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Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein opens with Robert Walton’s ship surrounded in ice, and Robert Walton watching, along with his crew, as a huge, malformed "traveller" on a dog sled vanished across the ice. The next morning, the fog lifted and the ice separated and they found a man, that was almost frozen lying on a slab of floating ice. By giving him hot soup and rubbing his body with brandy, the crew restored him to his health. A few days later he was able to speak and the stranger, Victor Frankenstein, seemed distressed to learn that a sled had been sighted prior to his rescue from the ice. Then he began to tell his story.
Frankenstein said that he had been an only child and during a expedition with his parents, his mother found a peasant and his wife with five hungry babies. The peasant’s children were dark-skinned, except for one little girl. Frankenstein’s mother decided to adopt the little girl. Victor and his adopted sister, Elizabeth, came to love one another, even though they were very different in temperament and nature. Elizabeth "busied herself with following the aerial creations of poets," while Frankenstein preferred scientific knowledge "it was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn ... the physical secrets of the world." After the death of his mother when he was seventeen, Frankenstein departed for the University of Inglostadt. Frankenstein grew intensely interested in the phenomena of the human body and he explored the processes of death and decay, and became infatuated with the idea of creating human life itself.

After several days and nights of laboring, he “succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life; nay, more, I became myself capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter." Frankenstein set out to create a superior living being, hoping to eventually discover a formula for eternal life. In his research Frankenstein determinedly collected human remains from charnel-houses and cemeteries. Then, "on a dreary night of November ... I beheld the accomplishment of my toils": an eight-foot monster. Applying electricity to the "lifeless matter" before him, Frankenstein saw "the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and convulsive motion agitated its limbs." And at the result of his creation coming to life, Frankenstein was appalled. "Breathless horror and disgust filled my heart." He thought that he had created a freak. Exhausted, Frankenstein fell into a deep sleep, seeking a "few moments of forgetfulness.

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