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.