We've all been there. There's a test tomorrow. You haven't read the book, so you have this great idea: watch the movie.
There have been hundreds of Frankenstein movies, but none of them even have an accurate summary of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein:
- Frankenstein is not the name of the monster; it's the name of the scientist. The monster has no name. He is really, really lonely.
- The monster is not deranged because the scientist uses an abnormal brain. The monster is deranged because Victor Frankenstein abandons it on the day of its creation because the monster is really, really ugly.
- The best Frankenstein movie is Young Frankenstein. I highly recommend it, not because it portrays the novel accurately, but because it's really, really funny.
- TNT made a Frankenstein movie years ago that at least had the same characters as the novel. I turned it off when Elizabeth, Victor's fiancee, shows up and "gets it on" with Victor during a picnic. That never happened. The movie is really, really bad.
- There was another Frankenstein remake starring Robert DeNiro made about 10 years ago. I never saw it. I heard it was really, really boring.
You've read my summary (or is it dummary?) of Frankenstein movies; now it's time for my summary of Frankenstein the novel.
Frankenstein Chapter Summaries with Commentary: Letters 1-4
These Frankenstein chapter summaries actually begin with letters:
Robert Walton's letters – The novel begins at the end. That makes little sense, I know, but apparently it was cool in the 1800s. Robert Walton writes letters to his sister (cell phones, text messaging, and e-mail did not exist and if they had he'd have gotten no reception once he entered the Arctic Ocean). He whines in his first three letters about how lonely he is because he has no friends and his crew are a bunch of primates, incapable of intelligent conversation.
Anyone with a brain would, of course, never agree to travel through ice with a loon looking to discover the secret of magnets. That's right. Walton sails to the North Pole to discover the secret of magnets (Walton's kind of like my Uncle Leonard who tried to get me to join his magnet-selling pyramid scheme/multi-level marketing company and can't figure out why he has no friends).
Imagine embarking on the most idiotic scientific expedition of all time and meeting the man responsible for the most idiotic scientific theory (that a 10-foot tall creature made from dead body parts wouldn't be hideous) in the middle of the Arctic Ocean while riding on a floating piece of ice. That's what happens. The man responsible for the aforementioned idiotic scientific theory (that a 10-foot tall creature made from dead body parts wouldn't be hideous) is none other than Victor Frankenstein, our protagonist.
Frankenstein, recognizing the same level of idiocy in Walton, decides to tell his story as a warning. I now give you the summary of Frankenstein's tale.
Frankenstein Chapter Summaries with Commentary: 1-3
These Frankenstein chapter summaries have all the information you'll need to make your teacher think you maybe read the book.
Chapter 1 – Victor gives his parents' background: His Dad was a good fellow who searched out an old friend who had fallen on hard times. He finds his old friend dead and his daughter impoverished. He takes her home. They marry two years later (Note to self: make sure my life insurance premiums are paid up so my daughter doesn't have to marry my best friend when I die.) Victor Frankenstein is their first child. While traveling through Italy, Victor's mother adopts a beautiful orphan named Elizabeth, who becomes Victor's playmate.
Chapter 2 – Frankenstein expresses his love for science and alchemy. He sees electricity destroy a tree and begins his passion for electricity. He turns 13 and his passion turns toward his playmate (OK, I made that last part up in an attempt to trick you into reading the actual novel.).
Chapter 3 – Frankenstein's mother dies, delaying his departure for Inglolstadt where he is to go to school. His mother's dying wish is for Victor to marry Elizabeth. Most people would think marrying your adopted sister as somewhat creepy, but not Victor, who later enjoys robbing graves and charnel houses to construct living creatures out of dead body parts. He finally departs to Ingolstadt and meets M. Krempf and M. Waldman.
Frankenstein Summary: Chapters 4-6
This Frankenstein plot summary of chapters 4-6 will give you that extra edge while studying or reading. It includes expert commentary from a living, breathing teacher, that will make you look like the Frankenstein plot summary expert. Bear in mind as you review these chapters that Frankenstein is a kook.
Chapter 4: Victor discovers the "essence of life" and spends an entire year gathering dead body parts so he can construct an 8-foot tall creature. He neglects his family and his health while working on his project, eating and sleeping very little. I'm all for achieving goals, but there are very few things worth staying up all night for: robbing graves is not one of them.
Chapter 5: Victor's spent an entire year collecting dead body parts from charnel houses and graveyards. He takes the body parts collected from charnel houses and graveyards and sows them together. He mixes the "essence of life" with some electricity and becomes immediately disgusted by the creature's appearance, who I remind you was assembled from dead body parts collected from charnel houses and graveyards. He abandons the monster because that's the responsible thing to do if you're completely insane, takes a stroll, finds Henry, who has just arrived in town, falls ill, and remains so for months.
Chapter 6: Elizabeth writes Victor a letter and begs for a letter in return (For all you ladies out there: you can probably do a little better than begging mad scientists who create gigantic creatures from dead body parts collected from charnel houses and graveyards to write you a letter. Find someone with a little more sense, like a tattoo artist or the treasurer of the local motorcycle gang.). The letter mentions the arrival of Justine Moritz to the Frankenstein household.
Frankenstein Summary: Chapters 7-10
Chapter 7: Frankenstein receives a letter with news that his youngest brother William has been murdered. He returns home. He stays at a neighboring town the night beore his arrival, can't sleep, and decides to take a walk. He encounters the monster, who he realizes is responsible for William's murder. He decides not to tell anyone about the monster for fear they would think him crazy. Of course, he is crazy. He discovers upon his arrival that Justine Moritz has been blamed and has confessed the murder. Victor keeps his secret.
