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Shelley Frankenstein

Shelley Frankenstein

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Published by rnguyen12

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Published by: rnguyen12 on May 18, 2009
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09/29/2010

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Frankenstein
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley 
Characters
R. Walton
The main narrator of the story’s events. Captain of a ship northbound toward the Arctic pole. A self-learned man who desires, above all else, companionship. Encounters a near-death Victor Frankenstein while on his voyage and takes him aboard, faithfully transcribing his life story.
V. Frankenstein
The main protagonist whose story figures as the dominant narrative of the story. A man whose obses-sive intellectual pursuits lead to his demise and irrevocable break from humanity.
Creature 
The culmination of Victor’s frenzied experiments to discover the secret of life. A creature that longsfor human society but can never attain it. As the product of Frankenstein’s unnatural, individualisticendeavors, it severs Frankenstein’s ties to humanity by destroying his family.
 A. Frankenstein
 
Discourages Victor from studying mystical teachings (e.g. Cornelius Agrippa), which would later give way into a “predilection for [natural philosophy]” (21) and lead to his doomed scientific inquiries.His happiness and well-being throughout the work lies contingent upon that of Victor. While hepersists in his appreciative attitude toward life even in times of tragedy, he dies of heartbreak upon re-ceiving news of Elizabeth’s death.
Elizabeth L.
 
The thread holding the Frankenstein family together. Victor’s childhood companion and eventual wife. Killed by Victor’s Creature on their wedding night.
Henry Clerval 
 
Victor’s longtime friend and companion. Represents what Victor could’ve been—inquisitive but notto the point of unnatural excess and still a member of society. Also killed by the Creature.
William
Victor’s younger brother and the first of the Creature’s victims.
 Justine Moritz 
The Frankensteins’ servant, wrongly executed for the murder of William.
Plot Summary 
Volume I 
 
In letters to his sister Margaret Salville, R. Walton reflects on his desire for glory and knowledge in reaching the ends of the earth. During his voyage, he recounts a strange accident in which his ship was surrounded and trapped by ice; afterthe ice broke, freeing his ship, Walton found his men talking to a man who had been drifting in the arctic waters on hissled. The stranger is welcomed aboard and restored to good health. Walton then relates how the stranger, seeing a mir-ror of himself in Walton (“You seek for knowledge and wisdom, as I once did; and I ardently hope that the gratificationof your wishes may not be a serpent to sting you, as mine has been.”), proceeded to relate his unfortunate history, servingas something of a cautionary tale. The stranger’s narrative, which Walton faithfully records in his letter, thus com-mences.Victor Frankenstein, born in Geneva, relates his family’s history—one of his father’s dearest friends, Beaufort, escapedthe shame of debt by retreating to live a life of obscurity. His grief of self-exile eventually gave way to sickness, and hisdaughter Caroline tended to him endlessly until his passing. Two years after Beaufort’s funeral, Victor’s father and Ca-roline were married. Sometime during Victor’s childhood, his father brought his sister’s daughter Elizabeth Lavenza intotheir household and the two children quickly took to each other. Frankenstein then introduces Henry Clerval, one of his schoolfellows who also came to be included in his blissful “domestic circle” (21). Victor is an especially inquisitivechild, and mystical studies appeal to him strongly, despite his father’s attempts to discourage his reading of such “sadtrash” (22) written by the likes of Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, and Albertus Magnus. His first thunderstorm at the ageof fifteen stimulates his intellectual curiosity further.
 
 When Frankenstein turns seventeen, his parents decide to send him to school in Ingolstadt. Victor’s departure is de-ferred by Elizabeth’s taking ill with scarlet fever, which is passed onto and kills Victor’s mother. On her deathbed, Caro-line tells Elizabeth that, henceforth, she will “supply [her] place” (26), a role assignment that gives support to Freudianinterpretations of the text. Within two years of his enrollment at Ingolstadt, Victor has risen to preeminence within theuniversity, propelled by his natural aptitude for natural philosophy. During his time at school, Victor is driven by anobsessive desire to ascertain the “principle of life” (32), a pursuit which spurs him to toil day and night in search of ananswer. Culling bones and body parts from charnel houses, Victor assembles together a creature that is to be instilled with life.It is one dreary night in November that Victor’s labors are realized with the awakening of his creation. Horrified by itsindescribable ugliness, Victor flees in terror. Hereafter, Victor is plagued by neurotic thoughts and fears about the moralramifications of his creation. Frankenstein is relieved by Henry Clerval’s presence, but still tormented by his nightmarishcreation, he falls into a feverish illness, his childhood companion remaining by his side to see to his recovery. Duringthis episode, Victor receives a letter from Elizabeth discussing a certain Justine Moritz, the family’s servant, and hisyounger brother William.The summer passes joyfully while the two await word from Alphonse Frankenstein about a date of departure. One af-ternoon, Victor and Clerval return to college to find a letter from Victor’s father informing him of William’s unfortunatemurder. Victor is immediately overcome with the “extremest agitation” (50), and their journey home is “very melancho-ly” (51). During a thunderstorm, Victor is terrified to see what he believes to be his “hideous progeny” lurking behindtrees—it is at this moment that he becomes certain that the Creature must be William’s murderer.Upon arriving home in Geneva, Victor discovers that poor Justine has been apprehended for William’s murder. Eliza-beth appeals to him for help in exonerating the guiltless girl, and so Victor accompanies the family to her trial. Justinedefends herself, claiming that she passed the night of William’s murder in a barn but having no account of the incrimi-nating photo of Caroline Frankenstein. Elizabeth testifies in her defense, but when Justine confesses her guilt, the judgesunanimously sentence her. Victor and Elizabeth visit Justine in her prison-chamber where the accused girl reveals thatshe confessed a lie, believing it would grant her absolution. In her last words, Justine nobly consoles herself and Eliza-beth. Victor, however, remains inconsolable with guilt.
Volume II 
 
