Frankenstein Chapter 12 Summary

Instructor: Dori Starnes

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

In Chapter 12 of Mary Shelley's ''Frankenstein'', the monster continues telling his story. But what we learn about the monster leaves us wondering how he turned into a vicious killer. This lesson is a summary of Chapter 12 of ''Frankenstein''.


After falling into a deep depression, Victor sought solace in the mountains near his home. Once there, he met the monster, who begged him to come to his mountain hut and listen to his story. Victor agreed, but the monster's story was not what Victor expected to hear. The monster told Victor of his early moments with humanity, and of how he found the cabin where he spent the winter. As he spoke, it became clear to Victor that the monster was eloquent, compassionate, and in many ways less of a monster than Victor himself.

Happiness and Sadness

The monster decides to spend his time observing the people in the cabin at first. He wants to understand their motivations. The first morning passes much like the previous one did, with the young man working outside the cabin and the young woman working inside, taking care of the house and the old man. The monster realizes that the old man is blind. Though the occupants of the cabin smile often, the monster observes that they are not happy.

The monster notices that the young man and woman often cry when the other cannot see, and he wonders at the cause of their misery. Their lives seem very full to the monster. They have food, clothing, shelter, and each other. They have everything they need, don't they? Yes…and no.

The family exists in degrading poverty. The monster watches the younger two inhabitants go without food so the old man may eat. The monster vows to steal no more of their food, and instead forages in the woods for his sustenance.

Good Deeds

The monster discovers that there is more that he can do for these cottagers. So at night, he takes the young man's tools and goes into the forest to cut wood. When they find the wood outside their door in the morning, the joy of the young man and the young woman move the monster's soul and he decides to help them more.

After observing them for a while, the monster realizes that the sounds they make have meaning. He struggles to understand their speech, and eventually picks up some of their often-used words: bread, milk, fire, and wood. Then he understands the names they are using for each other. The young man is named Felix and the young woman is Agatha. The old man is their father.

The Inside Front Cover of the 1831 Edition
The Inside Front Cover of the 1831 Edition

Learning Their Language

As the winter wears on, the monster learns their language and their emotions. The very few other people he sees only highlight how superior his humans are. He's touched by Felix's obvious sorrow, and yet he notices that Felix tries hard to please Agatha and their father. Often at night, Felix reads to them, and the monster listens.

At first, the reading greatly confuses the monster. He understands that there are sounds written on the paper, but he can't read at all. He desperately wants to learn. He decides to talk to the people in the cottage, but not until he has mastered their language.

The people are beautiful to the monster, but when he catches a glimpse of himself in a pool of water, he is horrified. Their beauty makes him seem even more hideous to his own eyes.

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