Summary: Chapter 6
Elizabeth’s letter expresses her concern about Victor’s illness and entreats him to write to his family in Geneva as soon as he can. She also tells him that Justine Moritz, a girl who used to live with the Frankenstein family, has returned to their house following her mother’s death.
After Victor has recovered, he introduces Henry, who is studying Oriental languages, to the professors at the university. The task is painful, however, since the sight of any chemical instrument worsens Victor’s symptoms; even speaking to his professors torments him. He decides to return to Geneva and awaits a letter from his father specifying the date of his departure. Meanwhile, he and Henry take a walking tour through the country, uplifting their spirits with the beauties of nature.
Summary: Chapter 7
On their return to the university, Victor finds a letter from his father telling him that Victor’s youngest brother, William, has been murdered. Saddened, shocked, and apprehensive, Victor departs immediately for Geneva. By the time he arrives, night has fallen and the gates of Geneva have been shut, so he spends the evening walking in the woods around the outskirts of the town. As he walks near the spot where his brother’s body was found, he spies the monster lurking and becomes convinced that his creation is responsible for killing William. The next day, however, when he returns home, Victor learns that Justine has been accused of the murder. After the discovery of the body, a servant had found in Justine’s pocket a picture of Caroline Frankenstein last seen in William’s possession. Victor proclaims Justine’s innocence, but the evidence against her seems irrefutable, and Victor refuses to explain himself for fear that he will be labeled insane.
Summary: Chapter 8
Justine confesses to the crime, believing that she will thereby gain salvation, but tells Elizabeth and Victor that she is innocent—and miserable. They remain convinced of her innocence, but Justine is soon executed. Victor becomes consumed with guilt, knowing that the monster he created and the cloak of secrecy within which the creation took place have now caused the deaths of two members of his family.
Analysis: Chapters 6–8
Victor’s incorporation of written letters into his story allows both Elizabeth and Alphonse to participate directly in the narrative, bypassing Victor to speak directly to Walton and the reader. However, at the same time that the letters increase the realism of the narrative, allowing the reader to hear the characters’ distinct voices, they also make the overall narrative less plausible. It is unlikely that Frankenstein would remember the letters word-for-word and even more unlikely that Walton would record them as such in his own letters to his sister. Furthermore, there is the question of filtering: the recollections of either Victor or Walton, or both, could be biased, either subconsciously or consciously. The presence of these letters foregrounds the issue of whether or not the narrator is reliable.
Women continue to play a mostly passive role in the narrative. Although Elizabeth stands up for Justine’s innocence, she, like Justine, is completely helpless to stop the execution. Only Victor has the power to do so, as he is in possession of crucial knowledge that could identify the real killer. It is clear where the power lies in the relationship between Victor and Elizabeth: he makes the decisions; she pleads with him to make the right ones.
Appearing in Ingolstadt at just the right moment to nurse Victor back to health, Henry serves as the line of communication between Victor and his family, presenting him with an avenue back to the warmth of society. In asking Victor to introduce him to the professors at the university, however, Henry drags him back into the realm of chemistry, science, and dangerous knowledge that he has just escaped. By accompanying Victor on his walking tour, Henry reawakens in him a sense of health, openness, and friendly society that he had lost during his months of work creating the monster. Henry plays the foil to Victor; he embodies relentless clarity, openness, concern, and good health, in sharp contrast to Victor’s secrecy, self-absorption, and ill health.