Frankenstein: Novel Summary: Chapters 3-4

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Chapter 3: At the age of seventeen, Victor plans to advance his education at the university of Ingolstadt. Unfortunately, these plans are postponed when Elizabeth comes down with the scarlet fever. Though Elizabeth eventually recovers from the illness, Caroline Frankenstein also becomes sick and she soon dies. Her last words to Victor and Elizabeth are, "my firmest hopes of future happiness were placed on the prospect of your union. This expectation will now be the consolation of your father." Victor doesn't really explain his feelings about the proposed marriage between he and Elizabeth, but he does, however, admit that he is sad to leave his family, particularly Elizabeth, in so much grief as he goes away to study.
When he finally gets to Ingolstadt, Victor's ideas about science are lambasted by the professors with whom he speaks. When he tells Professor Krempe that he has been studying alchemy, the teacher of natural philosophy tells him, "I little expected, in this enlightened and scientific age, to find a disciple of Albertus Magnus and Paracelsus. My dear sir, you must begin your studies entirely anew." This, of course, discourages Victor, and though he is saddened to leave his study of "immortality and power," he eventually agrees to study modern chemistry. By the end of the chapter, he borrows some books from another professor.
Chapter 4: In this chapter, Victor continues his studies and begins to put his knowledge into application. Both his professors and his fellow students marvel at how fast he is absorbing the material. Victor spends two full years doing little else but study-particularly the concept of the human body. Soon he finds it necessary to spend many hours alone at the morgue, studying corpses. After several months of this kind of work, Victor is proud to note that he has found the "cause of generation and life." More than this, however, he's even discovered how to create life from inanimate objects. Here, Frankenstein takes great pains to persuade Walton that he is not delusional. But at the same time he admits that his thoughtless enthusiasm for scientific discovery was a tragic mistake. He implores Walton not to follow his example, warning, "Learn from me . . . how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow." Here, Shelley seems to argue that ignorance is bliss.
Victor spends the next few months continuing his painstaking attempts to create life. Shelley doesn't go into much scientific detail, but her description of Victor's arduous struggle is well taken. Frankenstein is ecstatic at the idea that he will be the father of a new race of creatures.

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