Frankenstein By Mary Shelley Summary and Analysis Chapter 2

Summary

Around the age of seven, Victor's younger brother is born. Up to this point, he and Elizabeth have been the primary receivers of their parents' love. Their parents decide to settle down in Geneva to concentrate on raising their family.

Victor introduces his life-long friend Henry Clerval, a creative child who studies literature and folklore.

At the age of 13, Victor discovers the works of Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, and Albertus Magnus, all alchemists from an earlier age. His voracious appetite for knowledge thus begins, and eventually leads him to study science and alchemy. At age 15, Victor witnesses an electrical storm that peaks his interest in electricity and possible applications for its use.

Analysis

Victor tells how he and Elizabeth are brought up together as "there was not quite a year difference in our ages." He is serious and loud as a child, while Elizabeth has a more calm and subdued personality. The reader now sees a small glimpse of Victor's obsession with knowledge and learning. It is not unlike Mary Shelley's own lust for learning as a child and as the wife of Percy Shelley. Victor is the seeker of knowledge, "delighting in investigating their causes." He seeks answers to what occurs in nature and the physical world.

When Victor's parents return to Geneva to settle down, Victor is more solitary, doesn't like crowds, and finds himself alone at school. He befriends Henry Clerval, a Romantic character, who becomes his life-long pal. Henry is a writer and poet, a more creative person than the scientifically minded Victor. Henry is fascinated with the heroes of Roncesvalles, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and the knights of the Crusades.

We now begin to see Victor's personality type as sometimes "violent and my passions vehement." He dislikes learning languages, politics, and government and instead chooses to throw himself into the study of science, which he calls "the physical secrets of the world." While Elizabeth and Henry pursue the normal activities of children, Victor wants to learn all he can about the how's and why's of the world.

At the age of 13, Victor makes a discovery that forever changes his life. A storm confines him to remain inside one day where he discovers a volume of Cornelius Agrippa's works. His passion for learning leads him to Paracelsus and Albertus Magnus, two other scientists from earlier days, and invigorates Victor into a serious study of science and its possible applications. He reads science books for pleasure and knowledge, seeking to improve his mind and stimulate his curiosity. He laments that his father "was not scientific." Victor "was left to struggle with a child's blindness, added to a student's thirst for knowledge." He also exults, "The raising of ghosts or devils was a promise literally accorded by my favorite authors, the fulfillment of which I most eagerly sought." This gives us an idea of where he got the idea to create his own creature. He goes on to say that, "if my incantations were always unsuccessful, I attributed the failure rather to my own inexperience and mistake than to a want of skill or fidelity in my instructors." This seems to tell us that he wasn't having any luck with the teachings of his "instructors," so he knew that there must be another way, which opens up the possibility of using another science, electricity.

At age 15, Victor witnesses a summer thunderstorm that arouses his thoughts about electricity and possible applications for its use. The storm indirectly gives Victor the opportunity to learn more about technology and science. The storm Shelley describes is much like the one she and her fellow writers experience during the summer of 1816. Victor sees how the lightning has the power of destruction when a tree near their home is destroyed from a lightning strike. This confirms his belief that electricity and "galvanism" are worthy subjects for further study. A visitor in the Frankenstein home explains the phenomena to the young boy, and it facilitates a change in his thinking.

Although the details of the monster's creation are not described later in the book, Shelley hints that Victor uses his knowledge from the science books and of electricity to create his monster. Shelley makes Victor's interest in these topics very clear, so that the reader can deduce that he will use this knowledge in his creation.

Victor becomes a student of mathematics and pure science, seeking to learn the most he can, while abandoning his earlier study of well-known alchemists. His mind is not eased but spurred on by his lust for all knowledge and learning. He sees his fate as sealed after this choice in life saying:"Destiny was too potent, and her immutable laws had decreed my utter and terrible destruction."

Glossary

galvanism electricity produced by a chemical reaction.

campagne open country.

filial of, suitable to, or due from a son or daughter.

vehement having or characterized by intense feeling or strong passion; fervent, impassioned, etc.

predilection a preconceived liking; partiality or preference (for).

preceptors teachers.

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