Frankenstein Chapter 3 Summary

Instructor: Dori Starnes

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

Up until he's seventeen, the hero of Mary Shelley's masterpiece ''Frankenstein'' has had it easy. But now sadness and disappointment begin to infiltrate Victor's life, with the loss of a family member and a challenge to his education and career aspirations.

Chapter 3 of Frankenstein

Suddenly, the seventeen-year-old Victor Frankenstein's life isn't as wonderful as it has been. In Chapter 3, tragedy and disappointment creep into his world. But Victor finds a way to rise above it as he becomes a university student and spends his life in pursuit of scientific discovery. This lesson will focus on the summary of Chapter 3 of Frankenstein.


In the introduction, through his letters to his sister, we met the explorer Walton, who is trying to reach the North Pole. Walton picks up a sick, painfully thin traveler out on the ice and away from land. In Chapter 1, we learn that this man is Victor Frankenstein, and he goes on to tell Walton his life story, starting with his early childhood. In Chapter 2, Shelley details the differences between Victor and his friends, and sets him on the path to the scientific work he will one day do.

The Tragedy of Caroline

The first really bad thing to happen to Victor in his entire life happens when he's seventeen, right before he is scheduled to leave for the University of Ingolstadt. Elizabeth, who has always been a delicate child, catches scarlet fever. Knowing Caroline, Victor's mother, is also very frail, the family forbids her from seeing Elizabeth. But the doctor says that Elizabeth might die, and nothing can keep Caroline out of her sickroom then.

Caroline nurses Elizabeth back to health, but falls ill herself. Her attack is much worse and she realizes that she is going to die. So, she grabs Elizabeth's hand and places it into Victor's, begging the two of them to one day marry. Victor and Elizabeth agree, and Victor is very happy about this. Caroline dies and the family sinks into mourning.

Victor Leaves for the University

Though sadness consumes him, Victor's father Alphonse insists that his son must go to the university. So Victor makes his plans to leave. Henry Clerval is wild to continue his own studies, and begs his father to let him accompany Victor. Mr. Clerval refuses, saying Henry must become a trader, which doesn't require a university education. Victor, Henry, and Elizabeth spend one last evening together and then Victor leaves for Ingolstadt.

The journey is long and tedious, and Victor has a lot of time to dwell on the death of his mother. At the beginning of his journey, Victor is pretty morose. As he nears Ingolstadt, however, he begins to get excited about the future. He eagerly thinks of all he will learn. Once Victor arrives, he goes to his lodging house and presents the letter of introduction his father gave him to Professor Krempe.

Professor Krempe

Immediately, Victor is turned off by Professor Krempe, who seems to be a nasty little old man. He talks down to Victor, telling him that everything he's done to this point has been 'nonsense' and that he'll need to completely start over in his studies.

Victor is devastated. He hates the professor, but worse is the crushing of his dreams as he prepares to spend years studying with this man. Victor says sadly that he's going to have to 'exchange chimeras of boundless grandeur for realities of little worth.' Victor feels he has to give up his dreams and focus on the kind of mundane stuff he hates. He questions whether he should have ever come to the university at all, and debates going back to Geneva.

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