Frankenstein Book Summary - Frankenstein Book explained in key points
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Frankenstein summary

Mary Shelley

The Modern Prometheus

4.7 (227 ratings)
19 mins

Brief summary

"Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley is a classic gothic novel that explores the dangers of ambition and the consequences of playing god. It tells the story of a young scientist who creates a monster that ultimately destroys his life and the lives of those around him.

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    The Demise of Victor Frankenstein

    The story of Frankenstein begins with four letters, written by an ambitious young explorer named Robert Walton to his sister Margaret. 

    Walton recounts his preparations for his exploration mission to the North Pole. Although he reports feeling lonely and isolated from his shipmates, he’s driven by his desire to accomplish something great. Soon after setting sail, Walton and his crew encounter a stranded, emaciated man stuck in the ice with his sledge. They take him on board and nurse him back to strength. In turn, the stranger shares his story.

    He turns out to be none other than Victor Frankenstein.

    Victor begins the tale of his demise with his childhood. He grows up as the only child of his well-to-do parents in Geneva. When he’s five, his mother adopts an orphan girl, Elizabeth. Apart from his best friend Henry, Elizabeth becomes Victor’s most beloved childhood companion. Later, his parents have another child, his younger brother William. 

    From a young age, Victor is obsessed with natural philosophy. He particularly loves old school alchemists like Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, and Albertus Magnus. One day, he watches a lightning bolt destroy a tree near his house and becomes fascinated with electricity.

    After his mother’s untimely death, 17-year-old Victor leaves to study in Ingolstadt, Germany. His new professors update his scientific knowledge and leave a deep impression with him. Victor is more determined than ever to devote his life to the pursuit of scientific greatness. 

    Soon, he becomes so absorbed in his studies that he forgets all about his family in Geneva. He’s particularly interested in the mysteries of life, death and decay. But he goes further than anyone before him: Victor Frankenstein discovers the secret of life. 


    Mary Shelley started writing Frankenstein in 1816, when she was just 18 years old, on a rainy summer vacation in the Swiss Alps. Trapped indoors reading ghost stories, she and her travel companions started a horror story contest. Among these companions were her future husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, as well as Lord Byron. But Mary was the only one to later publish her story. 

    The culture of communal story-telling responsible for the book’s creation is reflected in its structure. The story is mainly told by explorer Robert, who in turn hears it from Frankenstein himself. But Frankenstein’s account too is interspersed with letters by his family. In a later part of the book, we even hear from the monster itself. So like any good horror story, the tale of Frankenstein is told and retold many times. 

    Mary Shelley’s travels to Geneva and Burg Frankenstein in Germany seem to have inspired the settings of the book. There’s also a clear influence of the Gothic and Romantic literary traditions of her time. But the mix of science and horror she concocted was groundbreaking. So much so that some consider Frankenstein to be the first science-fiction novel of all time. 

    “I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation”.

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    What is Frankenstein about?

    Frankenstein (1818) is a Gothic horror classic that tells the tale of ambitious young scientist Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with the idea of creating life, Frankenstein assembles a freakish human-like monster. But when he animates it, he’s shocked at the horror he’s created. Although the monster seeks affection at first, it’s continually rejected and eventually seeks revenge on humankind.

    Frankenstein Review

    Frankenstein (1818) by Mary Shelley is a gripping tale that explores the limits of ambition and the consequences of playing god. Here's why this book is definitely worth reading:

    • With its deep philosophical themes and moral dilemmas, it challenges readers to contemplate the ethical implications of scientific advancements.
    • The complex characters and their emotional turmoil make the story relatable and thought-provoking, leaving a lasting impact on the reader.
    • Through its haunting narrative and exploration of human nature, the book offers a unique perspective on the nature of life and the pursuit of knowledge.

    Who should read Frankenstein?

    • Anyone who knows the name Frankenstein but has never read the book
    • Fans of a good horror story that makes you squirm
    • Lovers of classic literature

    About the Author

    Mary Shelley (1797 - 1851) was a British novelist most famous for the horror classic Frankenstein (1818). Her mother was renowned philosopher and women’s rights advocate Mary Willstonecraft, and her father was the political philosopher William Godwin. Apart from writing her own works, she also edited the poems of her husband, the famous Romantic poet Percy Shelley. Frankenstein was the result of a horror story writing contest Shelley had with her husband and Lord Byron during a summer vacation. 

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    Frankenstein FAQs 

    What is the main message of Frankenstein?

    The main message of Frankenstein is the dangerous consequences of playing god and the importance of acceptance and empathy.

    How long does it take to read Frankenstein?

    The reading time for Frankenstein varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Frankenstein a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Frankenstein is a thought-provoking and timeless masterpiece worth reading. It explores deep themes and raises ethical questions about humanity.

    Who is the author of Frankenstein?

    The author of Frankenstein is Mary Shelley.

    What to read after Frankenstein?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Frankenstein, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe
    • Beowulf by Unknown
    • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
    • Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
    • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
    • Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
    • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
    • Dune by Frank Herbert
    • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    • Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) by George Orwell