Summary: Chapter 15
While foraging for food in the woods around the cottage one night, the monster finds an abandoned leather satchel containing some clothes and books. Eager to learn more about the world than he can discover through the chink in the cottage wall, he brings the books back to his hovel and begins to read.
The books include Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s
Dismayed by these discoveries, the monster wishes to reveal himself to the cottagers in the hope that they will see past his hideous exterior and befriend him. He decides to approach the blind De Lacey first, hoping to win him over while Felix, Agatha, and Safie are away. He believes that De Lacey, unprejudiced against his hideous exterior, may be able to convince the others of his gentle nature.
The perfect opportunity soon presents itself, as Felix, Agatha, and Safie depart one day for a long walk. The monster nervously enters the cottage and begins to speak to the old man. Just as he begins to explain his situation, however, the other three return unexpectedly. Felix drives the monster away, horrified by his appearance.
Summary: Chapter 16
In the wake of this rejection, the monster swears to revenge himself against all human beings, his creator in particular. Journeying for months out of sight of others, he makes his way toward Geneva. On the way, he spots a young girl, seemingly alone; the girl slips into a stream and appears to be on the verge of drowning. When the monster rescues the girl from the water, the man accompanying her, suspecting him of having attacked her, shoots him.
As he nears Geneva, the monster runs across Victor’s younger brother, William, in the woods. When William mentions that his father is Alphonse Frankenstein, the monster erupts in a rage of vengeance and strangles the boy to death with his bare hands. He takes a picture of Caroline Frankenstein that the boy has been holding and places it in the folds of the dress of a girl sleeping in a barn—Justine Moritz, who is later executed for William’s murder.
Having explained to Victor the circumstances behind William’s murder and Justine’s conviction, the monster implores Victor to create another monster to accompany him and be his mate.
Summary: Chapter 17
The monster tells Victor that it is his right to have a female monster companion. Victor refuses at first, but the monster appeals to Victor’s sense of responsibility as his creator. He tells Victor that all of his evil actions have been the result of a desperate loneliness. He promises to take his new mate to South America to hide in the jungle far from human contact. With the sympathy of a fellow monster, he argues, he will no longer be compelled to kill. Convinced by these arguments, Victor finally agrees to create a female monster. Overjoyed but still skeptical, the monster tells Victor that he will monitor Victor’s progress and that Victor need not worry about contacting him when his work is done.
Analysis: Chapters 15–17
The monster continues to address Victor directly, reminding the reader of the relationship between the two, the concrete situation in which the monster’s story is being told (the hut on Montanvert), and the complicated narrative structure of the novel. Furthermore, quotes like “Unfeeling, heartless creator! You had endowed me with perceptions and passions, and then cast me abroad an object for the scorn and horror of mankind” serve not only to structure the narrative formally but also to emphasize that the monster has a purpose in telling his story: he wants to elicit a reaction from Victor, a recognition of Victor’s responsibility for his disastrous plight.
The theme of sublime nature reappears in the monster’s narrative, and nature’s ability to affect the monster powerfully, as it does Victor, humanizes him. It is worth noting that whereas Victor seeks the high, cold, hard world of the Alps for comfort, as if to freeze (and hence incapacitate) his guilt about the murder, the monster finds solace in the soft colors and smells of a springtime forest, symbolizing his desire to reveal himself to the world and interact with others. “Half surprised by the novelty of these sensations, I allowed myself to be borne away by them; and, forgetting my solitude and deformity, dared to be happy,” the monster says. Unlike Victor, he is able to push away, at least temporarily, the negative aspects of his existence.