Frankenstein | Study Guide

Mary Shelley

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Frankenstein | Chapter 11 (Volume 2, Chapter 4) | Summary

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Summary

The Monster was especially impressed by the gentle way the De Lacey family members treated each other, but he noticed they are not as happy as he had first assumed. It took the Monster a while to realize the cause of their sadness: they are very poor. Moved by their plight, the Monster stopped stealing their food and anonymously gathered wood for them, relieving them of this burdensome chore. The Monster learned that language exists and then, slowly, learned to start to speak French by listening to the family speak it. This continued for the winter, during which time the Monster also "ardently longed to comprehend" writing. The Monster also caught his first glimpse of himself, reflected in a pool, and was shocked at his grotesque appearance.

As the weather improved with the coming of spring, the Monster continued secretly assisting the De Laceys and decided that he might be able to make the De Lacey family happy again—and that they would then accept and "love" him. He practiced speaking and found his mood lifting, saying, "My spirits were elevated by the enchanting appearance of nature ... the future gilded by bright rays of hope and anticipations of joy."

Analysis

Accustomed to great hardship, the Monster at first cannot understand how the De Lacey family could be sad when they appear to have everything that anyone could want: food, shelter, and love. Once he comes to understand their situation, he helps the De Laceys in every way he can and even dreams of restoring them to total happiness, showing his innate kindness and compassion. The Monster shows himself to be more humane, more full of compassion, than Victor, his human creator. Who is the real monster?

The Monster's thirst to learn ennobles him. Watching the De Laceys converse, he realizes that language is the key to humans connecting with one another. He calls language a "godlike science," the vehicle for forging human bonds. His pursuit of knowledge contrasts with Victor's and Walton's. They both pursue knowledge to push the limits of science and to gain fame for themselves. The Monster seeks the ability to speak so that he can connect to other creatures. He wants to learn to read to open new realms of understanding, to improve himself, not to enhance his status.

The Monster's happiness when spring comes underscores the romantics' belief in the power of nature and the link between nature and people's moods. He celebrates nature's glory when he cannot celebrate his own. This provides a further connection between him and Victor, who also finds joy and peace in nature. The Monster, like his creator, is a romantic.

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