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Frankenstein Chapter 1 Summary

Instructor: Dori Starnes

Dori has taught college and high school English courses, and has Masters degrees in both literature and education.

In Chapter 1 of Mary Shelley's masterpiece, ''Frankenstein'', the narrator introduces us to some of the members of the Frankenstein family. This lesson will focus on the family's history and the characters' backgrounds.

The Frankensteins

Chapter 1 of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, introduces us to the Frankenstein family. The narrator, Victor Frankenstein, relates his history. We learn about his early childhood, about the way his parents met and fell in love, and the way he met his own future wife.

Earlier in the novel, we were introduced to Captain Walton through a series of letters the explorer wrote to his sister back in England. On his voyage to the North Pole, the sea captain picked up a very strange passenger. The man was tired and emaciated, but after a few days he opened up to Walton with the promise that he would soon tell Walton his life story.

Victor Speaks

Chapter 1 begins with the stranger taking over the narration of the book. Soon, we learn that the stranger's name is Victor Frankenstein. He is very weak, suffering from starvation and exhaustion, and morose about his ability to survive. He decides to tell Walton the story of his childhood.

Victor's Parents Meet

Victor begins his tale with the story of how his parents met several years before his birth. Victor's father, Alphonse Frankenstein of Geneva, Switzerland, was a man who was 'respected by all'. He had a good friend named Beaufort. One day, the man disappeared and it took ten months for Alphonse to find out where he'd gone.

It turns out, Beaufort left society for a house in the country when he lost all his money. To try to make some money, his daughter Caroline worked at menial tasks, such as plaiting straw. But her father's health was failing. When Beaufort died, Caroline was left a poor orphan. We don't know exactly how old she was at that time, but she was pretty young. Alphonse stepped up to care for his friend's daughter.

Despite the difference in their ages, which Victor says was 'great,' Alphonse and Caroline fell in love. Only two years after Beaufort's death, Alphonse married her. Since the beautiful Caroline was somewhat fragile, they decided to move to Italy. There, in Naples, they had their son Victor.

The Adoption of Elizabeth

For five years, Victor's parents hoped to give him a little brother or sister, but he remained their only child. In Italy, Alphonse and Caroline do charitable work, visiting poor houses around Lake Como. One day, Caroline enters the poorest house yet, a place where half-starved children and their parents live in abject poverty.

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