who or what does he blame for his “utter and terrible destruction”? He credits Krempe for encouraging him to study this field and he blames Waldman, his chemistry professor, for his destruction.
What happens to Elizabeth and to Victor’s mother as a result of Elizabeth’s scarlet fever? How does this compare with the mother’s early history? Caroline catches scarlet fever and dies after nursing Elizabeth back to health. Caroline’s father dies in similar circumstances. Victor experienced the same with Walton.
Why does Victor’s father send him to the University of Ingolstadt? How old is Victor then? (Ingolstadt is in southern Germany, in Bavaria, on the Danube, 43 miles north of Munich. The university founded there in 1472 moved to Landshut in 1802 and to Munich in 1826.) Victor’s father believes Victor should study in another country. Victor is 17.
What does Victor learn from M. Krempe? How does Victor respond to him, and on what grounds? Is this a good basis for making such a decision? He learns about natural philosophy, and is told to start studying science completely anew. This is an indifferent and uneasy idea for him.
What does Victor learn from M. Waldman? How does Victor respond to him? How does Victor think of his older science as opposed to modern science? What does M. Waldman say in describing modern chemistry that changes Victor’s mind? What does Victor say he will now do? Victor learns that scientists can perform miracles and are all-powerful. Victor is amazed and wants to return and study natural philosophy.
How well does Victor progress during the next two years? What does he then become interested in, and what ultimately does he discover? Victor progresses immensely, doesn’t see his family, and becomes interested in the natural philosophies and the old sciences. He is fascinated in becoming a somewhat like god.
Will he share that knowledge with Walton? Why? (Note the “present” of the telling breaking through the narration here.) Victor does not share his knowledge with Walton. His own knowledge resulted in misery.
How does he go about creating a human being, and what does he expect as a result of this creation? How long does the task take? What happens to Victor in the process? Victor becomes obsessed and possessive in finding dead body parts (preferably large ones) to create and form and new body, or specimen. He expects a new creature to praise him as a god/father. It takes him about a year, and Victor becomes very ill and sick as the creation of this creation has driven him mad and given him an unhealthy obsession.
Do you recognize the opening words of chapter five? Remember that Shelley gave them as the starting point of her story Shelley uses part of the poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner a. Poem talks about a person who wanders the streets with a demon following him b. Gothic-Victor can relate to the wanderer’s isolation and fear c. Romantic – both of them want knowledge – unlike the wanderer, Victor’s knowledge brings a curse
Given all the mad doctor and monster movies we’ve seen, including perhaps versions of Frankenstein, what is unexpected about the description of the actual creation of life here? How much do we learn of the actual procedure? In Shelley’s novel, very little is said about Victor’s methods of creating the monster is provided.
How does Victor respond to the actual creation of life? What surprises him about the way the creature he has brought to life looks? What does that do to Victor’s response? Victor wanted to create a beautiful man and is horrified by the creature’s watery, yellow eyes, tight skin and black lips. Victor says his dream has vanished and his heart is filled with “disgust and horror.”
What does Victor dream? How does the dream grow out of, comment on, even explain what Victor has done and been through? He dreams he is embracing Elizabeth and she turns into the rotting corpse of his mother.
What does the creature do? How does Victor respond? The creature reaches out his arms and smiles at Victor. Victor is horrified and runs away from his creation.
Whom does Victor meet arriving in a coach the next morning? How does Victor respond? What does Victor discover when they go to Victor’s apartment? How does Victor respond? What happens to him and for how long? Is there any more news of the creature? Victor sees Clerval. Victor is delighted and feels “for the first time during many months, calm and serene joy” (44). Victor is nervous that the monster is still in his apartment and that Clerval will see it. When he discovers the monster is gone, he cries out “Oh, save me!” then collapses. Clerval stays for many months to nurse Victor back to health.
What is waiting for Victor when he finally recovers? Who has nursed him during his illness? When he recovers he finds a letter from Elizabeth. His friend Henry Clerval helped nurse him during his illness.
Who is Justine Moritz and what is her story? What comments does Elizabeth make about her position in Swiss society? What religion is Justine? Justine was taken in by the Frankenstein family who offered to care from her in lieu of her own abusive mom, who attempted to reconcile after Justine’s siblings all died but ended up dying as well. Elizabeth comments that Swiss peasants are more dignified and moral compared to the ignorant peasants of other countries. Lastly, Justine is a Roman Catholic.
Who is William and how old is he? Have we heard of him before? William is Victor’s youngest brother and is about 5 or 6 when he dies. We did hear of him in an earlier chapter before his death.
