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Free Study Guide-Frankenstein by Mary Shelley-Free Chapter Summary Notes
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 4

Summary

Victor has now started enthusiastically working on his studies. He reads a great deal, attends all lectures and meets the influential people at the university. He gets to know his professors a little better, so much so that he finds a true friend in Waldman.

Waldman is the one who always encourages him in his experiments. Victor spends two years in the university without once visiting his family in Geneva. He has made progress. He is so engrossed in his experiments that he begins to venture into new fields.

He searches for the origin of life. He studies the relevant branches of the sciences and finally succeeds in giving life to lifeless matter. He now begins to think in terms of creating an actual human being whom he could bring to life. He decides to "create" a human being of about eight feet in height and proportionately large. He starts working on it. At times, he does feel appalled at his own audacity but burning ambition gets the better of him as he continues working, regardless of all else, including letters from the family.

Notes

Victor's enthusiasm about his studies is on the one hand rather commendable, but on the other, it is chilling to note how he uses--or rather, misuses--his knowledge, capable as he is now of bestowing life on lifeless matter. By seeking "the principle of life" in the human body, Victor gains dangerous knowledge. His curiosity knows no bounds as he learns the science of anatomy, despite the warnings of his father, who would have disapproved of Victor's dabbling in "the supernatural."


Victor observes the cause and progress of decay in the dead human body, and he spends his nights in charnelhouses (where dead bodies are deposited) as if he belongs there, or as if he were a ghost himself. He is evidently not deterred by darkness and superstition. His excitement at wanting to create a new human being and bring it to life sends shudders down one's spine. The mood is turning more and more horrifying. This chapter exemplifies Romanticism's fascination with death.

The worst part is that Victor has "made progress" with his creation but cannot retrace his steps in order to undo his work. Now he is in no position to "un-create," so to speak, his creature because he is overwhelmed by ambition. The fact that he chooses to create a human of about eight feet in height indicates the extent of his ambition. Although he is aware that his mission is dangerous, he persists in his efforts until he creates a large creature out of the parts of dead humans.

But Victor does not want to limit his ability to the creation of just one being. He wants to make more such beings and be called the father of them and thus earn their gratitude. He gives himself up totally to this task, and he loses all sense of time. The language that the author uses is striking: phrases such as "profane fingers" and "unhallowed damps of the grave" mark this text.

Victor's ambition overcomes guilt as he pursues nature in all her "hiding places." However, Victor starts off with what he thinks is a noble aim. He is sure that overcoming death by creating life will benefit humanity. Victor admits that any kind of study that disturbs a person or weakens one's affections or makes one unable to enjoy simple pleasures is unlawful. But he defends himself by saying that history would not have been created otherwise.

The process of creation takes its toll on him as he now becomes slightly nervous (even a falling leaf can disturb him), and he is also abnormally aloof from fellow humans. Yet he believes that the completion of this creation could finally restore him to health and peace.

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