Preface & Letters 1–4
The preface explains how the novel came to be written when the author and her literary companions engaged in a ghost story competition. The first letter that begins the novel is written by an explorer named Robert Walton who writes to his sister about his desire to accomplish a great purpose. The second letter finds Walton lamenting his lack of like-minded friends. By the third letter Walton’s ship has set sail, and in the fourth, the ship comes across a sick stranger who recovers on the ship and decides to tell Walton his story.
Chapters 1 & 2
The stranger, whose real name is Victor Frankenstein, starts his narrative by telling Walton of his family background and early childhood, as well as about his father, Alphonse, his mother, Caroline, and how Elizabeth Lavenza, Victor’s cousin, comes to live with them. As a teen, Victor becomes increasingly engrossed in the mysteries of the natural world.
Victor leaves his family to attend the university at Ingolstadt, but not before his mother, on her deathbed, begs Elizabeth and Victor to marry. Victor devotes all his energy to his studies, ultimately discovering the secrets of life, and when on one stormy night he succeeds in bringing his creation to life, Victor is mortified by the monster he has created and rushes out of his apartment. Victor stumbles upon Henry Clerval and invites him back to his apartment, but immediately passes out, falls ill, and is brought back to health by Henry.
After reading Elizabeth’s letter urging him to return and receiving a letter from his father telling him that his brother, William, has been murdered, Victor returns to Geneva. Victor sees the monster lurking and becomes convinced that his creation is responsible for the murder. The next day, Justine Moritz, a girl who used to live with the Frankenstein family, is blamed for the murder, and while Victor knows she did not commit the crime, she confesses.
Chapters 9 & 10
Victor’s melancholy after Justine’s execution is momentarily relieved after traveling to the family home in Belrive. When his feelings of despair return, he travels to the summit of Montanvert, where the monster approaches Victor and entreats him to come to a cave to listen to the monster narrate the events of his life.
Chapters 11 & 12
The monster tells Victor of the confusion he experienced after being born, his flight from Victor’s apartment, and his discovery of the sensations and elements of the world. The monster resolved to stay away from humans after a series of negative encounters. However, after settling in a small hovel adjacent to a cottage, the monster grew affectionate toward his neighbors while eavesdropping on them.
Chapters 13 & 14
The monster noticed the mood in the cottage brightened when a woman named Safie moved in, and as she learned the language of the cottagers, so did the monster, who also learned about world history and human society. The monster was able to reconstruct the history of the cottagers, learning that De Lacey, the old man, was once a successful citizen in Paris, while his children, Agatha and Felix, were well-respected members of the community. When the plot to help Safie’s father escape from prison was discovered, the family was exiled.
The monster, after reading literature like Milton’s Paradise Lost as factual histories and reading papers from Victor’s journal that explained the manner of his creation, decided to reveal himself to the cottagers. Felix drove the monster away, horrified by his appearance. The dismayed monster tells Victor how after saving a drowning girl, he was shot at, and when he ran across Victor’s brother, he strangled him to death. The monster says he placed the picture of Caroline Frankenstein in the folds of a sleeping Justine Moritz. The monster requests that Victor make him a female companion, and while Victor first refuses, he eventually agrees.
Victor travels to England with Henry Clerval on a two-year tour. Victor begins working on his new creation, but he has anxious thoughts about what might happen when the new creature comes to life, and after seeing the monster grinning at him through the window, Victor decides to destroy his work. The monster is angry and threatens that he will be with Victor on his wedding night. Victor gathers his instruments and the remains of the second creature and throws them into the ocean, but he struggles to return to shore. When he finally enters another town, the people tell him that he is under suspicion for a murder discovered the previous night.
Victor falls unconscious when the town magistrate shows Victor the body of Henry, covered with the black marks of the monster’s hands around his neck. When Victor awakens, he is greeted by his father who waits with him until the court finds him innocent of Henry’s murder. They leave for Geneva, where along the way, still riddled with thoughts of the monster’s threat, Victor receives a worried letter from Elizabeth. Victor and Elizabeth are married when he returns and they depart for a family cottage to spend the night. Victor searches for the monster, hoping to confront him, but after hearing Elizabeth scream, realizes that the threat was aimed toward Elizabeth and not him. Victor’s father dies a few days later, and Victor resolves to devote the rest of his life to destroying the monster.
Chapter 24 & Walton, in Continuation
Victor’s story culminates in his meeting with Walton after months of tracking the monster, ultimately entreating Walton to continue his search for vengeance after he is dead. The narrative shifts back to Walton’s point of view through the letters he sends to his sister, wherein Walton goes on to explain how the crewmen desire to return to England, but Victor momentarily rallies them to continue toward their goal. Victor dies just before the ship is set to head back, and a few days later, Walton discovers the monster weeping over Victor’s body, telling Walton how he regrets to have become an instrument of evil.