Frankenstein Chapter 7 Summary

Instructor: Dori Starnes

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

Victor returns to Geneva after receiving tragic news from his father. But the devastating news that brings him back home is only the beginning of Victor's nightmare.


Earlier in the novel, after completing his studies, and after much experimenting, Victor discovered 'the secret of life.' With this knowledge, he built a human body from parts, then animated the body. However, he was so appalled by his work that he ran from it and collapsed into a months-long nervous fever. After he recovered, in chapter 6, he began to study languages and waited anxiously for a letter from home letting him know when to return.

In Chapter 7 of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein finally hears from his father. However, the letter that arrives brings tragic news and sends Victor rushing home to a frightening discovery that will change everything.

The Tragedy of William

When Victor returns home from his walking tour with Henry Clerval, his fellow student and best friend from childhood, he finds a letter waiting for him. Victor tears it open eagerly, thinking it is the long-awaited news from home. It is…and it isn't.

The letter does indeed set a return date for Victor, but its contents shock Victor to his very soul. His youngest brother, William, has been murdered. Alphonse Frankenstein, Victor's father, relates the horrific story in his letter.

The entire family had been on a hike, and William and his older brother Ernest had gone on ahead. As Alphonse, Elizabeth and Justine prepared to return to the house, Ernest returned to them. He asked if they'd seen William and explained that the two brothers had been playing hide and seek and Ernest couldn't find William anywhere. Worried, they searched until dark. When they didn't find him, Elizabeth wondered aloud if he'd returned to the house.

He wasn't at the house, so they grabbed torches and continued their search. Finally, at about five in the morning, Alphonse found William's body. He had bruises on his neck and it was evident he'd been strangled. Elizabeth blamed herself: she'd let the boy wear a valuable necklace and was sure that was the reson he was targeted. Alphonse lets Victor know the murderer is still at large, and begs him to come home as quickly as he can.

The monster and a child in the movie version
The monster and a child in the movie version

Victor Rediscovers his Monster

Victor leaves that night. The mountains and lakes on his journey home bring him to tears. He reflects on the years he has been away from home and on the tragedy that has occurred. When it begins to storm and rain heavily, Victor believes even the heavens weep for poor, sweet William.

In a flash of lightening, Victor glimpses a huge figure. Suddenly, he is sure it is his vanished monster, and that the monster is the one who killed little William. The lightning flashes again and Victor sees the monster scale the sheer side of a mountain and disappear over its top.

Victor stands transfixed, staring at the place the monster had been. It's been almost two years since he created and abandoned the creature. Victor wonders if this is the first crime the monster has committed. He wants to raise a posse to bring the monster in, but two things stop him. First, he has no evidence that a barely-glimpsed creature could have killed the little boy. The whole idea is crazy. Second, the monster just ran up the side of a mountain; how could any human being hope to capture it?

Guilt and Innocence

Victor makes it back to the house at about five in the morning. There, he sees Ernest who talks about their lost brother. At least, Ernest says, they have the murderer in custody.

Victor is shocked. He wonders how they could have brought the monster in. Ernest looks at him strangely and says he doesn't know what Victor is talking about. The killer isn't a 'he'; it's a 'she': Justine Moritz, a family friend and servant of the Frankensteins.

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