When Victor is 7, there is another addition to the family when William, a
brother, is born. The family settles down in Geneva and Victor and Elizabeth have a happy childhood together.
Another character is introduced, Henry Clerval, who is a creative child
interested in books and folklore.
Victor’s father, a well-read man, encourages Victor to read from his
extensive library, and at the age of 13, Victor becomes interested in the books of Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, and Albertus Magnus, all alchemists.
Victor has an insatiable appetite for knowledge and in particular for the sciences. At the age of 15, Victor is caught in a severe electrical storm, and he wonders at the possible applications this force could be used for.
The reader has the impression that Victor was a wild child, and that
Elizabeth was the most important calming influence over him.
We also have the first indication of Victor’s drive and determination to
acquire more knowledge and understanding of the sciences and the forces of nature. Again, this mirrors Mary Shelley’s own obsession with learning as a child.
Victor needs to know the answers to the laws that govern the physical world.
Alchemy was a subject studied in order to, for example, find the elixir of
life, and also how to make gold from base metal.
There is also an indication that Victor is mainly a solitary person, and
really only has one lifelong friend, who is introduced to us in this chapter, Henry Clerval.
Henry is really a contradiction to Victor, who comes across as a Gothic character, whereas Henry is a romantic. Henry is more fascinated with the heroes of the past e.g. King Arthur.
The Gothic element of the book emerges again through the description of the
summer thunderstorm. This is to be a frequent symbol throughout the novel, and is usually introduces as a prequel to evil.
This experience that Victor has during the storm is the turning point in his life, and serves as the catalyst to feed Victor’s passion to pursue a scientific field of learning.
Shelley also experienced such a storm in the summer of 1816 with her
friends, when she started forming the idea of “Frankenstein”, her most famous literary work. We can assume that Shelley considers this force to be evil, and although the details of how Frankenstein’s monster
is created are not described in the book, the hint is that this force of electricity is an important ingredient.