Chapter 6

Synopsis of Volume 1 Chapter 6

On their return, Frankenstein finds a letter from his father telling him that his youngest brother William has been found strangled.

It is thought that the motive for the murder is the theft of a miniature portrait of their mother that William was wearing round his neck. Elizabeth blames herself for allowing William to wear the miniature and for leaving him alone in the country.

Frankenstein immediately sets out for Geneva, stopping en route to visit the site of his brother's death. Here, he catches sight of the creature and realises that he is William's murderer. He hesitates to raise the alarm because he thinks that no one will believe his strange story but will think it a product of his recent illness.

When he reaches home, he is dismayed to discover that their much-loved servant, Justine, has been found with the miniature and is suspected of the murder.

Commentary on Volume 1 Chapter 6

The following letter from my father: once again a new narrator intervenes, this time Victor's father, whose news of Victor's younger brother's murder cancels out the happy and optimistic note on which the previous chapter ends.

Even Cato wept over the dead body of his brother: Cato (234-149 BCE) lived a notably austere life, so the indulgence of his grief was a break with his usual self-denying habits. The story is told in Plutarch's Lives (see Literary context: The monster's reading).

Cabrioletcabriolet: a two-wheeled carriage dawn by a single horse.

‘the palaces of nature' were not changed: the quotation is from Canto 3 of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage by Lord Byron, which was only published in 1816, the year in which Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, so this is a very up-to-date reference. As a member of Byron's circle Mary will no doubt have been very familiar with his most recent work. (See Author section: The Byron-Shelley circle). This is one of a number of references in the novel to the permanence and calming effect of the mountains of Switzerland, which form a backdrop to the terrible events of the story.

Photo by Gducrue available through Creative Commonsthe Môle, a peaked mountain to the east of the lake: this mountain is also mentioned in Childe Harold's Pilgrimage 3. (See Author section).

filthy daemon: the creature reappears, but at this stage makes no attempt to communicate with Victor or to harm him. A daemon was originally a spirit somewhere between gods and men. Later, with the spelling ‘demon', it acquired the meaning of a devil or evil spirit.

I paused when I reflected on the story I had to tell … the ravings of insanity: this is the dilemma in which Frankenstein finds himself more than once: he can explain many of the mysteries which readers perceive in the novel, but is afraid to tell anyone. Although he claims to know who has killed William, he is unable to use his knowledge to save Justine.

Investigating Volume 1 Chapter 6
  • What is the effect on Frankenstein of the reappearance of his creation?
  • What is the significance of the fact that the theft of a miniature of Victor's mother appears to be the motive for the murder?
  • Why do you think the creature deliberately implicates Justine in the murder of William?
  • A tremendous storm takes place in this chapter. Make a note of other instances where Mary Shelley uses weather conditions in a dramatic way.
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