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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
Victor talks of his relationship with Elizabeth. They complement each other perfectly although they are both of different dispositions. While he is more enthusiastic, she is calm. He is excited by knowledge of any kind; she concentrates on literature and nature. The family stays at their home in Geneva after the birth of the second son, who is seven years younger than Victor. Victor never pays much attention to his schoolmates, except for Henry Clerval, the son of a merchant.
He is very happy to have had a delightful childhood. But his thirst for knowledge always got the better of him back then. He was interested in metaphysics and natural philosophy (natural science).
By chance he stumbles upon a book by Cornelius Agrippa. His father dismisses it as "sad trash." This further provokes him to read the whole book. Later, he reads all the works of Agrippa, as well as those of Paracelsus and Albertus Magnus. He also tries unsuccessfully to perform certain experiments. Particularly fascinating to him is the idea of summoning ghosts and devils.
Once, when he is about fifteen years old, he witnesses a bolt of lighting destroy a tree. This incident inspires him to change to the study of natural phenomena, instead of natural philosophy. From that point on, he concentrates on electricity and galvanism.
The author portrays the relationship of Victor and Elizabeth as an ideal one. It illustrates the attraction between opposite natures that is characteristic of the Romantic love relationship. The fact that Victor never mingles with his classmates is reminiscent of Robert's childhood, which is also spent in solitude and among books. But Victor had one friend: Henry Clerval. Again the theme of friendship is highlighted.
Victor's passions for learning the secrets of nature are revealed. He mentions three writers: Paracelsus, Cornelius Agrippa and Albertus Magnus. These authors are not regarded as serious scientists in Victor's world. Paracelsus, for instance, was a Swiss physician and alchemist (1493-1541). Alchemists were engaged in seemingly impossible endeavors, like producing gold from iron. Henry and Elizabeth, who are busy with moral reflections on life, stand in contrast to Victor and his curious obsessions.
The mood now becomes more somber. Victor assumes a tone of regret at having gone overboard in his thirst for knowledge. But Victor subtly lays the blame on his father. He feels that his father's dismissal of such authors as Paracelsus had in fact provoked him to venture further into this territory.
His father's disapproval inspired him to learn more about natural philosophy. He begins to experiment. What he finds most interesting is the raising of ghosts and devils. Here, the reader sees the more passionate side of Victor. His thirst for knowledge seems to be manifesting itself in strange ways. But it may be noted that Victor's is a harmless game so far: it merely prepares the readers for what is to come later.
After he witnesses the tree being struck by lightning, he temporarily loses interest in the sciences. He calls the incident the attempt of a guardian angel to keep him from this dangerous inquiry. But it is not long before he has taken up his study again, this time with a vengeance.
It is interesting to note that Victor never once holds himself responsible for his actions. The guardian angel, or fatality, stopped him from going any further with his experiments. At the same time, it is this destiny that makes him carry his experiment further and leads him to his own doom. (Romanticism and fate?)