This is a very important chapter for understanding the development of Frankenstein’s obsession and his descent into dangerous “scientific” territory. It explains some of his motivations and gives us an important glimpse of his self-image.
- Note the development of Frankenstein’s “ardour” and “proficiency” in science in this chapter. What do you think drives him? How does he talk about his emotions and present his motivations in this chapter?
- Don’t forget that Frankenstein is the narrator of this part of the novel, and remember that he tells this story in hindsight (already knowing where his scientific experiments led him). How reliable do you sense Frankenstein is as a narrator, and where specifically (in the text) can you tell if he is or is not a reliable narrator?
- Pay attention to the point at which Frankenstein directly addresses/admonishes his listener (Walton, listening to his story on board the ship). What could be the purpose of this passage within the story here? How does it guide not just Walton, but also the reader?
- At several points in this chapter, Frankenstein almost seems to lecture on human nature, the importance of a balance of the mind, and other general topics. What can we gather from such “general” passages about his self-image?
Important quotes to consider in this chapter:
“[…] the more fully I entered into the science, the more exclusively I pursued it for its own sake. That application, which at first had been a matter of duty and resolution, now became so ardent and eager, that the stars often disappeared in the light of morning whilst I was yet engaged in my laboratory.”
“None but those who have experienced them can conceive if the enticements of science. In other studies you go as far as others have gone before you, and there is nothing more to know; but in a scientific pursuit there is continual food for discovery and wonder.”
“Whence, I often asked myself, did the principle of life proceed? It was a bold question, and one which has ever been considered a mystery; yet with how many things are we upon the brink of becoming acquainted, if cowardice or carelessness did not restrain our inquiries.”
“To examine the causes of life, we must first have recourse to death.” “Darkness had no effect upon my fancy; and a church-yard was to me merely the receptacle of bodies deprived of life, which, from being the seat of beauty and strength, had become food for the worm.”
“I was surprised that among so many men of genius, who had directed their inquiries towards the same science, that I alone should be reserved to discover such an astonishing secret.” “What had been the study and desire of the wisest men since the creation of the world, was now within my grasp.”
“with unrelaxed and breathless eagerness, I pursued nature to her hiding places”
“a restless, and almost frantic impulse, urged me forward; I seemed to have lost all soul or sensation but for this one pursuit”
“[…] I could not tear my thoughts from my employment, loathsome in itself, but which had taken an irresistible hold of my imagination.”
“Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world. A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs.”