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

CHAPTER 15

Summary

One night, the monster, on his daily rounds for firewood and food, finds a leather portmanteau containing books and several articles. Books like Milton's Paradise Lost, Plutarch's Lives, and Goethe's Sorrows of Young Werter excite his imagination, and he eagerly begins to read them.

He also finds some papers in the pocket of Victor's cloak, which he had stolen from the laboratory. These papers contain Frankenstein's notes on creating the monster and other minor details about domestic occurrences. The monster, lonely and sorrowful, decides to seek protection from the De Lacey family. He plans to approach the old man when the others are out.

In the meanwhile, the family is living contentedly, thanks to the arrival of Safie. Autumn also passes and winter arrives. The monster has now made up his mind and musters the courage to speak to the old man. He introduces himself as a weary traveler in need of rest. They make conversation as the old man asks him if he is a Frenchman. The monster replies that he has been educated by a French family. He admits that he wants to seek protection from this family but that they are prejudiced against him. The old man assures him he will do his best to convince this family to accept him.


Just then the children enter and are horrified at the sight of the monster kneeling at the old man's feet. Safie rushes out of the cottage, Agatha faints and Felix tears his father away from the monster. He also hits him with a stick and is about to strike another blow when the creature retreats into his hovel.

Notes

This chapter shows the monster in a new light. On discovering a portmanteau full of books, he is quite excited and takes great pleasure in reading them. It is not a problem for him since he has already learned the language. The books have a profound effect on his mind, and each book leaves him with a sense of great satisfaction. At the same time, he begins to "experience" the books as an involved reader would. He also forms his own opinions about the books. He cannot help weeping on reading Goethe's Sorrows of Young Werter, or on reading Milton's Paradise Lost, which tells the story of mankind's fall and removal from the Garden of Eden. Paradise Lost shares many parallels with Frankenstein: the theme of the hunger for knowledge, which plagues both Frankenstein and his monster, is underlined. Likewise, the problematic relationship between a creator and his creation is at the core of both works. The whole set up of the book fascinates the monster. He finds it difficult to identify completely with Adam although their plights are similar. However, while Adam had come prosperous into the world, the monster is rejected from the very beginning. He is therefore better able to relate to the character of Satan, who was condemned to hell and left to envy the other angels. The monster now admits to being envious of the life of his "protectors."

Plutarch's Lives, on the other hand, takes him to greater heights, far above his own plight. It helps him to experience on outer world that is far away from the cottage and woods. It is very important to note his inclination towards virtue and his abhorrence for vice. This is in keeping with the Romantic belief in man's basic goodness.

The papers he finds in Victor's coat only serve to cause further agony. At this point, he speaks probably the most powerful lines in the novel. He admires the notion that God made man in his own image: beautiful. In contrast, his form is a filthy reflection of Victor's. The fact that he wants to be a part of the De Lacey family shows his courage and his identification with goodness. This indicates his effort to overcome the problem of his appearance and to fit into a normal lifestyle. The family, in the meanwhile, seems to be quite contented with Safie's arrival. As he compares his life to theirs, he realizes that his increase of knowledge has only made him feel more wretched as an outcast.

His loneliness leads him to think about an Eve for himself. He can no longer bear it, and one day he approaches the old man when the others are out for a walk. On being questioned by De Lacey, he answers that he was "educated by a French family," with whom he would now like to seek refuge, but they are prejudiced against him.

But the arrival of the others spoils everything. They are all terrified to see the monster clinging to the old man's knee. Felix hits him with a stick, out of fear for his father's safety. The monster could have destroyed everything and even killed Felix on the spot, but he chooses not to do so. This proves that he is really not aggressive; circumstances can force him to turn aggressive. His anger is replaced by grief and sorrow at not being accepted.

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