Victor is wracked with feverish neurosis, which, compounded by the recent misfortune, weighs heavily upon the Fran-kenstein household. While making an excursion to the valley of Chamounix, Victor experiences sublimity in nature:“The sight of the awful and majestic in nature had indeed always the effect solemnizing my mind, and causing me toforget the passing cares of life” (70). At the summit of Montanvert, Victor encounters his abominable creation and ac-cuses him of murder. The Creature defends himself and pleads with his master to listen to his tale, which comprises therest of Volume II.The Creature recounts his early beginnings, slowly acquiring skills of perception and cognition. After an unfortunateincident in which he inadvertently sends a village fleeing from fear, the Creature retreats to the country and finds dwel-ling in a hovel. Near his new abode, he comes across a rural family with whom he became fixated. Through observationthe Creature, by degrees, comes to acquire language—learning how to associate objects with words—and learns the cot-tagers’ names: Felix, his sister Agatha, and their father De Lacey. One spring, a beautiful woman, accompanied by aguide, arrives at the family’s doorstep. Felix immediately becomes enamored with the beautiful Arabian, whose name isSafie. While Felix instructs Safie in various disciplines, the Creature learns alongside her with alacrity and rapidity, gain-ing knowledge not only in speech but also in reading and writing. Before long, the Creature learns of human society andits hierarchical structure with its property divisions and social ranking. (As the Creature notes regretfully, “sorrow only 
 
increased with knowledge” (90).) But he also hears of the family unit and its structure, leading the Creature to wonderabout and lament his extreme lack of fellow companionship.The Creature narrates the history of his friends as he came to hear of over an elapsed period of time. Prior to their cur-rent state of impoverishment, the family had enjoyed wealth and luxury living in Paris, but when Felix aided Safie’s fa-ther in escaping prison (Felix had been outraged by the Turk’s imprisonment for his religion and enticed by his promisesof wealth and Safie’s hand in marriage), the French government sentenced Agatha and De Lacey to jail. Felix’s attemptsto free his family failed, and five months later, a trial proceeding took place which stripped them of their wealth and ex-iled them to their current residence of squalor in Germany. Meanwhile, the dishonorable Turk reneged on his promises,fleeing to Italy with Safie and sending Felix and his family only a small sum of money. Safie, however, after hearingnews of Felix’s exile, resolves to depart for Germany to be with her lover.The Creature continues with his self-edification, reading classical works such as
Paradise Lost 
,
Plutarch’s Lives 
, and the
Sorrows of Werter 
. The first work, in particular, leaves an indelible impression on the Creature, finding his antithesis in Adam and his likeness in Satan. Then he reveals how, in the laboratory in which he was created, he chanced upon Vic-tor’s journal, which detailed the minute details and process of his creation. As the household’s happiness increases in thecompany of Safie, so too does the Creature’s misery with the increasing awareness of his loneliness and isolation.One day, while Agatha, Felix, and Safie are taking a walk, the Creature decides to approach the cottage. He knocks andthe blind De Lacey welcomes him inside, asking him questions about his personal history. The Creature reveals that thefriends he has been referring to in their conversation are none other than De Lacey and his family, at which point therest of the household returns home and chases away the Creature. From this moment onward, the Creature declares“everlasting war against the species [of men]” (104). The next day he approaches the cottage to find Felix conversing with men about payment of rent and his family’s need to depart in light of the horrific encounter with the Creature.Thoughts of revenge and fury swirl about in the Creature’s heart and he takes to the road in search of his Creator, recal-ling that Victor had once mentioned Geneva as the name of his hometown. When he reaches Geneva, he comes across abeautiful boy and desires to take hold of him so as to educate him to be his companion. But the boy screams and threat-ens to tell his father Frankenstein. Recognizing his name as belonging to his hateful Creator, the Creature strangles theboy to death. After the deed, he spots a beautiful portrait of a woman on the boy’s breast and, noticing a similarly beau-tiful woman pass by, decides to plant it into the folds of her dress. At the close of his story, the Creature beseeches his Creator to make him a female companion to allay his misery andcontrol his vices. Victor is initially loath to the idea but consents to his demand when he promises to remove himself from master’s life for good.
Volume III 
 
Upon his return to Geneva, Victor is reluctant to set to work on his new task. His father expresses his desire that he andElizabeth marry, to which Victor responds by reassuring him of their future union. Victor then arranges a journey toEngland with Clerval to complete his dreaded project. While Clerval is able to freely socialize with fellow men of distin-guished learning, Victor finds that there is an “insurmountable barrier placed between [him] and [his] fellow-men”(123).One night in his laboratory, Victor suddenly grasps the wickedness of his actions and furiously destroys his soon-to-besecond creation, vowing never to resume such endeavors again. Moments later, the Creature appears at the scene and isoutraged by Victor’s rebellion. After some heated exchange, the Creature cries that Victor will rue his misdeeds and they  will see each other again on his wedding night.Victor receives a letter from Clerval imploring him to “leave [his] solitary isle” (133) and to meet so that they can arrangeplans. Before Victor is ready to depart, he decides to pack up his chemical instruments from his laboratory and cast

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