Chapter 8: Frankenstein pleads on Justine's behalf, but to no avail. Hey Victor! Remember that part about you creating a monster out of dead body parts collected from charnel houses and graveyards that came to life and murdered your brother. Do you think maybe now would be a good time to bring that up, you know, before they execute the housekeeper?
Chapter 9: Victor spends a lot of time alone grieving and contemplates suicide. Perhaps some crazy scientist could then reconstruct him, discover the essence of life, mix in some electricity, bring him back to life, and abandon him. He decides to continue living for fear of what the monster would do to his family.
Chapter 10: The monster approaches Frankenstein on top of a mountain and asks for a meeting. Frankenstein agrees. This would make a great reality TV show–deadbeat dads and child killers hang out in a cave for two weeks. Get FOX on the phone!
Summary of Frankenstein: Chapters 11-13, including Dr. Phil
Chapter 11: The monster catches Victor up on everything. Dr. Phil lives for moments like these:
Phil: So monster, how did you survive all this time while your deadbeat Dad yucked it up with his "friend".
Monster: I lived on raw berries. People threw rocks at me. My only hope was to befriend a blind guy because I'm so ugly.
Phil: So Victor, what do you have to say for yourself?
Victor: He's ugly.
Chapter 12: The interview continues.
Phil: Did you have any friends?
Monster: I hung out outside a cottage and spied on the DeLacey family for several months. I liked them.
Phil: We normal looking people call that stalking.
Chapter 13: The interview continues.
Phil: So how did you feel as you stalked—
Phil: –as you listened to the DeLaceys
Monster: They read about people and families. I had nobody. I felt very lonely.
Phil: Is that why you killed a 5-year-old boy?
Monster: That's in the next few chapters.
Chapters 14 and 15 and 16:
Phil: What else did you hear from the DeLaceys
Monster: Something about an Arab girl named Safie who escaped from her double-crossing father and wanted to marry Felix De Lacey. I felt so close to them.
Phil: Then what happened?
Monster: I decided to disclose my identity. When Felix and the others saw me, they screamed and beat me with sticks, which I, ironically, had gathered for them. I went into the woods and howled. When I returned the next day, the DeLaceys had gone, never to return.
Phil: You must have been very upset. What did you do?
Monster: I burned the house down, declared an everlasting war on Victor Frankenstein, traveled to Geneva, and had a…errr…confrontation with Victor's brother.
Phil: Don't you mean you brutally murdered his 5-year-old brother?
Monster: It sounds so harsh when you say it like that.
Phil: What do you have to say Victor?
Victor: He's ugly and he kills kids.
Phil: So what is it you want, monster?
Monster: I want Victor to make me a mate. If he does I'll leave him and his family alone.
Summary of Frankenstein: Chapters 17-19
Chapter 17: Victor deliberates whether or not to create a female monster for his original monster. The original monster threatens to kill Victor's family if he does not comply. Victor reluctantly agrees.
Chapter 18: Remember final exam week? You know you have a ton of studying to do, but you watch Cosby show reruns instead. That's kind of like what Victor is doing. He knows he needs to make a creature but procrastinates. He eventually leaves for England, wanting to complete the monster before marrying Elizabeth, who is also his adopted sister. While in England he meets up with his "friend," Henry Clerval.
Chapter 19: Victor spends two months in London before setting up his laboratory in the Orkney Islands. His work repulses him. This would be a convenient time to counsel you on choosing a career: don't become a gatherer of dead body parts in order to assist monsters looking for a booty call. You, like Victor, will find it repulsive.
Chapter Summaries of Frankenstein: 20-22
Chapter 20: Victor almost finishes the "booty call" monster but changes his mind. While the lonely monster looks on, Victor destroys the new monster. The lonely monster vows revenge. He warns Victor that he will be with him on his wedding night. Victor packs up his supplies, ties them to a rock, and sinks them to the bottom of the ocean. Victor then falls asleep in his rowboat. He gets to shore where an angry crowd awaits. He is arrested for murder.
Chapter 21: Frankenstein discovers that the dead man is Henry Clerval. Victor collapses. He lies sick for two months. Victor's father comes to get him.
Chapter 22: Victor and Elizabeth are married and sail to Evian for the honeymoon. Not only has the monster not shown up yet, he hasn't even sent them a gift.
Chapter 23: Remember the I'll be there on your wedding night threat? Victor stupidly thinks the monster is coming to kill him. What a moron! Even I figured out the only way for the monster to get revenge is to kill Elizabeth, which he does. Victor's father dies of grief over Elizabeth's death. Victor goes insane and is sent to an asylum. He tells the town's magistrate about the monster. Nobody believes him. Victor vows to kill the monster or die trying.
Chapter 24: Victor visits the graves of his family and vows revenge on the monster. The monster laughs. It is on! The monster toys with Victor for several months, letting him remain close enough to spur him on to more suffering, but not allowing himself to be captured.
More Letters from Robert Walton: Walton's ship is surrounded by ice and his crew threatens to mutiny if they do not return home as soon as the ice clears. Frankenstein gives a speech about glory and urges them forth. I don't know about you, but Victor seems like the last guy I'd want advice from. The crew does not relent and Walton must turn back. Victor, still determined to get the monster, wants to continue his pursuit but is too weak. He dies. The monster jumps on board, expresses remorse, and heads to the North Pole, never to be seen again.
If you enjoyed these study helps on Frankenstein, and I'm sure you have, check out my study guides for other books you're supposed to read: Great Expectations, Julius Caesar, Lord of the Flies, and Romeo and Juliet.
This post is part of the series: Frankenstein Study Guide
- Frankenstein Chapter Summaries Including Commentary and Analysis
- Frankenstein Characters with Analysis
- Frankenstein: Not Just an "Allusion"
- Frankenstein Quotes with Analysis
- Frankenstein Study Questions and Answers