Frankenstein is the story of Victor Frankenstein, who creates an animate creature from parts of human cadavers, but is horrified at the grotesque monster he has made. Shocked and grievously disturbed at this ghastly facsimile of a living being, he falls ill. He takes almost two years to recover; when he finally recovers, his friend Henry Clerval gives him a letter from Elizabeth Lavenza (an orphan adopted by the Frankensteins who grew up with Victor—in the 1818 version of the novel, she is Victor's cousin), which Henry had put aside for Victor when he was ill.
In the letter, Elizabeth tells Victor that Justine Moritz, a young lady who used to live with the Frankenstein family in Geneva, has returned to them once more after the death of her own mother. Elizabeth urges Victor to write home to his family. In response, Victor's father sends a letter informing him that his younger brother, William, has been cruelly murdered. Victor rushes home to Geneva. He makes a macabre discovery when he walks the area where William's body was discovered: his monster is still alive. He strongly suspects that the monster was the one who killed his brother, and he is further burdened with a sense of guilt. Worse is yet to come when he finds out that Justine has been accused of the murder and will be hanged for the crime. The execution is carried out; Victor now feels that he is responsible for two deaths in his family and he is beside himself.