The Significance of Chapter Five in Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein (or The Modern Prometheus) in 1816.
She originally thought up the idea when staying with Lord Byron, he
was also an author, and he challenged all his guests to a storywriting
competition. The novel is about a scientist who, insistent on
discovering the secret to creating life, sets out to do so. Using a
heap of dead and decaying body parts, he makes himself a creature with
his ex-professor's brain, and uses the power of lightening to bring it
to life. Dr Frankenstein did not however, foresee the consequences of
Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was born on August 30th 1797, her mother
Mary Wollstonecraft, who was an accomplished writer herself, died
giving birth. She ran away in her teens, with Percy Bysshe Shelley, a
dashing young poet. After their relationship underwent many strains,
Percy’s pregnant wife Harriet drowned herself in London in 1816, and
weeks later, Mary and Percy married. Between 1815 and 1819, three of
Mary’s four children died in infancy, then in 1822, Percy drowned off
the shore of Tuscany.
Mary’s life up to the writing of Frankenstein had a strong influence
on the gothic genre of the book, and her life is also mirrored in that
of Victor Frankenstein’s.
The early chapters of the novel provide a background for Victor
Frankenstein’s character. His life is plagued with grief much like
that of Mary Shelley. His childhood though, is a happy one much like
Mary Shelley’s, spent with his cousin (or adopted sister, depending on
the edition) Elizabeth.
He attends Ingolstadt University, to study natural philosophy and
chemistry. This is where he becomes engaged with the idea of creating
life. After several years of research, he is certain he has discovered
From these early chapters we learn about Victor’s relationship with
Elizabeth. Although they grew up like brother and sister, they were
very close, and fell in love. When Victor was 17 Elizabeth had scarlet
fever, which his mother caught whilst nursing her back to health, and
died. On her deathbed, she was begging Victor and Elizabeth to marry.
Victor goes to Ingolstadt and soon becomes absorbed in his studies,
forgetting Elizabeth and his family in Geneva. He begins to lock
himself away with his studies, and becomes completely consumed by his
thirst for the secret of creation. All this just builds up until
Chapter 5, where he finally creates the monster.
Chapter 5 is by far the most significant of the entire novel, where
Victor finally completes his creation, and brings it to life, only to
be horrified by the grotesque appearance of the monster. He tries to
sleep only to be haunted by nightmares of Elizabeth and his mother’s
corpse. He runs out of his...