Many scientific discoveries were being made at the time of writing, such as the ability of electricity to make lifeless flesh appear to come to life and Shelley was clearly interested and knowledgeable on the subject. As when Victor says, “…that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet.” it leads the reader to believe that the “spark” is electricity, which causes the “…convulsive motion…” that “…agitated it limbs.” However, this “convulsive motion” and the instance when Victor dreamt of Elizabeth and “…every limb became convulsed…” or when he says “…for I was lifeless…” give the reader the impression that although Victor is clearly disgusted by his creation it may be his alter ego and his disgust is more distressing because he is seeing a part of himself he would rather not.
Also despite her obvious interest in the scientific world, Shelley clearly has worries about the dangers of tampering with the laws of nature and of removing women from the process of creation. In chapter five this is emphasized by the chasm between Frankenstein’s dream of what he would create and his reaction to the reality of his creation. Rather than show it love and tenderness as a mother would to her young, he is disgusted by it and even fearful of the “…monster…” he has created. This warning is further emphasized as Shelley puts a great deal of emphasis on nature’s healing powers. For example, when on waking from his long illness Victor sees “…the fallen leaves had disappeared and that young buds were shooting forth…” he says, “It was a divine spring, and the season contributed greatly to my convalescence.”
Frankenstein’s disgust at the creatures ugliness such as, “…the horror of that countenance…”, “…the demoniacal corpse…” and “…the miserable monster…” the alliteration in the last adding weight to the statement, may also be a comment on the importance society places on physical appearance and the way society wrongly judges a person’s character by appearance. The use of apostrophes in the statement “Beautiful! – Great God!” further emphasizes his disgust. At the time of writing, women were almost entirely judged by their physical appearance and as a radical it is likely that Shelley found this insulting and impossible to live by. Hence the emphasis on the creature’s unpalatable appearance and the resulting response from society when he encounters it.
When presenting Victor’s neglect of his parental responsibility toward the monster, it is possible that she used her own feelings of childhood desertion to empathize with the creature. As during her childhood, her mother died and her father, who remarried someone Shelley did not get along with, showed little interest in Shelley’s upbringing and education. It is notable that Walton, Frankenstein and indeed the monster are all largely self taught, much like Shelley herself and it may be that she felt the need to stress that even those without a formal education or the resulting qualifications, could have active and intelligent minds.
Another theme present in chapter five and indeed the novel itself is the importance of family and friends to a person’s emotional and physical health. While Victor is concentrating on his experiment he excludes himself entirely from family and friends. As a result of his obsessive drive to complete his experiment and his exclusion he becomes increasing ill. The arrival of Clerval brings happiness and excitement for Victor and initially revives his spirits. When his illness confines him to bed, it is his friend Clerval that loves and nurses him back to health. This has the effect of emphasizing the nurturing and healing power of family and good friends. This part of the chapter with its feeling of relative calm and normality adds suspense, as for a time the reader is lulled into a false sense of security by the lack of action.
In summary, chapter five is a pivotal chapter in the novel as it sees the birth of Victor’s creation and for the first time we see a glimpse of the disaster to come. Many themes are covered in this short chapter. It is clear that Shelley has drawn on her own personal experiences, the structure of society and scientific advances of the time and woven these experiences along with many of her radical views into the story. The result is that the novel is deeper and richer than it would have been without this multi-layered approach.