(Adapted by John Turvey)
People read Frankenstein as a story of fear and danger, but Mary Shelley expressed in it beliefs that were important to her. She believed that human beings are naturally good. They become evil only because society makes them lie and cheat and behave badly. In Mary Shelley's book, Frankenstein has tried to create "theperfect man", but he is ugly, so ugly that people fear and hate him. Society produced the dangerous Monster instead of the perfect man. |
Click on the chapters titles to read or print out | |
1 | The Young Frankenstein | |
2 | What Frankenstein had made | |
3 | Creating life | |
4 | We seem to fail | |
5 | The Monster | |
6 | Murder! | |
7 | We find the Monster | |
8 |Elizabeth | |
9 | Frankenstein in prison | |
10 | The end of the Monster and Frankenstein | |
CHAPTER 1 - The Young Frankenstein |
My name is Henri Clerval, and I was born in the city of Geneva in 1775. My closest friend at school in Geneva was Victor Frankenstein.
The Frankensteins were a rich merchant family, and my friend's father had travelled widely. On my first visit to their housein Geneva, I saw a rather pretty girl, perhaps a year younger than us.
"That's my sister," Victor said. "Or rather, we’ve been brought up together and we think of each other as brother and sister. She is, in fact, Italian."
The Frankensteins were Swiss.
Victor explained. "Soon after I was born, my parents were in Italy. On a very hot day they asked for a drink at a farm. They saw five smallchildren there. Four had dark hair like the farmer and his wife; one had fair hair and looked quite different. That was Elizabeth, the daughter of a landowner who had lost his life trying to free his country from an unjust government. My mother was not strong; it was not certain that she would have another child but she did want a daughter. She asked the poor farmer and his wife if she could takeElizabeth and bring her up as her own. In the end, that was arranged."
"It's like a story from a book," I said. "You are lucky to have a sister. I have no one to talk to at home."
Frankenstein smiled. "Then she must become your sister, too."
Elizabeth did become a sister to me, and remained a sister all the time that we were children. All three of us belonged to each other. Besides the fine housein Geneva, the Frankensteins had a country house on the south side of the lake. They liked the quiet life there, and they lived there more and more after the birth of another son. They called him William, and a happy country girl of our age, called Justine, came to look after him. These were the people among whom I spent more and more of my time.
From the beginning, Victor Frankenstein'sinterests lay in science. He studied nature with a kind of hunger, seeing the world around him as so many secrets to be discovered. There were secrets in the deep waters of the lake, in the mountains, in the glaciers -the great rivers of ice that flowed down from the mountains- and in the changes of weather and season. As a boy, he always wanted quick results from his experiments, but Elizabeth and Ienjoyed helping him with them. I remember a day when we were out collecting wild plants for one of those experiments. We had come down from the long, low mountain called the Salève, and we were crossing a field near a line of fruit trees when a thunderstorm broke. We were getting very wet in the open field, but we knew the danger of standing under trees in a thunderstorm.
Suddenly there was a noiselike a gun, and a flash of blue light, and we were thrown to the ground, blinded and unable to hear. When at last we were able to see and hear again, we saw nearby the remains of a tree, black and smoking. It had been struck by lightning. The power of that lightning was something that we could never forget.
It was from that day, I think, that an idea began to form in Victor Frankenstein's...