Frankenstein Chapters 1-4 - Summary

 Chapter 1 begins the story of Victor Frankenstein, the man whom Robert Walton rescued from the ice. From this point forward until the end of the novel, he becomes the primary narrator of the story. He begins his tale at the very beginning of his life, telling about the marriage of his parents, Alphonse and Caroline Frankenstein.

  He then goes on to describe a girl named Elizabeth Lavenza, who was adopted into Victor's family when he was about five years old. However, the story regarding Elizabeth Lavena may be different depending on the version of Frankenstein you read-the 1818 version or the 1831 version. Her exact story isn't so important as, in both versions, she becomes Victor Frankenstein's childhood friend. Throughout his childhood, Victor grows up relatively content, spending time with Elizabeth and a close friend, Henry Clerval. As a teenager, Victor becomes interested in science and alchemy-the science of turning objects into gold. During a storm one evening, he witnesses lightening striking and destroying a tree near his house. He realizes, then, the destructive power of nature and the power of science.

  For the most part, his childhood is quite idyllic and peaceful; he reflects fondly on this time in his life. However, even in these chapters, there is a good deal of foreshadowing about Victor's unhappy future. Foreshadowing is when the author hints at something to come. Several times, Victor refers to events that led to his "fate," his "ruin," or his "misery." The reader knows that something big is coming for Victor by the way he refers to his future.   The change occurs in chapter 3. At seventeen, Victors goes off to study at university. However, before he leaves, Elizabeth catches scarlet fever. His mother becomes ill as well while nursing Elizabeth. On her deathbed, she pleads for Victor to marry Elizabeth. Following her death, Victor leaves for university anyway.

  At the university, Victor meets Professor Krempe, an expert in natural philosophy. Though their discussion turns Victor off from natural philosophy, he does attend a lecture in chemistry that convinces him to study the sciences. He studies with fervor, neglecting his faraway family and his social life. Soon, he masters everything his teachers have given him. In particular, he has become obsessed with studying the human body and the process of life and death. Ultimately, he wants to discover how to create life. He hides himself away in an apartment, deciding to create a living, breathing, moving creature of his own using stolen body parts. Meanwhile, he continues to neglect his family and the world beyond his apartment. His isolation is reminiscent of Robert Walton's friendlessness as presented in the letters.

  Victor's obsession with creating life could be in direct reaction to the death of his mother. His mother's death was out of his control, and so he seeks to control the very force-Death-that stole her. However, in his time at the university, his views on science seem to do a complete turn from his youth. He had hoped that studying science would bring knowledge and enlightenment; instead, Victor finds himself creating a monster. His withdrawal from society is certainly an unhealthy one, and is something that suggests to the reader that more bad things are in store for Victor. Indeed, the idea that technology could be an evil force is an idea found often in Romantic works.

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