How can the major parts/points to understand from the first 50 pages of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley be summarized? 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Since different editions of Shelley's Frankenstein vary in pages, it will be assumed that Volume I (Chapters I-VII) is under question.

Frankenstein begins with the framing device of a subplot in the form of Walton's letters to his sister Margaret in which he describes his adventure; with great confidence, he tells his sister of his voyage to the Artic. These letters indicate some parallels in the natures of Walton and Victor Frankenstein.  For one thing, the two men are Romantic explorers, capturing the opportunities of adventure. Another commonality between the two men is also their appreciation of male friendship, a relationship highly valued by the Romantics. Also, Walton, like Victor, is determined to pursue his goal of conquering Nature despite impediments.

A further point to consider is that with the realistic letters of a scientific, logical man like Walton who is sympathetic to Victor Frankenstein there is an establishment of some verisimilitude to the bizarre story of the creature.

With the chapters that commence Victor's narrative, it is revealed that like Walton, he has had a loving and close family. In fact his life has been idyllic as his altruistic parents adopted a girl from Italy whom Victor loves dearly along with his two brothers.  Similar to Walton, too, Victor has a scientific curiosity, although his is channeled toward electricity, galvanism, and other phenomena.

Then, after Victor enrolls at the University of Ingolstadt, he is confronted with tragedy as Elizabeth contracts scarlet fever while his mother, who nurses Elizabeth back to health, is stricken with the fever, too, but she dies. It is, therefore, an ambivalent Victor who departs for the university where he becomes equally ambivalent about his faith in the writings of Agrippa, whose theories Victor learns have been disproved. But, the disillusioned Victor is taken under the tutelage of Monsieur Waldman, whose words have profoundly changed Victor. For, he gives a "panegyric upon modern chemistry":

"...the elixir of life is a chimera. But these philosophers, whose hands seem only made to dabble in dirt, and their eyes to pore over the microscope or crucible, have indeed performed miracles. They penetrate into the recesses of nature, and show how she works in her hiding places. They ascend into the heavens: they have discovered how the blood circulates, and the nature of the air we breathe. They have acquired new and almost unlimited powers; they can command the thunders of heaven, mimic the earthquake, and even mock the invisible world with its own shadows."

For Victor Frankenstein these are the words of "fate, enounced to destroy me," for from this point on he asks himself from whence the principle of life comes and seeks the answer, "discovering the cause of generation and life." In fact, Victor becomes capable of "bestowing animation" upon matter that is lifeless. Thus, he begins the creation of a human being.

In the last part of Volume I, Victor has created a hideous creature, and runs from it in terror. When his friend Henry Clerval arrives in Ingolstadt, Victor's joy is destroyed when he learns of the death of his sweet brother William. As he returns home, Victor witnesses a great storm and tells his brother this is his funeral; just then, the lightning reveals the hideous figure of the creature. From Elizabeth he learns that Justine, the servant of the Frankensteins, is accused of the murder. Victor vows revenge upon the creature.


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