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Mary Shelley - Frankenstein

“Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it.”

― Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

table of content



general information about the Book


content summary


character list


content of letter 4


general information about the author

information about the book to get a better overview

summary of the prologue (the letters) and the chapters

list of all characters and their properties (Victor Frankenstein in detail)

detailed summary of letter 4


Who is Mary Shelley?

Mary Shelly was one of the most popular English writers of the 19th century. Her work „Frankenstein“, written in 1818, is one of the best-known and most adapted books of all time.

She has written several novels, short stories, essays, poems and travelogues.

life story

Mary Shelley was born in 1797 to the social philosopher William Godwin and the writer Mary Wollstonecraft. Shelley's mother died shortly after her daughter was born. She fell in love at 16 with a married man named Percy Shelley, who was much older than her.

Together they traveled through Europe and mary came back pregnant, whereupon Percy Shelley's wife took her own life.

In 1816 they married and two years later they left eachother. She no longer stayed in one place but lived in Naples, Rome, Pisa and Florence. Mary Shelley died in London in 1851 at the age of 53. She probably succumbed to complications from a brain tumor.

How did the author come up with the idea of ​​writing frankenstein?

In 1816, the year when there was no summer, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin went on holiday in Switzerland with her beloved Percy Shelley and a friend George Gordon Byron. Since they were all locked up because of the cold weather, the group talked by reading German ghost stories. Inspired by their discussions, Lord Byron invited his guests to write their own Gothic ghost story.

That night or the following, Mary lay in bed, feverishly thinking of a doctor who was obsessed with defeating death and creating a distorted creature in his own image. Thus was born Frankenstein or the modern Prometheus, who was to become Mary Shelley’s most famous work and perhaps the first science fiction of its kind.

General information about the book


  • Preface
  • The book consists of several letters: volume 1-> 8 chapter , volume 2-> 9 chapter , volume 3-> 7 chapter
  • Mainplot on chapter 3 page 44, where victor leaves his family in Geneva to attempt the university at Ingolstadt

General Information

  • original version was published in 1818
  • revised Version veröffentlicht am 1831
  • the book contains 254 pages

content summary





Victor Frankenstein, the stranger on the sledge, begins his narration. He tells Walton about his family, which is his father, Alphonse and his mother Caroline. Later they adopted a girl from a poor Italian family who can barely affort any . Caroline found out that Elizabeth is the daughter of a Milanese nobleman and a German mother, who died when giving birth to her. Victor’s mother also decides at the moment of the adoptation that Victor and Elizabeth should marry someday. Victor and Elizabeth grow up together as best friends. Victor’s friendship with his schoolmate and only-child called Henry Clerval flourishes too. He spends his childhood happily surrounded by this close domestic circle. Victor becomes fascinated by the mysteries of the natural world.

Victor leaves his family in Geneva to attend the university at Ingolstadt when he’s seventeen. At the university he sets up a meeting with a professor named of natural philosophy.

Fascinated by the mystery of the creation of life, Victor begins to study how the human body is built and how it falls apart (death and decay). After several years of tireless work, he masters all that his professors have to teach him and goes one step further. He wants to discover the secret of life. Privately in his apartment he decides to begin the construction of an animate creature, envisioning the creation of a new race. Devoting himself to this labor, he neglects everything else – his family, friends, etc. – and grows up lonely and pale.

Victor completes his creation but when he brought him to life, he was horrified from his appearance, having nightmares about Elizabeth’s and his mother’s corpse. Delighted to see Henry he brings him back to his apartment. Victor enters first and is relieved to find no sign of the monster. But, weakened by months of work and shock at the horrific being he has created, he immediately falls ill with a nervous fever that lasts several months. Henry nurses him back to health and, when Victor has recovered, gives him a letter from Elizabeth that had arrived during his illness.

Elizabeth‘s letter expresses her concern about Victor’s illness and entreats him to write to his family in Geneva as soon as he can. She also tells him that Justine Moritz, a girl who used to live with the Frankenstein family, has returned to their house following her mother’s death. Victor finds a letter from his father telling him that Victor’s youngest brother, William, has been murdered. Saddened and shocked, Victor departs immediately for Geneva. As he walks near the spot where his brother’s body was found, he finds the monster lurking and becomes convinced that his creation is responsible for killing William.

Justine confesses to the crime, believing that she will gain salvation, but tells Elizabeth and Victor that she is innocent. They remain convinced of her innocence, but Justine is soon executed. Victor becomes consumed with guilt, knowing that the monster he created and the cloak of secrecy within which the creation took place have now caused the deaths of two members of his family.

