Frankenstein By Mary Shelley Summary and Analysis Chapter 3

Summary

Victor is now 17 years old and ready to become a student at the University of Ingolstadt in Ingolstadt, Germany (near Munich), but an outbreak of scarlet fever at home delays his departure. His mother and "cousin" both fight the disease; Caroline Beaufort Frankenstein dies, and Elizabeth recovers. Before Caroline dies, she reveals her unrealized plans for the marriage of Victor and Elizabeth by saying, "my firmest hopes of the future happiness were placed on the prospect of your union."

Elizabeth becomes the family caretaker upon Caroline's death. Victor finds it hard to say goodbye to his family and dear friend, but he sets out for Ingolstadt to begin his studies in science.

Victor meets his mentors, Professor M. Krempe and Professor M. Waldman, at the university. He does not like Krempe, but he does find Waldman a much more conducive and congenial teacher.

Analysis

Victor does not like Krempe or the subject he teaches, modern studies of natural philosophy. Krempe calls Victor's prior studies of alchemists a waste of time by asking him if he has "really spent your time in studying such nonsense?" Krempe tells Victor that he must begin his studies again and gives him a list of books to read. He also advises Victor to attend the lectures of Professor Waldman in the forthcoming days.

Victor's visit with Professor Waldman goes much different. He describes the 50-year-old Waldman as "his person was short but remarkably erect and his voice the sweetest I had ever heard." Waldman explains to Victor that alchemy was a false science and teaches him that while the alchemist's pursuits were noble, real scientists do the scientific, valuable work.

Perhaps Mary Shelley is trying to tell us a bit about both men's personalities if we translate both names from the German language. Krempe is the brim of a hat, rather ordinary and mundane; the name sounds like the word "crammed." Wald is a forest or wood, and man, means woodsman or forester. A "wood" jibes with the Romantic idea of returning to nature or natural things, a good place to revive the spirit and spend time; thus, a man with the name "Waldman" would be a more kind and reviving spirit.

Victor sees this "new" science as the enemy to his "own" preconceived science and vows to prove that the alchemists were right. He says he felt as though his new teachings were like a "palpable enemy" to be reckoned with, and he pledges to himself to prove his detractors wrong, by saying "more, far more, will I achieve; treading in the steps already marked, I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation."

Victor spends a restless night and pays Professor Waldman a visit. Here he finds a kindred spirit in his teacher, who does not ridicule his study of Cornelius Agrippa or Paracelsus but instead sees some value in their work. The contributions of these men are not lost in the body of general scientific knowledge. He encourages Victor to study "every branch of natural philosophy," including mathematics, by stating, "if your application equals your ability, I have no doubt of your success." He also gives the young student a brief tour of his own laboratory, taking the time to explain his work and the devices he owns. At Victor's request, Waldman gives him a reading list, and the two part company. The theme of the Romantic notion that technology is not entirely good enters the novel at this point.

Victor calmly recounts that his time was well spent and a portent of his future fate, by saying "Thus ended a day memorable to me; it decided my future destiny."

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