Summary: Chapter 24
His whole family destroyed, Victor decides to leave Geneva and the painful memories it holds behind him forever. He tracks the monster for months, guided by slight clues, messages, and hints that the monster leaves for him. Angered by these taunts, Victor continues his pursuit into the ice and snow of the North. There he meets Walton and tells his story. He entreats Walton to continue his search for vengeance after he is dead.
Summary: Walton, in Continuation
I, the miserable and the abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on.
Walton then regains control of the narrative, continuing the story in the form of further letters to his sister. He tells her that he believes in the truth of Victor’s story. He laments that he did not know Victor, who remains on the brink of death, in better days.
One morning, Walton’s crewmen enter his cabin and beg him to promise that they will return to England if they break out of the ice in which they have been trapped ever since the night they first saw the monster’s sledge. Victor speaks up, however, and convinces the men that the glory and honor of their quest should be enough motivation for them to continue toward their goal. They are momentarily moved, but two days later they again entreat Walton, who consents to the plan of return.
Just before the ship is set to head back to England, Victor dies. Several days later, Walton hears a strange sound coming from the room in which Victor’s body lies. Investigating the noise, Walton is startled to find the monster, as hideous as Victor had described, weeping over his dead creator’s body. The monster begins to tell him of all his sufferings. He says that he deeply regrets having become an instrument of evil and that, with his creator dead, he is ready to die. He leaves the ship and departs into the darkness.
Analysis: Chapter 24 & Walton, in Continuation
By this point in the novel, Victor has assumed the very inhumanity of which he accuses the monster. Just as the monster earlier haunts Victor, seeking revenge on him for having destroyed any possibility of a mate for him, Victor now experiences an obsessive need to exact revenge on the monster for murdering his loved ones. Like the monster, he finds himself utterly alone in the world, with nothing but hatred of his nemesis to sustain him.
Echoes of the monster’s earlier statements now appear in Victor’s speech, illustrating the extent to which Victor has become dehumanized. “I was cursed by some devil,” he cries, “and carried about with me my eternal hell.” This is the second allusion to the passage in Paradise Lost in which Satan, cast out from Heaven, says that he himself is Hell. The first allusion, made by the monster after being repulsed by the cottagers, is nearly identical: “I, like the arch fiend, bore a hell within me.” Driven by their hatred, the two monsters—Victor and his creation—move farther and farther away from human society and sanity.
The final section of the novel, in which Walton continues the story, completes the framing narrative. Walton’s perception of Victor as a great, noble man ruined by the events described in the story adds to the tragic conclusion of the novel. The technique of framing narratives within narratives not only allows the reader to hear the voices of all of the main characters, but also provides multiple views of the central characters. Walton sees Frankenstein as a noble, tragic figure; Frankenstein sees himself as an overly proud and overly ambitious victim of fate; the monster sees Frankenstein as a reckless creator, too self-centered to care for his creation.
Similarly, while Walton and Frankenstein deem the monster a malevolent, insensitive brute, the monster casts himself as a martyred classical hero: “I shall ascend my funeral pile triumphantly and exult in the agony of the torturing flames,” he says. Fittingly, the last few pages of the novel are taken up with the monster’s own words as he attempts to gain self-definition before leaving for the northern ice to die. That the monster reassumes control of the narrative from Walton ensures that, after Victor’s death and even after his own, the struggle to understand who or what the monster really is—Adam or Satan, tragic victim or arch-villain—will go on.