After Justine’s execution, Victor becomes increasingly melancholy. He considers suicide but restrains himself by thinking of Elizabeth and his father. Alphonse, hoping to cheer up his son, takes his children on an excursion to the family home at Belrive. He decides to travel to the summit of Montanvert, hoping that the view of a pure, eternal, beautiful natural scene will revive his spirits. He issues futile threats of attack to the monster. Victor curses him and tells him to go away, but the monster, speaking eloquently, persuades him to accompany him to a fire in a cave of ice. Inside the cave, the monster begins to narrate the events of his life.

content summary





Sitting by the fire in his hut, the monster tells Victor of the confusion that he experienced upon being created. He describes his flight from Victor’s apartment into the wilderness and his gradual acclimation to the world through his discovery of the sensations of light, dark, hunger, thirst, and cold.

In search of food, the monster finds a hut and enters it. His presence causes an old man inside to shriek and run away in fear. The monster proceeds to a village, where more people flee at the sight of him. As a result of these incidents, he resolves to stay away from humans.

Observing his neighbors for an extended period of time, the monster notices that they often seem unhappy, though he is unsure why. Torn by his guilty conscience, he stops stealing their food and does what he can to reduce their hardship, gathering wood at night to leave at the door for their use.

The monster notices that the cottagers, particularly Felix, seem unhappy. A beautiful woman in a dark dress and veil arrives at the cottage on horseback and asks to see Felix. Felix becomes ecstatic the moment he sees her. The woman, who does not speak the language of the cottagers, is named Safie. As Safie learns the language of the cottagers, so does the monster. He also learns to read, and, since Felix uses Constantin-François de Volney’s Ruins of Empires to instruct Safie, he learns a bit of world history in the process. Now able to speak and understand the language perfectly, the monster learns about human society by listening to the cottagers’ conversations. After some time, the monster’s constant eavesdropping allows him to reconstruct the history of the cottagers. Safie’s father, a Turk, was falsely accused of a crime and sentenced to death.

While foraging for food in the woods around the cottage one night, the monster finds an abandoned leather satchel containing some clothes and books. Eager to learn more about the world than he can discover, he brings the books back to his hovel and begins to read. The books include Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Sorrows of Werter, a volume of Plutarch’s Lives, and John Milton’s Paradise Lost, the last of which has the most profound effect on the monster.

In the wake of this rejection, the monster swears to revenge himself against all human beings, especially his creator. Journeying for months out of sight of others, he makes his way toward Geneva.

Having explained to Victor the circumstances behind William’s murder and Justine’s conviction, the monster implores Victor to create another monster to accompany him and be his mate.

The monster tells Victor that it is his right to have a female monster companion. Victor refuses at first, but the monster appeals to Victor’s sense of responsibility as his creator. He tells Victor that all of his evil actions have been the result of a desperate loneliness. He promises to take his new mate to South America to hide in the jungle far from human contact.

After his fateful meeting with the monster on the glacier, Victor puts off the creation of a new, female creature. He begins to have doubts about the wisdom of agreeing to the monster’s request. Victor assures him that the prospect of marriage to Elizabeth is the only happiness in his life. Alphonse suggests that they celebrate the marriage immediately. Victor refuses, unwilling to marry Elizabeth until he has completed his obligation to the monster. He asks Alphonse if he can first travel to England, and Alphonse consents.

Victor and Henry journey through England and Scotland, but Victor grows impatient to begin his work and free himself of his bond to the monster. Victor has an acquaintance in a Scottish town, with whom he urges Henry to stay while he goes alone on a tour of Scotland.

Quickly setting up a laboratory in a small shack, Victor devotes many hours to working on his new creature. He often has trouble continuing his work, however, knowing how unsatisfying, even grotesque, the product of his labor will be.

While working one night, Victor begins to think about what might happen after he finishes his creation. He imagines that his new creature might not want to seclude herself, as the monster had promised, or that the two creatures might have children.

In the midst of these reflections and growing concern, Victor looks up to see the monster grinning at him through the window. Overcome by the monster’s hideousness and the possibility of a second creature like him, he destroys his work in progress and the monster gets angry.

After confronting Victor, the townspeople take him to Mr. Kirwin, the town magistrate. Victor hears witnesses testify against him, claiming that they found the body of a man along the beach the previous night and that, just before finding the body, they saw a boat in the water that resembled Victor’s.

Victor remains ill for two months. Upon his recovery, he finds himself still in prison. Mr. Kirwin, now compassionate and much more sympathetic than before Victor’s illness, visits him in his cell. He tells him that he has a visitor, and for a moment Victor fears that the monster has come to cause him even more misery. Victor is happy to see his father, who stays with him until the court. After his release, Victor departs with his father for Geneva.

On their way home, father and son stop in Paris, where Victor rests to recover his strength. Just before leaving again for Geneva, Victor receives a letter from Elizabeth. He believes that the monster intends to attack him and resolves that he will fight back. Whenever one of them is destroyed, his misery will at last come to an end.

