Frankenstein Chapters 5-8 - Summary

  Chapter 5 marks the completion of Victor Frankenstein's creation. However, it isn't quite the wonderful creature he had imagined. In fact, when he brings it to life, he is horrified at what he has created: a grotesque, man-like monster. When he realizes what he has done, he avoids the monster, locking himself away in his bedroom. He has an ominous dream while he sleeps, a nightmare that incorporate both Elizabeth and his mother's corpse. The fact that he dreams of the living Elizabeth together with his death mother, is an example of foreshadowing, or the author offering hints of what is to come. This suggests that something may happen to Elizabeth in the future. When Victor awakes from this horrific dream, the monster is standing over him, smiling.

  Again, Victor flees his creation. This time he finds himself pacing the courtyard of his home and, in the morning, he goes to the town to avoid going back to his monster-inhabited apartment. Coincidentally, his childhood friend Henry Clerval has come to the university to study, and Victor meets him by chance while in town. After months of isolation with only his scientific endeavors to keep him company, Victor is relieved to see his old friend. He invites Henry back to his apartment. There is no sign of his monster creation anywhere when they arrive, and Victor is relieved. Soon, however, Victor falls ill. He remains sick for several months, with Henry helping to nurse him back to health.

  Here, Henry is very much a foil to Victor. A foil is a character who serves as a stark contrast to another character. While Victor falls ill and has been socially secluded for months, Henry is vibrant, sociable and the portrait of health. This foil further shows just how far Victor has fallen by allowing himself to become so lost in his solitary studies.

  When he has fully recovered, Henry gives Victor some letters he has received from Elizabeth. Elizabeth has been concerned about him after hearing of Victor's illness. She also tells him that a woman named Justine has come to live with the Frankenstein family as a servant. Justine is a loyal family friend from their childhood.

  Meanwhile, Henry and Victor begin attending classes at the university. However, Victor finds it difficult to interact with any of his old science professors because, inevitably, he will be reminded of the terrible monster that he created. Victor wants to return home to Geneva; however, the weather does not permit his and, instead, he is forced to reschedule his visit for May.

  Soon, Victor receives a letter from his father with some bad news: Victor's youngest brother, William has been murdered. It happened as the family went out for an evening walk. William ran ahead, out of sight and, when the family caught up to him, they saw his lifeless body lying on the ground. It appeared he had died by strangulation, as there were finger prints on the boy's neck.

  Victor, naturally, races home to be with his family. However, when he arrives to Geneva, the city gates are closed because evening is setting in. Victor is forced to roam the nearby area until he will be let into the city at dawn. As he wanders, he twice sees his own monster lurking in the woods. Horrified, he concludes that it must have been this monster who killed his brother.

  The next day, it is revealed that Justine has been accused of the murder because a search revealed that she had in her possession a locket that belonged to William. Victor knows that Justine is innocent, and Elizabeth believes she is as well. However, Victor finds himself unable to speak up and tell everyone about the monster because he doesn't want people to think that he has gone mad. As a result of Victor's silence, Justine confesses to her so-called "crime," hoping that it will allow her to be spared even if her confession is untrue. It does not, and ultimately, she is executed. Because of her fate, Victor is haunted by guilt, knowing that it was actually the monster who killed his brother and not the innocent Justine. He feels responsible for both deaths.

  In this chapter, Justine emerges an important character. Her name, in itself, is remarkably like the word "justice," a concept which clearly escapes her in the end. Quite possibly, her fate-accusation despite innocence-is Mary Shelly's attempt to comment on the inadequate justice of society.

  In addition, this section offers another interesting technique in terms of narrative. The reader is occasionally reminded of the frame structure, as Frankenstein sometimes refers to "my friend" as a reminder that he is speaking to Robert Walton. Additionally, however, letters from Elizabeth and Frankenstein's father are included in the narrative. This calls into the question the possibility of an unreliable narrator, or a narrator whose authority and credibility is compromised. Since Frankenstein is narrating the story, it is highly unlikely that he recalled, word for word, the letters he received. Therefore, it is likely he is paraphrasing, even if he doesn't say as much. It is also possible that he has distorted the contents of the letter. No one has a perfect memory, after all. In any case, the reader cannot really trust his judgment when it comes to the contents of the letter. This, in turn, should make the reader wonder: can any of Victor Frankenstein's narrative be trusted?

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