Chapter 2

Synopsis of Volume 1 Chapter 2

When he is seventeen, Victor's parents send him to study at the University of Ingoldstadt in Bavaria. Shortly before he departs, his mother nurses Elizabeth through scarlet fever and then dies of the disease herself. Frankenstein leaves home reluctantly, grieving for his mother and miserable at being parted from Elizabeth and Henry.

In Ingoldstadt, he meets Professor Krempe, who pours scorn on the authors he has been reading and tells him that such matters as discovering the elixir of life have long been discredited.

Discouraged, Victor at first refuses to attend lectures, but when he goes to one given by Professor Waldman he is filled with enthusiasm for the study of chemistry. Waldman is also more sympathetic to Victor's favourite authors and encourages him to read over a wider field of science.

Commentary on Volume 1 Chapter 2

‘… a hope of meeting you in another world': Victor's mother's words echo a passage in The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774) by the German writer Goethe. The echo is important because Goethe's novel is one of the books that the creature finds in the forest (see Volume 2, Chapter 7) which forms a vital part of his Chaiseemotional education. (See Literary context: The monster's reading).

the chaise: a small open horse-drawn carriage.

‘old familiar faces': a line from the poem ‘The Old Familiar Faces' (1798) by Charles Lamb.

I have had playmates, I have had companions
In my days of childhood, in my joyful schooldays -
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

Lines 5-7

‘this enlightened and scientific age': Krempe disapproves of the authors Victor has read because in his opinion their work is not based on empirical and experimental scientific principles and pursue impossible ends such as the philosopher's stone and the elixir of life.

These references are further examples of how Mary Shelley suggests to the The Alchemist in Search of the Philosopher's Stonereader the nature of Frankenstein's interest in science:

  • It was believed that there existed a substance that could be used to turn base or comparatively valueless metal into gold and this was known as the philosopher's stone
  • In the course of their fruitless search for this stone, alchemists added a great deal to the knowledge and understanding of chemistry
  • The search for the elixir of life was also pursued by alchemists and was closely linked to the philosopher's stone. It was believed that this elixir could prolong life indefinitely.

Investigating Volume 1 Chapter 2
  • Victor's two principal teachers in Ingoldstadt are Professors Krempe and Waldman
    • How do they differ in their scientific outlook?
    • What effect does this have on Frankenstein's development as a scientist?
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