Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: Volume One Plot Summary
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Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: Volume One Plot Summary

The tale of Frankenstein touches on issues of bioethics, morality, religion and existentialism. Here is a summary of Volume I with links to the remaining summaries of Vol II and III.

Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus in 1816. This work is now in the public domain and can be downloaded for free on most e-readers and computers. For a summary of the main characters and introduction and notes see the links at the end of the article.

Frankenstein Plot Summary Volume I

Victor Frankenstein has been raised in gentility by doting parents. He has two younger brothers Ernest and William and an adopted sister, Elizabeth, to whom he is engaged to be married.

Victor is exposed to death for the first time when his beloved mother dies from scarlet fever after nursing Elizabeth through her own bout with the disease. His brooding obsession with life and death is awakened and he eventually leaves for university to study science and philosophy at Ingolstadt. 

As a student, Frankenstein applies himself to the goal of creating life and renewing life where death has taken life. He works night and day in isolation and at the expense of his health. Through horrifying and gruesome experiments Victor is soon successful.

The monster awakens, his eyes open, he breathes his first breath. Victor flees from the chamber to his bedroom in shock leaving the monster alone. Victor finally falls asleep on his bed. Dreams of death and corruption fill his mind until he awakes in horror. As he awakes in the dim room he becomes aware that the monster is standing next to his bed reaching out his hand to him and attempting to speak. Victor escapes the touch of the monster and rushes from the house.  While Victor is fleeing his creation he runs into his best friend Henry Clerval. He brings Henry back to his apartment and finds the monster is gone. Victor falls ill and is nursed throughout the winter by Henry. We hear nothing of what has become of the monster during those months. We just know that he is gone.

Pixabay

As spring arrives Victor regains his health and is cheered by Henry. They engage in study together and take a walking tour later that year. It has been nearly two years since the monster has disappeared. Victor appears to have forgotten the abomination and looks forward to his return to his family in Geneva. As he returns from his tour he finds a letter from his father. He finds that it contains dreadful news. His brother William has been murdered!

Victor begins his journey home deeply grieved over the murder of his youngest sibling. As he nears his home he is determined to visit the site of the murder and must take a boat across a lake to do so. It is a stormy night and as he lands on the bank he observes a large and ghastly figure in the flash of lightening. He recognizes the monster immediately. He is stunned and with anguish realizes that it his creation, his monster, that has killed his innocent brother.

Victor resolves to remain silent about the monster for fear that he will be thought mad. When he finally reaches his home he finds that there is a suspect identified who will stand trial for the murder. It is the beloved servant girl, Justine, who is accused. She stands trial and is convicted. Victor does not come forward to reveal the existence of the monster and the girl is hanged. Victor is now responsible for two deaths at the hands of his monster.

Proceed to Summary of Volume II

Return to Character Summary

Return to Introduction

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Comments (1)

Great summary! As soon as Victor becomes obsessed with his experiments, his downfall begins. The part where Justine is hanged is really powerful and sad.

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