Victor grows more and more nervous about his impending confrontation with the monster. Finally, the wedding takes place, and Victor and Elizabeth depart for a family cottage to spend the night.

In the evening, Victor and Elizabeth walk around the grounds, but Victor can think of nothing but the monster’s imminent arrival. Inside, Victor worries that Elizabeth might be upset by the monster’s appearance and the battle between them. He tells her to retire for the night. He begins to search for the monster in the house, when suddenly he hears Elizabeth scream and realizes that it was never his death that the monster had been intending this night.

His whole family destroyed, Victor decides to leave Geneva and the painful memories it holds behind him forever. He tracks the monster for months, guided by slight clues, messages, and hints that the monster leaves for him. Angered by these taunts, Victor continues his pursuit into the ice and snow of the North. There he meets Walton and tells his story. He entreats Walton to continue his search for vengeance after he is dead.

character list

Victor Frankenstein

The Monster

Robert Walton

Alphonse Frankenstein

The doomed protagonist and narrator of the main portion of the story. Studying in Ingolstadt, Victor discovers the secret of life and creates an intelligent but grotesque monster, from whom he recoils in horror. Victor keeps his creation of the monster a secret, feeling increasingly guilty and ashamed as he realizes how helpless he is to prevent the monster from ruining his life and the lives of others

The eight-foot-tall, hideously ugly creation of Victor Frankenstein. Intelligent and sensitive, the Monster attempts to integrate himself into human social patterns, but all who see him shun him. His feeling of abandonment compels him to seek revenge against his creator

Victor’s father, very sympathetic toward his son. Alphonse consoles Victor in moments of pain and encourages him to remember the importance of family.

The Arctic seafarer whose letters open and close Frankenstein. Walton picks the bedraggled Victor Frankenstein up off the ice, helps nurse him back to health, and hears Victor’s story. He records the incredible tale in a series of letters addressed to his sister, Margaret Saville, in England

character list

Henry Clerval

William Frankenstein

Justine Moritz

Elizabeth Lavenza

M. Krempe

Victor’s boyhood friend, who nurses Victor back to health in Ingolstadt. After working unhappily for his father, Henry begins to follow in Victor’s footsteps as a scientist. His cheerfulness counters Victor’s moroseness.

Victor’s youngest brother and the darling of the Frankenstein family. The monster strangles William in the woods outside Geneva in order to hurt Victor for abandoning him. William’s death deeply saddens Victor and burdens him with tremendous guilt about having created the monster.

An orphan, four to five years younger than Victor, whom the Frankensteins adopt. In the 1818 edition of the novel, Elizabeth is Victor’s cousin, the child of Alphonse Frankenstein’s sister. In the 1831 edition, Victor’s mother rescues Elizabeth from a destitute peasant cottage in Italy. Elizabeth embodies the novel’s motif of passive women, as she waits patiently for Victor’s attention.

A young girl adopted into the Frankenstein household while Victor is growing up. Justine is blamed and executed for William’s murder, which is actually committed by the monster.

A professor of natural philosophy at Ingolstadt. He dismisses Victor’s study of the alchemists as wasted time and encourages him to begin his studies anew.

these are drawings of how we imagine the characters

Victor Frankenstein

Victor Character Depth

Victor changes over the course of the novel from an innocent youth fascinated by the prospects of science into a disillusioned, guilt-ridden man determined to destroy the fruits of his arrogant scientific endeavor. Whether as a result of his desire to attain the godlike power of creating new life or his avoidance of the public arenas in which science is usually conducted, Victor is doomed by a lack of humanness. He cuts himself off from the world and eventually commits himself entirely to an animalistic obsession with revenging himself upon the monster.

At the end of the novel, having chased his creation ever northward, Victor relates his story to Robert Walton and then dies. With its multiple narrators and, hence, multiple perspectives, the novel leaves the reader with contrasting interpretations of Victor: classic mad scientist, transgressing all boundaries without concern, or brave adventurer into unknown scientific lands, not to be held responsible for the consequences of his explorations.

Letter 4

Summary of Letter 4 in Detail

The ship stalls between huge sheets of ice, and Walton and his men spot a sledge guided by a gigantic creature about half a mile away. The next morning, they encounter another sledge stranded on an ice floe. All but one of the dogs drawing the sledge is dead, and the man on the sledge is emaciated, weak, and starving. Despite his condition, the man refuses to board the ship until Walton tells him that it is heading north. The stranger spends two days recovering, nursed by the crew, before he can speak. The crew is burning with curiosity, but Walton, aware of the man’s still-fragile state, prevents his men from burdening the stranger with questions. As time passes, Walton and the stranger become friends, and the stranger eventually consents to tell Walton his story. At the end of the fourth letter, Walton states that the visitor will commence his narrative the next day; Walton’s framing narrative ends and the stranger’s begins.