Chapter 5

Synopsis of Volume 2 Chapter 5

After remaining in the hut undetected throughout the winter, the creature witnesses the arrival of a visitor, Safie, who speaks a different language, and with whom Felix is clearly in love.

By eavesdropping on Safie's lessons with Felix, the creature acquires more language and also learns a great deal about the history of the world and human society.

He becomes painfully aware of his own difference from everyone else and of his lack of a family, and learns that he is likely to be greeted with fear and hostility wherever he goes.

Commentary on Volume 2 Chapter 5

Volney's Ruins of Empires: this historical work about the rise and fall of great empires was well-known to Percy Shelley (see Author section: Shelley, Mary).

More on Volney's Ruins:

The Ruins, or, Meditations on the Revolutions of Empires was written by Constantin-François de Chassebouef, Comte de Volney (1757-1820), and was among Percy Shelley's favourite books:

It is known that he was reading and talking about the book in Geneva in 1816 and it is mentioned in Shelley's poem The Revolt of Islam (1818), written at the same time as Mary Shelley was working on Frankenstein.
By listening to Felix using the book to teach Safie French, the creature learns a great deal about the history of the world and forms a gloomy picture of how human beings treat one another.
This book is the first step in the creature's education in human history. The next stage in this education takes place in Volume 2, Chapter 7, in which he describes further reading.

Of my creation and creator I was absolutely ignorant … Was I then a monster, a blot upon the earth …?: as the creature finds out more about human life, he becomes more painfully aware of his difference from everyone else, his ignorance of his origins and his exclusion from the comforts and pleasures of family life and other companionship.

More on the creature's view of himself:

The monster frequently compares himself with, or is likened to, famous solitary figures from literature, myth and history.
Mary Wollstonecraft says a great deal about family and sexual relationships in Vindication of the Rights of Woman (see Biographical context: Mary Wollstonecraft).

sorrow only increased with knowledge: an allusion to Byron's dramatic poem, Manfred (1817): ‘Sorrow is knowledge: they who know the most/ Must mourn the deepest o'er the fatal truth' (Act 1, scene 1, lines 10-12). (For MORE on Byron, see Literary context: Romanticism)

Investigating Volume 2 Chapter 5

The monster acquires a lot more knowledge about human life in the chapter. As a result, what conclusions does he reach about his own situation?
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