Frankenstein By Mary Shelley Summary and Analysis Chapter 4

Summary

Victor throws himself into his schoolwork, reading all he can about the sciences, particularly chemistry. Gaining a reputation as a scientist and innovator among the professors and fellow students alike. Believing his tenure at Ingolstadt was nearing an end, Victor thinks of returning home to Geneva. However, he launches into a new venue of scientific experimentation — creating life from death and reanimating a dead body.

Visiting morgues and cemeteries for the necessary body parts, Victor fails several times before successfully bringing his creation to life. His work does take its toll on him, affecting his health and powers of judgment. This gruesome work carries on through the spring, summer, and fall of that year.

Victor lives for his work and throws himself into his pursuit so much that he shuts off all contact with the outside world. In the second summer Victor loses touch with his family. Letters from home go unanswered for long periods of time, and he delays sending a message home as to his health or well being.

Analysis

Mary Shelley combines several themes in this one chapter: the Romantic notion of technology as a bad thing, the allusion to Goethe's Faust, and learning and the use of knowledge for good or evil purposes. Her Romantic background draws her to state that technology is evil; it is man who must control the technology, not the technology controlling man. Finally, the creation of the monster is not described at all. Perhaps Shelley had not worked out the details of the creation or the description would have been too much for nineteenth century readers. The mysterious creation is a Gothic element.

Victor is similar to Goethe's Faust character who went on a quest for knowledge, made a deal with the devil, and is rescued by God. Unfortunately, Victor does not have the benefit of divine intervention. Instead, he succumbs to the end that all men must face. Shelley also introduces the theme of using knowledge for good and evil purposes.

Victor's attention to the contrast between the living and the dead becomes an obsession. To study, he must experiment, and to experiment, he must collect samples upon which to practice. He looks at what causes life or death and states, "I saw how the worm inherited the wonders of the eye and brain." And from this restless pursuit, he succeeds "in discovering the cause of generation and life" and he becomes "capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter." He is now a creator of life. He is like Goethe's Faustus, a man eager for knowledge and experience that is good for mankind in the end. Faust is saved by God, unlike Victor, who is not saved and who knows he will perish without redemption.

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