Frankenstein Study Guide

Frankenstein

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein is presented as a frame tale, told by Captain Walton while on an expedition to the North Pole, where he finds Frankenstein. Frankenstein is a scientist who created a monstrous human-like Creature. The Creature tried to explain his murders to Frankenstein, claiming that people rejected and feared him, begging Frankenstein to make him a mate. Frankenstein first agrees then destroys the mate. The enraged Creature kills Frankenstein's wife, fleeing to the North Pole. After Frankenstein dies, Walton sees the Creature mourning as he floats away on a raft.

Brief Summary

Chapter XXIV begins with Victor's continuing story, in first-person, as told to Robert Walton. Victor decided to leave Geneva forever. One night, he heard a laugh that echoed through the mountains, and then the monster's voice. Thus began Victor's chase of the monster. He followed the monster's voice and pursued him up to the icy northern seas. When Victor had nearly caught up with the monster, the ice beneath him split, separating the two. Victor was stranded on his piece of ice until he saw Walton's ship and was rescued.

Here Victor has brought Walton up to speed and begs Walton to kill the monster if he sees him. Then Victor's narration ends and Walton picks up in his first-person voice, writing letters to his sister. Victor is on the verge of dying and Walton is afraid of losing Victor, his true companion.

Walton's sailors plead with him to head back to England if the ice breaks and frees the ship. Victor gives a speech about staying on course and being men. For a while, the sailors are moved by Victor's words, but later Walton agrees to sail southward. Before the ship sails back for England, however, Victor dies. A few days later, as Walton is surprised to find Victor's monster, weeping. The monster asserts that he was good when he was created, but that he was turned evil. Now that his creator has died, he himself is ready to die. He jumps off the ship and disappears.

Detailed Summary

Chapter XXIV begins with Victor's continuing story, in first-person, as told to Robert Walton. With nearly his entire family dead, Victor decided to leave Geneva forever. He traveled a little, trying to figure out which way the monster fled. One night Victor found himself in the cemetery where William, Elizabeth and Alphonse were buried. He cried and swore over their graves that he would find the monster and destroy him.

In that moment, Victor heard a laugh that echoed through the mountains, and then the monster's voice whispered that he was satisfied. Thus began Victor's chase of the monster. He followed the monster's voice and pursued him on a journey through the Black Sea and then Russia. It was cold, and Victor depended on peasants to help him stay on the monster's track. Following the monster was miserable for Victor, and his only joy came from sleeping, where he would have excellent dreams about his loved ones who had died.

During the chase, the monster would sometimes leave messages on trees or stones, encouraging Victor to follow him. He even left Victor food to eat. He stated the northern ices as his destination, where Victor would suffer from cold and the monster was immune to the elements. This only angered Victor more, and still he followed. The weather worsened as they traveled north. One of the monster's messages warned of worse challenges to come, and his words served to strengthen Victor's resolve.

Finally Victor reached the northern seas, covered in ice, and he obtained a sledge and dogs. With the sledge, Victor gained on the monster until he was only one day's traveling away from him. Soon, however, the monster also found a sledge and eluded Victor. Briefly, Victor despaired, but then the "spirits of the dead" reminded him of his quest for revenge, and he was revitalized.

The journey was extremely difficult, and Victor's dogs started to fatigue and one of them died. Victor was losing hope when he finally caught sight of the monster, far in the distance. He was overjoyed and pursued the monster with new vigor. He became less than a mile away from the monster when the wind picked up and the ice beneath him split separating Victor from the monster. On his piece of ice Victor remained, and several of his dogs died. Soon after, Victor spotted Walton's ship and constructed oars from his sledge. He pushed himself to the ship.

Here Victor has brought Walton up to speed and addresses him in the present tense. He implores Walton to kill the monster if he sees him, and to not be distracted by the monster's eloquent speech.

The remainder of the novel is in Walton's voice, writing five more letters to his sister, Margaret. He tells her that he thinks Victor's story is true. He has tried to find out Victor's secret to creation, but Victor has been steadfastly resistant. Walton wishes he could have known Victor in his healthier days. At this point, Victor is on the verge of dying. Walton is afraid of losing Victor, who he sees as his true companion.

Walton's crew of sailors enters his cabin one morning to plead with him to head back to England if the ice breaks and frees the ship. Walton is still passionate about the expedition, but wants to do what is right. Hearing the sailors, Victor gives a speech about continuing what they started, not giving up until they attain their goals of being heroes. He tells them to be "men or be more than men," and then they may enjoy glory. For a while, the sailors are moved by Victor's words, but two days later they again approach Walton with their pleas and Walton agrees to sail southward.

Before the ship sails back for England, however, Victor dies, still asking that they destroy the monster. A few days later, as Walton is writing a letter to Margaret, he hears a sound coming from Victor's cabin. He enters the room and is surprised to find Victor's hideous monster, weeping over Victor's lifeless body. The monster turns to Walton and expresses how much he has suffered. He deeply regrets that he went from being such a good creature to causing so much evil. He asserts that he was good when he was created, but that Victor's abandonment and rejection, and the way in which human society treated him turned him evil. Now that his creator has died, he himself is ready to die.

The monster decides he will burn himself. He jumps off the ship and disappears.

Analysis

In Victor's final chapter, both he and the monster move further and further away from normal society, and, in fact, from sanity. Both characters become even more monstrous. Even Victor's speech is similar to that of the monster in previous chapters. He claims he was "cursed by some devil" and he carried with him his "eternal hell." The monster made similar remarks after he had been driven away from the cottager family. These particular words echo those of Satan when he is driven from heaven in Paradise Lost . Both Victor and the monster are fallen angels, forced into their own hells.

Despite Victor's feelings of guilt and regret in previous chapters, he now sees himself as having been deeply wronged, and is not quite so penitent for his actions. When the crew on Walton's ship implore him to turn back to England once they are freed from the ice, Victor lectures that they ought to be "more than men," and press on with their journey to glory, no matter what the risk. In saying this, Victor makes it clear that he has not learned his lesson about the danger of pursuing knowledge too far. Despite all that has happened as a consequence of Victor's own hubristic journey to glory, he advises others to keep on that track and stop for nothing.

When Walton takes over the narration once more with his letters to his sister, he provides the closing "frame" for the novel. This narrative style of using several different voices to tell the same story allows the reader several different insights into each character. After having heard the monster's mournful life story, the reader is sympathetic towards him and can see Victor through the monster's eyes: as a selfish and insensitive scientist, playing recklessly with life and then refusing to follow through with his creation. When Victor again takes over narration and expresses to Walton (and the reader) how utterly destroyed his life has been by the monster, it is impossible not to feel sorry for Victor, and hateful towards the monster. Walton and the reader are on Victor's side by the time Victor dies. Both wish for just revenge against the monster, wanting him to pay for his crimes. Yet even then the monster makes himself pitiable again when he cries over Victor's body and explains how anguished and cursed his life has been. By the end of the novel, the reader is left with many complicated--and human--depictions of each character.

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