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Literature Study GuidesFrankensteinVolume 1 Chapter 4 Summary

Frankenstein | Study Guide

Mary Shelley

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Volume 1: Chapter 4

Professor Regina Buccola of Roosevelt University provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Volume 1: Chapter 4 of Mary Shelley's book Frankenstein (1818).

Frankenstein | Volume 1, Chapter 4 | Summary



Victor relates to Walton his success. He brought the Monster to life in November. The process by which the Monster was animated is not described in the book. Rather than being delighted at his success, as he had proudly anticipated, Victor was horrified. He intended to make a "beautiful" creature, but the Monster was "a catastrophe." "But now that I had finished," he tells Walton, "the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart." He rushed out of his laboratory and paced back and forth in his bedroom. Physically and mentally exhausted, he finally collapsed into brief sleep. In a nightmare, he kissed Elizabeth, who then died and transformed into Victor's dead mother. The Monster came to his bed, and Victor ran off.

All night he paced in the courtyard "in the greatest agitation." The next morning, Victor went into Ingolstadt and walked aimlessly through the streets. He thought of lines from Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Henry Clerval, who had come to the university to study, found Victor and took him back to his apartment. The Monster had fled, to Victor's enormous relief. Victor had a nervous breakdown, becoming "lifeless" in a fit, and Henry nursed him back to health through the winter, as Victor "raved incessantly" about the Monster, and into the spring. In addition, Henry convinced Victor to write to his father, reassuring him that he is fine. Henry also told Victor he had brought a letter from Elizabeth.


This chapter is heavy with gothic elements: a spooky setting; a tense, fearful mood; the appearance of madness or illness; and a grotesque dead/undead monster." Shelley also includes a six-line quotation from Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," the poem Walton alludes to earlier in the novel, which adds another layer of connection between Walton and Victor. The first line quoted, "Like one who, on a lonely road," continues the theme of human companionship. The lines "Doth walk in fear and dread" and "Because he knows a frightful fiend/Doth close behind him tread" reinforce the terrifying mood characteristic of gothic novels. All the lines describe how Victor is acting as he hurries on "with irregular steps."

In addition to classifying it as a gothic novel, some critics claim Frankenstein is the first example of science fiction, a type of writing that deals with technology and the potential results of scientific experimentation. Shelley does not describe the scientific process Victor uses to make the Monster come alive; she is not concerned with the process (which, of course, does not exist), only with the results. Describing the process would slow the narrative and reduce suspense; it could also explain how to replicate Victor's discovery, which Victor wants to prevent. Significantly, Victor does not name his creation. He refers to it as the "wretch" and the "creature." Names convey importance, individuality, and identity. By denying his creation a name, Victor is denying it an identity. It is therefore ironic that in popular usage, the Monster is identified using Victor's last name. The Monster becomes him.

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