Summary and Analysis
Victor succeeds in bringing his creation, an eight-foot man, to life in November of his second year. Excited and disgusted at "the monster" he had created, he runs from the apartment.
He wanders the streets of Ingolstadt until Henry Clerval finds him in poor condition. Henry had come to see about his friend and to enroll at the university. Henry and Victor return to Victor's apartment to find the monster gone. Victor finds the disappearance of his monster a source of joy and falls down in a fit of exhaustion from the release of anxiety over his creation. Henry spends the rest of the winter and spring nursing Victor back to health after the tumultuous fall. Henry advises Victor to write home, as a letter had recently arrived from his family in Geneva.
Chapter 5 is significant because it marks the beginning of the novel that Mary Shelley wrote during her now famous summer stay in the Lake Geneva region (refer to the "Life and Background" section).
The Gothic elements that can be found in this chapter are the grotesque (description of the monster's features), the eerie environment (Victor's lab at 1 a.m.), the undead quality, and some type of psychic communication (Victor's feeling of being followed). Also, this chapter builds fear in the reader, another big part of Gothic writing.
The monster now begins to take shape, and Victor describes his creation in full detail as "beautiful" yet repulsive with his "yellow skin,""lustrous black, and flowing" hair, and teeth of "pearly whiteness." Victor describes the monster's eyes, considered the windows upon the soul, as "watery eyes, that seemed almost the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips."
Here Shelley contrasts God's creation of Adam to Victor's creation of the monster. Victor sees his creation as beautiful and yet repugnant, versus the creation story taken from the Bible in which God sees his creation of Adam as "good."
In a distressed mental state, Victor falls into bed, hoping to forget his creation. He dreams of wandering the streets of Ingolstadt and seeing Elizabeth through the haze of the night. During the dream, Elizabeth then turns into his mother, Caroline, whom he pictures being held in his own arms. While holding his mother, he then sees worms start to crawl out of the folds of her burial shroud to touch him. He awakes from the nightmare and goes directly to the laboratory to see his creation.
In the morning, Victor wanders the streets, alone with his conscience. Shelley layers into the novel a passage from Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which makes a reference to a person who wanders the streets with a demon or fiend following him. The significance of this excerpt from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner cannot be underestimated. The significance of this poem in relation to this novel can be interpreted two ways. In the Gothic sense, Victor relates to the Mariner's isolation and fear. In the Romantic sense, both the Mariner and Victor want the knowledge; however, unlike the Mariner, Victor's new knowledge brings a curse along with it.
At this point Henry Clerval arrives in Ingolstadt. Their visit is the tonic that Victor needs to remind him of home and not his earlier labors.
Henry remarks on Victor's condition, noting the disheveled look, his "thin and pale" condition, and tiredness. The pair returns to Victor's apartment to find the monster gone. This note of happiness sends Victor into a fit of joy, knowing that his creation is no longer there. Victor falls in an uncontrollable attack of exhaustion and stress. He explains the cause as "I imagined that the monster seized me; I struggled furiously and fell down in a fit."
Henry becomes Victor's caretaker for the next few months. Occasionally, Victor, in his delirium, talks about the monster, causing Henry to think that the stress is causing him to be incoherent.