With explanations, what are some important quotes in the first three chapters of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein?Are there any quotes that are universally well-known? I want to use some for my...

With explanations, what are some important quotes in the first three chapters of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein?

Are there any quotes that are universally well-known? I want to use some for my powerpoint.

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Framed by the letters of Walton to his sister, the first chapter of the narrative of Victor Frankenstein describes his halcyon childhood in which his parents lovingly doted upon him.  His description of the behavior of his parents is ironic as it proves to be in sharp contrast to Victor's treatment of his "child."

from Chapter 1:

...I remained for several years their only child. Much as they were attached to each other, they seemed to draw inexhaustible stores of affection from a very mine of love to bestow them upon me. My mother's tender caresses and my father's smile of benevolent pleasure while regarding me, are my first recollections. I was their plaything and their idol, and something better—their child, the innocent and helpless creature bestowed on them by Heaven, whom to bring up to good, and whose future lot it was in their hands to direct to happiness or misery, according as they fulfilled their duties towards me. With this deep consciousness of what they owed towards the being to which they had given life, added to the active spirit of tenderness that animated both, it may be imagined that while during every hour of my infant life I received a lesson of patience, of charity, and of self-control, I was so guided by a silken cord that all seemed but one train of enjoyment to me.

In Chapter 2,  Victor describes his tremendous hunger for learning "the secrets of heaven and earth."  However, he enters a dangerous area, where he searches for "the elixir of life."  In short, Victor's reach is past that of man's grasp.

from Chapter 2:

But here were books, and here were men who had penetrated deeper and knew more. I took their word for all that they averred, and I became their disciple. It may appear strange that such should arise in the eighteenth century; but while I followed the routine of education in the schools of Geneva, I was, to a great degree, self taught with regard to my favourite studies....Under the guidance of my new preceptors, I entered with the greatest diligence into the search of the philosopher's stone and the elixir of life; but the latter soon obtained my undivided attention. Wealth was an inferior object; but what glory would attend the discovery, if I could banish disease from the human frame, and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death!

  • After Victor goes to school in Ingolstadt, his professeur disparages the ancient teachers of science that Victor has read. M. Waldman states that the modern masters have proven that metals cannot be transmuted, and "the elixir of life is a chimera."  After hearing this, Victor is distraught.  The next day he talks with his professor who tells him,

from Chapter 3

"A man would make but a very sorry chemist if he attended to that department of human knowledge alone. If your wish is to become really a man of science, and not merely a petty experimentalist, I should advise you to apply to every branch of natural philosophy, including mathematics.”

He then took me into his laboratory, and explained to me th uses of his various machines....Thus ended a day memorable to me:  it decided my future destiny.

        Inspired to learn all that he can now of the modern scientists, Victor Frankenstein eagerly takes the list of books given him.

booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have included some important quotes from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The first quotation shows how deep Victor's devotion to, and love for, Elizabeth goes. It starts from the time he is a child (about five years old) and Elizabeth comes to live with the Frankenstein family.

And when, on the morrow, [my mother] presented Elizabeth to me as her promised gift, I, with childish seriousness, interpreted her words literally, and looked upon Elizabeth as mine—mine to protect, love, and cherish.

In Chapter Two, Shelley introduces another character who will play a significant role in Victor's life: Henry Clerval. Henry is a friend of Victor's for many years. He is a young man of imagination, a sense of adventure and one who is not afraid to face danger.

Henry Clerval was the son of a merchant of Geneva. He was a boy of singular talent and fancy. He loved enterprise, hardship, and even danger, for its own sake. He was deeply read in books of chivalry and romance. He composed heroic songs, and began to write many a tale of enchantment and knightly adventure.

Another quote speaks to the kind of man Clerval is, based on the observations of Victor:

Clerval occupied himself, so to speak, with the moral relations of things.

A third quotation in Chapter Two describes how Victor first became interested in learning the secrets of life—specifically, how to animate inanimate flesh. This is, of course, what leads to the creation of Victor's creature, and directs his path toward his ultimate fate.

It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn; and whether it was the outward substance of things, or the inner spirit of nature and the mysterious soul of man that occupied me, still my inquiries were directed to the metaphysical, or, in it highest sense, the physical secrets of the world.

Of the characters within the story, the first three are introduced in the first two chapters of the story. Elizabeth holds Victor's love—he will struggle between his affection for her and his desire to pursue life's secrets. Henry is Victor's moral compass—trying to protect Victor's best interests at school...even when he isn't sure what Victor is involved in. Finally, Victor is an unusual man whose desires to reach beyond a mere mortal's understanding of life defines what he does and who he becomes. His choices will also intensely impact the lives of those he loves, who love him.

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