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Mary Shelley
Summary Chapters 21–23
Summary Chapters 21–23

Analysis: Chapters 21–23

Victor’s pattern of falling into extended illness in reaction to the monster suggests that the deterioration of his health is, to some extent, psychologically induced—as if guilt prevents him from facing fully the horribleness of the monster and his deeds. “The human frame could no longer support the agonizing suffering that I endured, and I was carried out of the room in strong convulsions,” he recounts of his despair at seeing Henry’s corpse, making an explicit link between psychological torment and physical infirmity. That Victor also falls ill soon after creating the monster and experiences a decline in health after the deaths of William and Justine points toward guilt as the trigger for this psychological mechanism.

Henry again serves as a link between Victor and society, as his death brings Alphonse to visit his son. “Nothing, at this moment, could have given me greater pleasure than the arrival of my father,” Victor says. As a result of spending so much time in Ingolstadt ignoring his family, and also as a result of the monster’s depredations, Victor becomes aware of the importance of interaction with family and friends. Having failed to inspire love in Victor, the monster seeks to establish a relationship with his creator that would force his creator to feel his pain. By destroying those people dear to Victor, the monster, acutely aware of the meaningfulness of social interaction, brings Victor closer and closer to the state of solitude that he himself has experienced since being created.

Victor’s formerly intense connection with sublime nature continues to fade, providing him no refuge from the horror of the monster’s deeds. No longer an enlightening or elevating source of inspiration or consolation, the natural world becomes a mere landscape within which Victor’s tragic dance with the monster plays itself out. The barren Arctic wasteland into which Victor soon chases the monster embodies the raw and primal quality of his hatred for his creation and becomes the final, inescapable resting place for both man and monster.

The murder of Elizabeth forms the climax of the novel, as it is the moment in which the monster finally succeeds in obliterating Victor’s social world. With his family, best friend, and faith in science snatched away from him, Victor can derive meaning in life only from his hatred of the monster. The crucial transition has been made: stripped of Elizabeth, the last, and most important, element of his life, Victor becomes dehumanized and develops an obsessive thirst for revenge similar to that exhibited previously by the monster.