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Frankenstein

Mary Shelley

Chapters 18–20

Chapters 15–17

Chapters 21–23

Summary: Chapter 18

After his fateful meeting with the monster on the glacier, Victor puts off the creation of a new, female creature. He begins to have doubts about the wisdom of agreeing to the monster’s request. He realizes that the project will require him to travel to England to gather information. His father notices that his spirits are troubled much of the time—Victor, still racked by guilt over the deaths of William and Justine, is now newly horrified by the task in which he is about to engage—and asks him if his impending marriage to Elizabeth is the source of his melancholy. Victor assures him that the prospect of marriage to Elizabeth is the only happiness in his life. Eager to raise Victor’s spirits, Alphonse suggests that they celebrate the marriage immediately. Victor refuses, unwilling to marry Elizabeth until he has completed his obligation to the monster. He asks Alphonse if he can first travel to England, and Alphonse consents.

Victor and Alphonse arrange a two-year tour, on which Henry Clerval, eager to begin his studies after several years of unpleasant work for his father in Geneva, will accompany Victor. After traveling for a while, they reach London.

Summary: Chapter 19

Victor and Henry journey through England and Scotland, but Victor grows impatient to begin his work and free himself of his bond to the monster. Victor has an acquaintance in a Scottish town, with whom he urges Henry to stay while he goes alone on a tour of Scotland. Henry consents reluctantly, and Victor departs for a remote, desolate island in the Orkneys to complete his project.

Quickly setting up a laboratory in a small shack, Victor devotes many hours to working on his new creature. He often has trouble continuing his work, however, knowing how unsatisfying, even grotesque, the product of his labor will be.

Summary: Chapter 20

While working one night, Victor begins to think about what might happen after he finishes his creation. He imagines that his new creature might not want to seclude herself, as the monster had promised, or that the two creatures might have children, creating “a race of devils . . . on the earth.” In the midst of these reflections and growing concern, Victor looks up to see the monster grinning at him through the window. Overcome by the monster’s hideousness and the possibility of a second creature like him, he destroys his work in progress. The monster becomes enraged at Victor for breaking his promise, and at the prospect of his own continued solitude. He curses and vows revenge, then departs, swearing that he will be with Victor on his wedding night.

The following night, Victor receives a letter from Henry, who, tired of Scotland, suggests that they continue their travels. Before he leaves his shack, Victor cleans and packs his chemical instruments and collects the remains of his second creature. Late that evening, he rows out onto the ocean and throws the remains into the water, allowing himself to rest in the boat for a while. When he wakes, he finds that the winds will not permit him to return to shore. Panicking, in fear for his life, he contemplates the possibility of dying at sea, blown far out into the Atlantic. Soon the winds change, however, and he reaches shore near a town. When he lands, a group of townspeople greet him rudely, telling him that he is under suspicion for a murder discovered the previous night.

Analysis: Chapters 18–20

The contrast, first established at Ingolstadt, between the inwardly focused Victor and the outwardly focused Henry sharpens as the natural world produces differing effects in the two men. Earlier, Henry’s interaction with the Frankenstein family and general sociability counter Victor’s secrecy and self-isolation. Similarly, his optimism and cheer in the presence of sublime nature now counter the anxiety that Victor feels in knowing that the monster pervades his natural surroundings. For Henry, “alive to every new scene; joyful when he saw the beauties of the setting sun, and more happy when he beheld it rise,” nature is a source of infinite bliss, while for Victor it has become an unending reminder of his imprudent meddling, and of his responsibility for the tragedies that have plagued him.

An appreciation of nature is not the only aspect of Victor’s character that Henry seems to have adopted: Henry is now enthusiastic about natural philosophy and eager to explore the world—much like Victor had been two years before. Victor himself notes that “in Clerval I saw the image of my former self.” One can argue that Henry represents the impending ruin of another young, brilliant man by science; one can also argue that he represents the healthy, safe route to scientific knowledge that Victor never took. In either case, Victor’s emotional outbursts strongly foreshadow Henry’s death: “And where does he now exist?” he asks. “Is this gentle and lovely being lost forever?”

The pervading theme of the passive, innocent woman—manifested in the mother who sacrifices herself for her daughter, the fiancée who waits endlessly for her future husband, and the orphan girl who is rescued from poverty—culminates in this section with the female monster whose creation Victor suddenly aborts after being struck by doubts about the correctness of his actions. Though never alive, the female monster is a powerful presence: to Victor, she represents another crime against humanity and nature; to the monster, she represents his one remaining hope for a life not spent alone. Even Victor, as he tears his creation apart, recognizes her near-humanity: “I almost felt,” he says, “as if I had mangled the living flesh of a human being.” Victor’s decision to destroy the female creature can be seen as an explicitly anti-feminist action. He fears her ability to reproduce (and thereby create a “race of devils”); he fears that, as a woman, she will refuse to satisfy the male monster for whom she has been created; and he fears that he will unleash another power into the world that he cannot control. Unlike the God of Genesis, who creates a woman to keep Adam company, Victor does not have ultimate power over his creations. His anxiety leads him to project a stereotypically male activeness onto the female creature; his decision to destroy her ensures her absolute passivity.

Victor sprinkles his speech with metanarrative comments that remind the reader of the relationship between storyteller and audience, shape the upcoming narrative, and demonstrate the narrator’s deep emotional investment in his story. “I must pause here; for it requires all my fortitude to recall the memory of the frightful events which I am about to relate, in proper detail, to my recollection,” Victor says, illustrating that he is overwhelmed by emotion and offering a glimpse of the horrific story that he is about to tell. Victor’s apostrophes to his absent friends serve the same purposes, adding to the emotional impact of his speech, emphasizing the poignancy of his nostalgic memories, and calling attention to the layered narrative. When Victor cries out “Clerval! Beloved Friend! Even now it delights me to record your words,” the reader senses the power of Victor’s emotion and its ultimate uselessness against the force of fate. Additionally, the mention of “record[ing]” Henry’s words underscores the fact that it is only through Walton that the reader has access to the other characters and their narratives.

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Monster's Creation

by fritzalicious, August 14, 2012

The book doesn't specify if the monster was created by one man or several or how he was brought to life. I think we can safely guess that the monster was brought to life using electricity because it has such an influence on Victor. SPOILER ALERT. I would also say that is safe to say that the monster was probably created using more than one man because later on Victor tears apart/destroys the monster's companion before he completes her creation. These are just my thoughts and if anyone has anything else they would like to add please comment

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Monster

by madisonhatfield, August 15, 2012

When you say the the Monster was created by more than one man, do you mean that Victor was assisted by other people; or that the contents of the Monsters body were the product of more than one person?

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Answer

by SexyCucumber13, November 06, 2012

The contents of the body were made from different pieces in the graveyard.

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