Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus
by Mary Shelley
Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus was first published in London, England in 1818. It contains elements of the Gothic novel and the Romantic movement. It was also a warning against the “over-reaching” of modern man and the Industrial Revolution. The story has had an influence across literature and popular culture and spawned a complete genre of horror stories and films. It is often considered the first science fiction novel.
Source: Shelley, M. W. (1818). Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus. London, England: Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor & Jones.
- Preface and Letters
- The Preface explains the circumstances that led to the novel being written. The Letters are from Robert Walton to his sister, detailing his travels. In the fourth letter, Walton tells his sister about seeing a strange creature, and then about finding a starved man who he takes aboard and convinces to tell his story.
- Chapter 1
- The novel itself begins with a series of letters from the explorer Robert Walton to his sister, Margaret Saville. The stranger, who the reader soon learns is Victor Frankenstein, begins his narration. Frankenstein then describes how his childhood companion, Elizabeth Lavenza, entered his family.
- Chapter 2
- Victor grows up in a tight domestic circle, in which he flourishes, and is intrigued with the mysteries of the natural world. He begins his study of outdated alchemists and then electricity.
- Chapter 3
- Victor’s mother dies from scarlet fever she caught from nursing Elizabeth back to health just before he leaves for the university at Ingolstadt. He is discouraged in the study of the natural sciences, but continues his studies in the sciences after an encouraging chemistry lecture.
- Chapter 4
- Victor studies with enthusiasm and ignores his social life. He learns all his teachers have to teach him and begins his fascinating and absorbing work on an animate being because of his fixation on discovering the secret of life.
- Chapter 5
- Victor finishes his creature and is frightened by its appearance. He falls ill with a nervous fever after reuniting with Henry, who nurses him back to health and gives him a letter from Elizabeth.
- Chapter 6
- Victor recovers after reading the concerned letter from Elizabeth and introduces Henry to his professors. However, even the sight of chemical equipment makes Victor uneasy. He awaits his father’s letter to facilitate his return to Geneva.
- Chapter 7
- Victor receives a letter from his father telling him that his brother William has been murdered. When he reaches Geneva, the gates are already closed and he wanders in the woods, where he finds his creature. Justine has been accused of murdering William, however Victor is convinced his creature is responsible.
- Chapter 8
- Justine confesses to the crime even though she is innocent. Victor believes her innocence, however she is executed. Victor is consumed in guilt because his creation has killed two members of his family.
- Chapter 9
- Victor is melancholy after Justine’s execution and thinks of Elizabeth and his father to keep from thoughts of suicide. The family travels to their home at Belrive and the beautiful scenery cheers him somewhat.
- Chapter 10
- Victor is still depressed and travels to Montanvert hoping that the scenery will boost his spirits. He finds his monster, who eloquently greets him and convinces him to warm himself by a fire in an ice cave where the monster narrates the events of his life.
- Chapter 11
- The monster tells Victor of his confusion and awe in discovering the basic functions of life and the many aspects of fire. Humans were frightened by his appearance causing him to avoid any contact with them. From a hovel he observes the occupants of a cottage.
- Chapter 12
- The monster continues to observe the inhabitants and realizes their sadness is linked to their poverty. The monster tries to help them with their plight, begins to learn their language, and admires their graceful forms realizing his own deformities.
- Chapter 13
- A new guest that does not speak the common language moves into the cottage that the monster observes and he learns the language as it is taught to her. He learns the obligations and pleasures of human relationships and realizes his lonliness.
- Chapter 14
- After the monster eavesdrops for a while, he learns the history of the cottage family and recounts it to Victor.
- Chapter 15
- The monster finds a satchel with clothes and books and decides to study the books to learn more about the world. He decides to win over the blind old man in the cottage, that the cottagers might befriend him. However, when the other discover him, they run him off because they are appalled by his appearance.
- Chapter 16
- After being rejected, the monster seeks revenge on all human beings. He explains the circumstances of William’s murder and Justine’s conviction to Victor and then implores him to make another creature to be his mate.
- Chapter 17
- The monster convinces Victor to make him a female monster companion because his violent acts are a result of his desperate lonliness.
- Chapter 18
- Victor puts off the creation of the female creature and decides he needs to travel to England to gather information. He begins a two-year tour of England in order to fill his obligation before his marriage to Elizabeth.
- Chapter 19
- Victor convinces Henry to stay with a friend so he can continue on his own to work on his creation. He has a difficult time finishing because he knows the horror of his product.
- Chapter 20
- Victor becomes a slave to his fears and destroys his work on the second creature incurring the wrath of the monster. The monster threatens him and Victor decides to continue on with Henry. He dumps the remains of the second creature in the ocean and is accused of a murder committed the night before.
- Chapter 21
- Victor finds that the murdered man is his friend Henry, who has the mark of the monster’s hands on his neck. Victor goes into convulsions, falls ill, and remains in prison. His father stays with him until he is found innocent.
- Chapter 22
- Victor and his father return home and begin planning the wedding. He remembers the monster’s threat and keeps it a secret from Elizabeth, who is still worried about his frequent illnesses. The wedding takes place and they leave for a family cottage.
- Chapter 23
- Victor is convinced the monster’s threat was a proposal to duel with him. However, when he sends Elizabeth to bed, he finds the monster had intended to kill her. Following the sorrowful event, Victor’s father dies a few days later. Victor tries to tell the magistrate about the monster but he doesn’t believe him and Victor vows to devote his life to its destruction.
- Chapter 24
- Victor decides to leave Geneva in pursuit of the monster, who leaves him little clues and taunts to his whereabouts. They end up in the north and Victor falls ill and begs Walton to continue his quest. Walton believes his story. Just before Walton and his crew leave for England, Victor dies and the monster is found weeping over his creator’s body. He apologizes for the evil he has caused and he departs into the darkness.
Shelley, M. (1818). Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus. (Lit2Go ed.). Retrieved March 31, 2023, from https://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/128/frankenstein-or-the-modern-prometheus/
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus. Lit2Go Edition. 1818. Web. <https://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/128/frankenstein-or-the-modern-prometheus/>. March 31, 2023.
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, Li2Go edition, (1818), accessed March 31, 2023, https://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/128/frankenstein-or-the-modern-prometheus/.