Chapter 1 (Vol. 1)

  • Who is the narrator in this chapter?
  • Why does this narrator’s account open with such detailed attention to his personal family history (parents and Elizabeth, as well as best friend Henry Clerval)–what does he seem to want to stress about his background, and why?
  • The narrator explains his chance fascination with alchemy (as his initial fateful motivation to enter the physical sciences, here called “natural philosophy” and signified by the writers Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, Albertus Magnus). Why could that initial interest in alchemy be important to the main themes of the novel?
  • Notice the narrator’s passing statements about his interest in “glory” and in distinguishing himself, and his pride in his various accomplishments at a young age and in his youth.
  • Thunderstorm, lightning, effects of electricity are all linked to galvanism, a late-17th-century body of scientific experiments (“cutting-edge” science at the time of Shelley’s writing of the novel) that will become important later in the text.

Important quotes to consider in this chapter:

“No creature could have more tender parents than mine.” – “No youth could have passed more happily than mine.” – “Such was our domestic circle, from which care and pain seemed for ever banished.”

“The world was to me a secret, which I desired to discover.” – “[O]ur family was not scientifical, and I had not attended any of the lectures given at the schools of Geneva. My dreams were therefore undisturbed by reality, and I entered with the greatest diligence into the search of the philosopher’s stone and the elixir of life. […] what glory would attend the discovery, if I could banish disease from the human frame, and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death!”




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