Robert Walton, an English adventurer, undertakes an expedition to the North Pole. While on this expedition (which has been a lifelong dream of his), Walton corresponds with his sister by letter. Amid the ice floes, Walton and his crew find an extremely weary man traveling by dogsled. The man is near death, and they determine to take him aboard. Once the mysterious traveler has somewhat recovered from his weakness, Robert Walton begins to talk to him. They two strike up a friendshipÃ?Walton is very lonely and has long desired a close companion). The man is desolate, and for a long while will not talk about why he is traversing the Arctic alone. After becoming more comfortable with Walton, he decides to tell him his long-concealed story.
The speaker is Victor Frankenstein, for whom the book is named. He will be the narrator for the bulk of the novel. Born into a wealthy Swiss family, Victor enjoyed an idyllic, peaceful childhood. His parents were kind, marvelous people; they are presented as ideals as shining examples of the goodness of the human spirit. His father, Alphonse, fell in love with his wife, Caroline, when her father, a dear friend of his, passed away. Alphonse took the young orphan under his care, and as time passed they fell in love. He provides for his wife in grand style. Out of gratitude for her own good fortune, Caroline is extremely altruistic. She frequently visits the poor who live in her part of the Italian countryside. One day she chances upon the home of a family who has a beautiful foster daughter. Her name is Elizabeth Lavenza. Though they are kind, the poverty of Elizabeth's foster parents makes caring for her a financial burden. Caroline falls in love with the lovely girl on sight, and adopts her into the Frankenstein family. She is close in age to Victor, and becomes the central, most beloved part of his childhood. Elizabeth is Victor's most cherished companion. Their parents encourage the children to be close in every imaginable way as cousins, as brother and sister, and, in the future, as husband and wife.
Victor's childhood years pass with astonishing speed. Two more sons, William and Ernest, are born into the family. At this time, the elder Frankensteins decide to stop their constant traveling: the family finally settles in Geneva. Though Victor is something of a loner, he does have one dear friend: Henry Clerval, from whom he is inseparable. The two have utterly different ambitions: Victor has developed a passion for science, while Henry longs to study the history of human struggle and endeavor. Eventually, Victor's parents decide it is time for him to begin his university studies at Ingolstadt. Before his departure, Victor's mother passes away. On her deathbed, she tells Victor and Elizabeth that it is her greatest desire to see the two of them married. Victor leaves for university, still in mourning for his mother and troubled by this separation from his loved ones.
Meanwhile, in Geneva, life goes on. Because Caroline was so generous, Elizabeth learns to be gracious as well. When she is old enough to know her mind, she extends housing and love to a young girl named Justine, whose mother dislikes her and wishes to be rid of her. Though Justine is a servant in the Frankenstein household, she is regarded as a sister by Elizabeth, Ernest and William.
At Ingolstadt, Victor's passion for science increases exponentially. He falls into the hands of Waldeman, a chemistry professor, who excites in him ambition and the desire to achieve fame and distinction in the field of natural philosophy. Thus begins the mania that will end in destroying Victor's life. Victor spends day and night in his laboratory. He develops a consuming interest in the life principle (that is, the force which imparts life to a human being). This interest develops into an unnatural obsession, and Victor undertakes to create a human being out of pieces of the dead. He haunts cemeteries and...