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Free Study Guide-Frankenstein by Mary Shelley-Free Chapter Summary Notes
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LETTER 4

Summary

This last letter of the series starts off with Robert bursting with excitement because he has a tale to report. He has met a young man on their voyage when their ship became stranded in ice. He first relates that one day he had seen a gigantic man on a sled driven by dogs. And then later he had encountered another man, very worn down by fatigue, who had to be persuaded to enter the vessel rather than die outside in the cold.

This stranger is tended to with brandy, soup and loving care. Eventually, he is restored to health. The stranger is quite anxious to know more about Robert. Robert unhesitatingly describes his future plans. This prompts the former to tell the captain his own story. Robert is quite thrilled at gaining first-hand knowledge in this manner.

Robert is curious about what the stranger is doing in such an isolated place. He replies that he is seeking that which has run away from him. Robert immediately remarks that he saw an abnormally large human the other day. The stranger responds to this with a number of questions about the same creature.


Robert tells his sister that he is quite impressed by this stranger, who is so unlike other people. His enthusiasm about nature is what Robert finds highly admirable. He describes him as a "celestial spirit, with a halo around him, within whose circle no grief or folly ventures." He makes note of the fact that the stranger is suffering because of an unknown cause. He defends himself for becoming highly excited at the prospect of making "friends" with the stranger by declaring that even his sister, who is apparently quite reserved in her judgments of people, would marvel at a person like him.

Robert makes up his mind to take down notes on the stranger's story. He also promises to keep Margaret informed.

Notes

This letter stands out in the whole series due to its content and shift in mood. While the first three letters have shades of sadness, pessimism and uncertainty, this letter is a solid narration of Robert's encounter with a stranger and his reaction to it. The reader sees Robert extremely excited about the stranger's unexpected entry into his life. He almost believes he has found the friend that he has longed for. It is quite surprising that the nearly frozen stranger asks Robert where he is heading before he even steps into the vessel. The author goes into great detail about the stranger's health, mental as well as physical, and his appearance.

Robert is very impressed by the stranger's habits, particularly his love of nature. It is as if the stranger is enjoying the spectacular sights of starry skies and seas for the first or the last time. In any case, the stranger seeks solace in nature. Robert instantly makes a few observations about the stranger and some penetrating insights into his character. For instance, he notices the stranger's never-failing powers of judgment and his remarkable ability to express himself.

The stranger reveals an equal interest in Robert. On learning his plans, he tries to dissuade him from pursuing them, since Robert is willing to pay any price in order to see his goals achieved. One can observe a striking similarity between the present Robert and what the stranger (Victor Frankenstein) used to be. The stranger now takes it upon himself to act as Robert's friend, philosopher and guide, in order to stop him from heading down the wrong path, a path which he himself had chosen once upon a time.

As the reader will learn later, the stranger's curiosity over the abnormal creature is born of the fact that he himself is the monster's creator and is therefore naturally concerned about him. One may note that while Robert has begun life full of enthusiasm, he now meets a similarly inclined person, who has wearied of all this curiosity and is "a sadder man," like the hero of Coleridge's "Ancient Mariner."

This last letter completes the outer framework of the narrative and what follows is the actual story of the novel.

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