What is the significance of chapter 5 to the novel Frankenstein and does it show us about the contexts in which it was written? Frankenstein is classed as a gothic novel because it has the typical features of a gothic novel such as fear, terror, the supernatural, mysterious settings, stereotyped characters and the dark side of human nature. All classic gothic novels were written between 1765 and 1820. This means that Mary Shelley would have read other gothic novels before she wrote Frankenstein.
Most gothic writers were interested in the breakdown of boundaries, exploration of what is forbidden, breaking the laws of God and the dark side of the human psyche. Mary Shelley wrote this story during a trip to Switzerland in 1816. She went with her husband and lord Bryon, a writer. It was a wet summer and they had to stay in a lot. Lord Bryon suggested that they wrote a horror story to keep themselves occupied. She was listening to many conversations between Lord Bryon and her husband, Percy Shelley, about the origins of life and whether humans would ever discover how life is created.
They talked of experiments that had been done at the time and she heard a tale about Dr Darwin, Charles Darwin’s grandfather, but she did know if it was true or not. The main plot of the novel is about a ship of explores who are trying to find a sea passage to the North Pole. They get stuck in the ice and a man comes towards the boat. This is Victor Frankenstein. They take him aboard the ship and he tells them about how he grew up with his adopted sister Elizabeth. He goes on to tell them about them getting engaged and about him moving away to Ingolstadt university.
He tells them about how he studies natural philosophy and how he finds the secret of the life. He tells them that he makes the monster that is horrific. Then he goes on to tell them about how the monster wants Victor to make the monster a partner, a female. He goes on to tell them that he refuses to do so, so the monster kills Elizabeth. Victor brings her back to life but the monster thinks she is for him. Then Elizabeth realizes what she has become and kills herself. Then he tells them about how he ran away from the monster and ends up on the boat. Then the monster finds the boat and they burn him.
What happens in chapter 5 is the part of the novel when Victor has finished making the monster and brings it to life. But when he does its awful appearance horrifies him. He goes to the next room and tries too sleep, but cant because he keeps having nightmares of his mothers dead corpse. When he wakes up the monster is looming over him. He runs outside and spends the night pacing up and down in the courtyard. The next morning he goes walking in the town of Ingolstadt, avoiding going back to his apartment. As he walks by the town inn, he comes across his friend Henry Cleveral, who had just arrived to begin studding at the university.
He is glad to see him and catch up on the family news. He brings Henry back to his apartment. Victor enters first too see no sign of the monster. Then from months of hard work and isolation he falls ill with a nervous fever that lasts several months. Henry nurses him back to health and when Victor has recovered give him a letter from Elizabeth that had arrived during his illness. In the first paragraph it says ‘ it was on a dreary night of November’ this tells me that it was a sad and miserable night. So this sets the scene for the chapter. It also says ‘my candle was nearly burnt out’ so this tells us that it is dark going to last.
I think Mary Shelley sets the atmosphere like this to show the reader that the coming of life to the monster is a bad thing by when she uses the word ‘a dreary night’ meaning a sad night. The coming of life of someone is normally a happy night not sad. In the first paragraph Mary Shelley said ‘infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing’ when saying this she may be referring to galvanism. Galvanism is ‘animal electricity’ that all animals contained. This meant that when lightning produced electricity it could make muscles move. Mary Shelley may have heard of the experiments on Thomas Foster.
What they did was put wires on him and the corpse began to move as if it was alive. Mary Shelley could have used this idea in Frankenstein. In this chapter Victors reaction is at a scared and troubled one. He says ‘the beauty of the dream vanished and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart’. This quotation shows us that he has dreamed about making this new creature that the ugly thing that he has created has left him ‘ breathless’ with ‘horror’ and ‘disgust’. He also says ‘ a mummery again endued with animation could not be so hideous as that wretch’.
This tells us that Victor fells that it is the most horrible thing ever to see. He calls the monster ‘hideous’ and a ‘wretch’ to show his disgust. In this chapter Victor does not give the monster a chance he just goes on the look of the monster. I think that Mary Shelley is trying to say that too many people judge people on their appearance before they get to know them. I think that the reader would feel that Victor is scared of the appearance of the monster but the reader will also feel that he is over reacting a bit because the monster has done nothing wrong.
In this chapter Victor dreams about Elizabeth dieing. This is an indication of what’s going to happen later on in the story. When the monster comes into the bedroom and Victor wakes up, Victor panics and runs off. The book says ‘one hand was stretched out seemingly to detain me, but I escaped and rushed down stairs’. This is only Victor’s side of the story. The reader may feel that the monster has only tried to detain him because he wants to talk to him. When Victor says ‘But I escaped’ he means he has escaped the appearance of the monster but the monster may have been trying to find out who he is.
The reader may now not believe Victors Story of accounts from now on in the novel. When Henry Clerval arrived at the university he calls it ‘the land of knowledge’ but Victor knows that knowledge is a powerful thing and he knows the consequences of knowing too much. Victor does not tell Henry about the monster. This shows the reader that victor is a bit of a ‘coward’ because he cannot own up to his mistakes, not even to a friend. To conclude I think that in this chapter the reader will change their view on Victor Frankenstein and start to question Victors story of accounts on whether they are true or not.