Frankenstein Plot Summary
Frankenstein, set in Europe in the 1790's, begins with the letters of Captain Robert Walton to his sister. These letters form the framework for the story in which Walton tells his sister the story of Victor Frankenstein and his monster as Frankenstein told it to him.
Walton set out to explore the North Pole. The ship got trapped in frozen water and the crew, watching around them, saw a giant man in the distance on a dogsled. Hours later they found Frankenstein and his dogsled near the ship, so they brought the sick man aboard. As he recovered, Frankenstein told Walton his story so that Walton would learn the price of pursuing glory at any cost.
Frankenstein grew up in a perfectly loving and gentle Swiss family with an especially close tie to his adopted cousin, Elizabeth, and his dear friend Henry Clerval. As a young boy, Frankenstein became obsessed with studying outdated theories about what gives humans their life spark. In college at Ingolstadt, he created his own "perfect" human from scavenged body parts, but once it lived, the creature was hideous. Frankenstein was disgusted by its ugliness, so he ran away from it.
Henry Clerval came to Ingolstadt to study with Frankenstein, but ended up nursing him after his exhausting and secret efforts to create a perfect human life. While Frankenstein recovered from his illness over many months and then studied languages with Clerval at the college, the monster wandered around looking for friendship. After several harsh encounters with humans, the monster became afraid of them and spent a long time living near a cottage and observing the family who lived there. Through these observations he became educated and realized that he was very different from the humans he watched. Out of loneliness, the monster sought the friendship of this family, but they were afraid of him, and this rejection made him seek vengeance against his creator. He went to Geneva and met a little boy in the woods. The monster hoped to kidnap him and keep him as a companion, but the boy was Frankenstein's younger brother, so the monster killed him to get back at his creator. Then the monster planted the necklace he removed from the child's body on a beautiful girl who was later executed for the crime.
When Frankenstein learned of his brother's death, he went back to Geneva to be with his family. In the woods where his young brother was murdered, Frankenstein saw the monster and knew that he was William's murderer. Frankenstein was ravaged by his grief and guilt for creating the monster who wreaked so much destruction, and he went into the mountains alone to find peace. Instead of peace, Frankenstein was approached by the monster who then demanded that he create a female monster to be the monster's companion. Frankenstein, fearing for his family, agreed to and went to England to do his work. Clerval accompanied Frankenstein, but they separated in Scotland and Frankenstein began his work. When he was almost finished, he changed his mind because he didn't want to be responsible for the carnage another monster could create, so he destroyed the project. The monster vowed revenge on Frankenstein's upcoming wedding night. Before Frankenstein could return home, the monster murdered Clerval.
Once home, Frankenstein married his cousin Elizabeth right away and prepared for his death, but the monster killed Elizabeth instead and the grief of her death killed Frankenstein's father. After that, Frankenstein vowed to pursue the monster and destroy him. That's how Frankenstein ended up near the North Pole where Walton's ship was trapped. A few days after Frankenstein finished his story, Walton and his crew decided to turn back and go home. Before they left, Frankenstein died and the monster appeared in his room, mourning the loss of his creator. The monster explained his reasons for vengeance to Walton, as well as his remorse. He then told Walton of his plans to head to the North Pole and burn himself to death, as death would be less painful than life. He leaped from the ship into an ice-raft and was "borne away by the waves."