Frankenstein Questions and Answers
by Mary Shelley

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When and where does Frankenstein take place?

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The story begins with letters written by one Captain Walton to his sister, Mrs. Saville, as he journeys toward the North Pole in an effort to make some important discoveries that he hopes will benefit humankind and confer glory on him. His first letter is written in St. Petersburgh, Russia, and his second is posted from Archangel, in Northern Russia. As he travels further north by ship, he eventually reaches the polar region, and this is when his ship becomes trapped in the ice and he meets Victor Frankenstein.

When Frankenstein begins to tell his story to Walton, the story begins in his home in Geneva, Switzerland. When he comes of age, he is sent away to college in Ingolstadt, Germany, a city in the Bavarian region of that country. Later in his life, he travels with his family to the valley of Chamounix, in southeast France. He also travels with his best friend, Henry Clerval, to the United Kingdom, visiting England and Scotland. This is where he begins to build the second creature—which he eventually destroys.

When the creature describes his experiences, he describes the woods in Germany where he met the DeLacy family, and this is where he lived for the majority of his miserable existence.

The entirety of the tale seems to take place at the end of the eighteenth century and, perhaps, carries over into the early-nineteenth century.

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The action in Frankenstein takes place all over Europe, extending into the Arctic. Some of the key locations include Frankenstein’s home on Lake Geneva; his university in Ingolstadt, Bavaria, where he creates his monster; the Orkney Islands, where Frankenstein attempts to create a mate for the monster; and Chamounix, France, a high pass in the Alps where the monster confronts Frankenstein. It can be a lot of fun to plot Frankenstein’s movements on a map or in Google Earth; there are many virtual “tours” of Frankenstein locations on the Internet.

Despite the geographic specificity of Shelley’s novel, I have to think that the real significance of place...

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