Chapter 1

Synopsis of Volume 3 Chapter 1

In spite of the dreadful task ahead of him, Frankenstein's health and spirits begin to improve and his father suggests that he should marry Elizabeth without delay.

But Victor is reluctant to marry until he has kept his promise to the monster, and insists on visting England, where new advances in science may make his task easier.

He sets out for a two-year journey, meeting Cherval in Strasbourg. They travel together to London.

Commentary on Volume 3 Chapter 1

an English philosopher: Mary Shelley probably has no specific English scientist in mind, but acknowledges the developments in the study of science and anatomy in this country during the eighteenth century.

I took refuge in the most perfect solitude: once again, Victor draws strength and comfort from nature.

a solemn promise, which … I dared not break: in Political Justice, Mary Shelley's father, William Godwin, writes at some length about the importance of promises (see Author section: Political radicalism).

Ancient Marinerthis deadly weight yet hanging round my neck: Victor is in the same position as the narrator of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by S. T. Coleridge (see Literary context: The Romantics). Having shot and killed an albatross, the mariner is condemned to wear the body of the bird around his neck until he repents of his crime against nature and learns to love all living things.

Enlarging her experience and cultivating her understanding: in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Shelley's mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, laments the limited opportunities for travel open to unmarried women, as part of her general argument about the inequalities in access to education between the genders (see Author section: Political radicalism).

descend the Rhine: in August 1814, Mary Shelley and her husband travelled from Switzerland to Rotterdam, going down the River Rhine from Rheinfeld to Bonn and visiting the towns mentioned here.

castle frankenstein photo by Emil available through Creative CommonsMannheim … Mayence: between Mannheim and Mainz (the modern name for Mayence) on the east side of the Rhine, there is a Castle Frankenstein. It is possible that the Shelleys visited the castle, which may have given Mary Shelley the name of her main character.

the priest and his mistress: Mary Shelley recounts this story in her History of a Six Weeks' Tour (1817), which is a record of her journey through France to Switzerland with Percy Shelley after they had eloped from London earlier in the summer of 1814. Mary's step-sister, Jane (later Claire) Clairmont travelled with them (see Author section: The Byron-Shelley circle).

the ‘very poetry of nature': a quotation from ‘Rimini' (1816), Book 2, line 47, by Leigh Hunt.

‘The sounding cataract … unborrowed from the eye': these lines are quoted from ‘Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey' (composed and published in 1798) by William Wordsworth, which is regarded as one of the great Romantic poems about the relationship between humanity and nature. In the first and fourth lines of the quotation, Mary Shelley has substituted ‘him' for ‘me'.(See also, Literary context: Romantics).

to post: to travel using relays of horses, changed at regular intervals, thus allowing for a faster journey.

Tilbury Fort … the Spanish Armada: on 8 August 1588 Queen Elizabeth I reviewed and addressed her troops after the Spanish Armada had been dispersed but there was still a threat of invasion.

Investigating Volume 3 Chapter 1
  • This chapter, which is mainly concerned with Frankenstein's journey down the Rhine, quotes or refers to a number of poems by the group of poets now called the Romantics. In what ways do these quotations and references help us to understand
    • Victor's frame of mind at this point in the story?
    • How Mary Shelley conceives of the relationship between the individual and nature?
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