What does Victor do after his recovery? What is Clerval’s “plan of life”? Following his recovery, Victor makes visits to Waldman and Krempe. Clerval’s plan is to study languages of the Orient, a plan which Victor finds appealing as well.
When does Victor finally plan to return home? What do he and Clerval do while waiting for his father’s directions? Although Victor originally intended to go back to Geneva in autumn he has to delay his arrival until the following spring because of severe conditions during the winter. As they wait for instructions from Mr. Frankenstein, Clerval and Victor end up hiking for two weeks across the countryside and mountains in early spring before heading home.
What is waiting for Victor when he returns to his apartment? What news does his father have for him? And what is his father’s name? How does Victor respond? When he gets to his apartment, Victor finds a letter from his father, Alphonse, sharing that his brother William was killed, prompting Victor’s speedy return to Geneva to be with his family.
How long has Victor been away from home? What happens the night he returns to Geneva? How does he respond? Victor has been away for six years. There is a violent, yet beautiful storm, and Victor says it is nature’s way of honoring William’s death.
Whom does Victor see that night? When was the last time they saw each other? How long ago was that? Victor sees the outline of the monster climbing to the top of Mont Saleve. Victor has not seen the monster in two years.
What does Victor now believe happened to William? What does Victor assume about the nature of the creature? Victor believes the monster killed William. Victor believes the creature is a “depraved wretch” who delights in “carnage and misery.”
Who has been identified as the murderer, and on what evidence? How does Victor respond to this news? Why doesn’t he say anything about the real murderer? Justine is identified as the murderer because the miniature portrait of Caroline Frankenstein was found in her pocket. Victor says he knows who the real murderer is and it is not Justine. He does not say anything though because he believes everyone will think he is insane.
What happens at Justine’s trial? How does Victor respond? Justine’s defense is she was visiting an aunt and upon her return, heard of William being missing. She spent hours searching for him. The city gates were locked so she was forced to sleep in a barn. Could the murderer have left the necklace in her pocket while she slept? Victor says nothing but becomes filled with despair and horror over his creation.
The next day, why does Justine say she has confessed to the murder of William? How does Victor respond to Justine’s situation and to Elizabeth’s anguish? Justine confesses because her priest threatened to excommunicate her. Fearing this would damn her soul, she confesses a lie then feels even greater anguish over this sin. Victor retreated into the corner of the prison and does not speak out in Justine’s defense.
How does Victor respond in the days after Justine’s death? How have Elizabeth’s views changed? Unable to sleep, Victor retreats into solitude and shuns human company. Elizabeth sees evil in men. She says she never believed in capital punishment, but now she wants the true murderer to suffer for his crimes.
What journey does Victor undertake, and when? What places does he travel through? Where does he stay? Victor journeys to the Swiss Alps. He leaves in August and first travels through the Arve Valley. He stays in the village of Chamounix.
Where does Victor go the next day? Where does he go the following day? P. B. Shelley mentions the glacier in a letter written at Chamouni on July 25, 1817: He travels through the valley. Then, in the rain, on the following day, Victor decides to climb Montanvert.
How does he feel during this part of his journey? (Notice in this chapter that Frankenstein, in the late 1700s, is able to quote a poem written by P.B. Shelley in 1816.) Victor says he was “filled … with a sublime ecstasy that gave wings to the soul and allowed it to soar from the obscure world to light and joy”
Whom does Victor see? How does he respond? Victor sees the creature running with amazing speed over the mountains. He is filled with horror and rage and ready to engage in “mortal combat.”
In this chapter, we finally hear the creature speak for the first time. What does he say? Is this what we expect from the creature? The creature says he has suffered from loneliness. He says all men hate the wretched and he is hurt that his creator detests him. He says “do your duty towards me, and I will do mine to you and the rest of mankind”
What does the creature ask of Victor? What does the creature say to Victor? Does his language remind you of another literary work? How good is Victor at performing the role of creator for his creature? To listen to his story. The monster says misery has made him a fiend. The language resembles Milton’s Paradise Lost. Not good at all because he abandoned the monster and never planned on seeing him again.
Why has the creature caused the deaths of William and Justine? Is he as inherently evil and bloodthirsty as Victor has assumed? He kills William because of his relation to Victor (he wants to take Victor’s happiness away) and indirectly kills Justine by framing her, resulting in her execution. No, the monster is emotional, sensitive and intelligent. He possesses a human dignity and intellect.
What will cause the creature to change? Keep in mind his statement “I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous”. What sort of psychological understanding is Shelley showing here? Compassion and love will change the creature. Shelley seems to say that humanity’s goodness is a result of the compassion and duty towards others.
How good of an ironic sense of humor does the creature have? (See the “hand” bit) Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel has this famous painting.

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