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Is Chapter Five Particularly Significant to the Novel Frankenstein?

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Introduction

The simple answer is yes. Without Chapter Five, the novel probably wouldn't have been published. The publishers would no doubt have objected. I mean to say, you can't just publish a novel with gaps, and if Chapter Five wasn't there then of course there would be a gap between Chapters 4 and 6. You can't just flow from the former into the latter - even numbers simply don't work next to each other! It's just one of those things. Chapter Five is an essential part of the structure of the novel. And not only that. Chapter Five is more than significant. Chapter Five is key. It's like this: Many moons ago, in 1818, the young wife of romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley published her first novel. Officially Gothic Horror and attributed to a certain Mr. Anonymous, Frankenstein was an instant success. Copies sold like hot cakes, the ideas portrayed in the novel became national idiom and, once she revealed herself as the true authoress, Mary Shelley was placed right up there with Jane Austen as instrumental in establishing women's right to write. But how on earth did such a sweet and loveable girl succeed not only in capturing the heart of a leading poet but also in chilling the flesh of every member of the British reading public, turning their bone-marrow to water and at the same time scaring them out of their wits? And yes, she was a formidable romancer. While only eighteen she had charmed Percy Shelley so much that he eloped with her, causing his current wife to commit suicide. Or maybe it was just Shelley's habits after all - I mean, Mary's half-sister came along on the honeymoon as well and by all accounts enjoyed it very much. What fun. So, how did she? Succeed at both, I mean. Many, many people persist, persevere and pledge that Frankenstein was written as a timely warning and much needed advice to pre-Victorian society. ...read more.

Middle

In that hour I would die..." All this is very interesting, but what does it have to do with Chapter Five? The opening paragraph of Chapter Nine sets it quite nicely: "I had begun life with benevolent intentions, and thirsted for the moment when I should put them in practice, and make myself useful to my fellow-beings. Now all was blasted: instead of that serenity of conscience, which allowed me to look back upon the past with self-satisfaction, and from thence to gather promise of new hopes, I was seized by remorse and the sense of guilt, which hurried me away to a hell of intense tortures, such as no language can describe". He felt ruled by what he saw as his destiny, and indeed the novel does go quite a way to supporting this idea. Basically, his feeling was that whatever he thought, said or did the same thing was always going to happen. However he treated his creation, the future could not be changed. The monster would turn bad. Frankenstein would die. All that is contrary to the opinion held by many that Frankenstein should be responsible for the monster. Just in passing, how ridiculous is it to hold opinions on what fictitious characters should have done? After all, if everyone in the novel was perfectly moral and upright there wouldn't be a plot! Unless it had been decreed by fate and nothing that anyone could do would be able to stop it... No. The entire plot hinges around two things: the existence of the monster; the monster's desire for companionship. Both of these things cascade dramatically off Chapter Five. For the first one at least, it is blatantly obvious why - I mean to say, if the monster hadn't been created it wouldn't exist. The second point however is the start of the main theme for the entire tale. Frankenstein shuns his 'son'; his 'son' goes off to find a friend. ...read more.

Conclusion

After all, she didn't have much experience at that sort of thing, her only child dying shortly after birth. It's much more likely that she was pointing her finger at science. Chapter Five is very much a chapter of science. It states things. It has a hypothesis, a fleeting glimpse ('I gathered my instruments about me') of a method and what is, when you think about it, a pretty obvious result. It is from Chapter Five that disaster springs. Is it from science that all catastrophes leap? Was Mary Shelley writing a strong retort to the scientific obsessions of the time? Her father - William Godwin - was a successful author and radical thinker who knew Humphrey Davy, a chemist who believed that chemistry was the underlying principle of all life. She regularly attended scientific lectures with her husband Percy and consequently was well briefed with the 'facts' that modern science had 'discovered'. Could she have been such a great supporter of scientific advances and yet be aware of and warn against the dangers of incautious fascination? Yes - quite easily. However, she could also quite easily have purely used pertinent facts to give her fantasy a flavour of reality. Was she a socially aware and clear-thinking moraliser or just an authoress with a flair for combining imagination with realism? That is for each and every one to decide individually, there being no clear argument either way. I personally favour the latter alternative as it sounds more like human nature. If, however, she did write Frankenstein as a social statement then what was the point? Was it worthwhile? Has she been heeded? We have now developed methods of cloning animals. One day these practices may be applied to humanity... Will Mary Shelley's 'advice' be listened to and noted or will science take control? Will life become secondary to technology? Will contemporary scientists act like modern-day Frankensteins? Chapter Five is the diving board from which a tragic tale falls. Will we, as a planet, one day be in our very own Chapter Five? Is Chapter Five Particularly Significant to the Novel Frankenstein? ...read more.

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