Chapter 5

Synopsis of Volume 1 Chapter 5

Frankenstein abandons natural science and shares Clerval's study of classical and oriental languages. He decides to return to Geneva, where his family is anxious about his welfare, but, before doing so, he and Henry set out for a walking tour.

Commentary on Volume 1 Chapter 5

The following letter: after Walton and Frankenstein, Elizabeth becomes the third character to narrate part of the story. By writing to Victor about Justine Moritz, Elizabeth prepares the way for the events of the next two chapters, in which Justine briefly plays a leading part.

Justine Moritz: Justine's first name may allude to the heroine of Justine; or the Misfortunes of Virtue (1791) by the Marquis de Sade. This character undergoes much suffering, including being falsely accused of crimes of which she is innocent. It is not clear if Mary Shelley had read de Sade's book, but both her husband and Byron had certainly done so. St Moritz is a town in Switzerland, now a popular skiing resort.

The republican institutions of our country: A reference to the fact that, unlike most other European countries at that time, Switzerland had no dominant royal family and prided itself on its democratic status.

The same reason that Ariosto gives … Angelica: Angelica is the heroine of the epic poem Orlando Furioso (1506-32) by Ariosto.

More on Angelica and Orlando

Orlando is the principal character in Orlando furioso by the Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto, published in 1532. It is set in the 8th century, when Christians and Muslims fought for the control of Europe. Orlando is the leader of the Paladins or Christian knights, who wins a decisive battle against his opponents, the Saracens. Angelica is the woman he loves, but whom he loses to one his enemies.

She was a Roman Catholic: Switzerland was one of the main centres of Protestantism during the Reformation and Geneva was regarded as a kind of ‘Protestant Rome' and a safe refuge for Protestants fleeing persecution in countries in which they were a minority. Justine, therefore, is likely to be part of the Catholic minority in Geneva. This becomes especially important in Volume 1, Chapter 7, in relation to Justine's confession.

The summer passed away … The month of May: the narrative moves on by a year or more in two paragraphs. This is a peaceful interlude in which Victor turns from science to the study of languages and literature and begins to live again as a social being, rather than remaining isolated in secret and dangerous study.

Investigating Volume 1 Chapter 5
  • Why might Mary Shelley have wished to bring Elizabeth back into the narrative at this point?
  • What kind of changes has Victor undergone by the end of the chapter?
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