Chapter 4

Synopsis of Volume 1 Chapter 4

Frankenstein succeeds in bringing the creature to life but is immediately so horrified and disgusted by the monstrosity he has created that he runs away from his laboratory. Next morning, he meets Henry Clerval, who has come to Ingoldstadt to complete his education.

Frankenstein returns to his laboratory to find that the monster has disappeared. He collapses into a nervous fever and over a period of several months is nursed by Clerval.

Watch Volume 1, Chapter 4

Accompanying teaching resources

Commentary on Volume 1 Chapter 4

It was on a dreary night in November: this brief paragraph is all that the story tells the reader about how Frankenstein actually brings his creation to life. Once again, Mary Shelley is less interested in scientific detail than in the creation of atmosphere and Victor's reactions to what he has created.

Like one who on a lonely road … Doth close behind him tread: these lines are taken from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Coleridge. (See Literary context: The legend of the doppelganger).

Diligencediligences: a diligence is a kind of stage-coach.

I have ten thousand florins … heartily without Greek: a quotation from the novel The Vicar of Wakefield (1766) by Oliver Goldsmith.

More on The Vicar of Wakefield:

The Vicar of Wakefield was an immensely popular sentimental novel in which Dr Primrose, the virtuous and long-suffering vicar, undergoes many sufferings, including a spell in a debtor's prison, but remains steadfast in his devotion to his wife and family.

confined me for several months: Frankenstein falls ill in November, on the night he animates the creature, and begins to recover in the following spring. This is one of a number of details that make it possible to create a rough chronology of events in the story. The letter from Elizabeth that Henry hands to Victor in the next chapter is dated in March.

Investigating Volume 1 Chapter 4
  • What is the effect of Mary Shelley's vagueness about this process?
  • What is the purpose of reintroducing Henry Clerval into the story at this point?
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