Character Analysis in Frankenstein
Victor Frankenstein: Victor is that protagonist of our story and the creator of the monster. His avid curiosity led him to pursue a life of scientific experimentation. During his time studying chemistry at Ingolstadt, he creates the monster out of body parts of the deceased. Upon gazing at his horrific creation, Victor is filled with immediate regret. Over the course of the novel, Victor develops from curious, young scholar to a deeply troubled, guilt-ridden adult. Victor feels ashamed and guilty for the havoc the monster wreaks on his closest family and friends. After the murder of his beloved Elizabeth, Victor chases the monster into the far reaches of the Northern Arctic, It is here Victor relates his tale to Robert Walton, before ultimately perishing in the freezing conditions.
The Creature: At first, the creature only wants to be accepted by humanity. However, due to his grotesque appearance and terrifying 8-ft-tall stature, he is repeatedly shunned and rejected. The creature grows to despise his creator and vows to seek revenge, eventually murdering a number of Frankenstein’s close friends and family. However, the creature is not entirely evil or malicious. In fact, in a number of instances he demonstrates both kindness and intelligence. Throughout the narrative, the creature’s main desire is to feel love and acceptance from others. It is this desire that drives him to demand Frankenstein make him a female partner. When Frankenstein abandons this project, tearing the creature’s potential counterpart into pieces, the creature is sent into a blinding rage. After murdering Elizabeth, the creature taunts Frankenstein, leading him on a chase into the Arctic North.
Character Analysis Examples in Frankenstein:
Letter I 2
" I shall satiate my ardent curiosity with the sight of a part of the world never before visited, and may tread a land never before imprinted by the foot of man. ..." See in text (Letter I)
Walton’s ardent curiosity mirrors Frankenstein’s own thirst for knowledge. Both characters desire to uncover mysteries never before accessible to humanity, and in doing so place themselves at great risk. Shelley’s narrative serves to show how a thirst for knowledge for knowledge’s sake can lead to dangerous discoveries and consequences.
"I try in vain to be persuaded that the pole is the seat of frost and desolation; it ever presents itself to my imagination as the region of beauty and delight...." See in text (Letter I)
Walton’s statement reveals his stubbornness and strong desire to pursue knowledge. As the story advances, Shelley introduces characters that have qualities similar to Walton’s; this creates doppelganger relationships between Walton and those other characters, and at the same time, raises the question of whether the pursuit of knowledge is good or bad.
Letter II 3
"fixed as fate..." See in text (Letter II)
Walton’s ambition—to explore the Arctic—mirrors Frankenstein’s single-minded pursuit of creating life, no matter what the consequences. The two characters are mirror images of each other at the beginnings of both of their stories, which is why Frankenstein decides that Walton is the perfect audience for his tale. The notion of a fixed fate or destiny is a key theme throughout the narrative. Frankenstein often bemoans his circumstances as if he is a victim of a predetermined fate.
"I desire the company of a man who could sympathise with me; whose eyes would reply to mine...." See in text (Letter II)
Walton desperately wants a friend who can understand him and empathize with him in regards to his ambitions; he wants a friend “whose tastes are like [his] own.” However, more importantly, Walton hopes for someone who has a “cultivated” and “capacious mind” to “approve or amend [his] plans.” He seems to feel slightly insecure about his self-educated background and wishes that a friend can “repair [his] faults.” This implies that he acknowledges human imperfection, especially in himself. Overall, Walton’s description of such a friend foreshadows his encounter with Victor Frankenstein.
"I cannot describe to you my sensations on the near prospect of my undertaking. It is impossible to communicate to you a conception of the trembling sensation, half pleasurable and half fearful, with which I am preparing to depart...." See in text (Letter II)
Being unable to explicitly describe his sensations that are “half pleasurable and half fearful,” Walton is experiencing the sentimental sublime, an overwhelming and often inexplicable amount or level of emotion and a major element in Romanticism. Descriptions of nature are often used to represent such experiences. This element will repeatedly show up throughout Frankenstein, situating the text as a Romantic novel.
Letter III 2
"the very stars themselves being witnesses and testimonies of my triumph...." See in text (Letter III)
Walton’s passion to conquer nature through making discoveries is strong. Instead of addressing his crew that is traveling with him, he personifies the stars, calling them “witnesses” and “testimonies” of his achievement; it is as if those stars, elements of nature, have already been “conquered” by Walton, having to serve as his “witnesses” and to support his expedition. In this way, Walton is underestimating the power of nature. As the story progresses, the prideful desire to conquer nature will be revealed in other characters and develop into a major theme.
"But success shall crown my endeavours...." See in text (Letter III)
The word choice “shall” reflects Walton’s strong intention and confidence in his expedition. The italicization emphasizes his determination. To Walton, his success will act as a “crown” that represents triumph, honor, and praise; Walton’s word choice “crown” reveals his pride.
Letter IV 9
"I believe it to be an intuitive discernment; a quick but never-failing power of judgment; a penetration into the causes of things, unequalled for clearness and precision;..." See in text (Letter IV)
Walton greatly admires and envies Victor Frankenstein’s logical powers, his acutely scientific mind. Walton has not yet taken into account Frankenstein’s continual warnings about the downside of wielding such a mind.
"Unhappy man! Do you share my madness?..." See in text (Letter IV)
Frankenstein immediately recognizes the path Walton is pursuing and tries to offer a warning. He blames his state of instability and ruin on the “madness” of pursuing knowledge. Such a warning provides readers with insights into Frankenstein’s past as well as an instance of foreshadowing, for the dangerous pursuit of knowledge is one of the novel’s core themes.
"I shall continue my journal concerning the stranger at intervals, should I have any fresh incidents to record...." See in text (Letter IV)
Walton’s word choice here is telling. Walton shifts quickly from calling Frankenstein “brother of my heart” to calling him “stranger.” This shift shows his continued wariness around the mysterious Frankenstein.
"I never saw a more interesting creature:..." See in text (Letter IV)
It is intriguing that Walton refers to Frankenstein as a “creature.” On one level, this characterization draws attention to Frankenstein’s desperate, ragged state as a result of his pursuit across the arctic. On another level, the word serves as a bit of foreshadowing, comparing Frankenstein to another character in the novel often called “creature.”
"“Before I come on board your vessel,” said he, “will you have the kindness to inform me whither you are bound?”..." See in text (Letter IV)
Victor Frankenstein presents himself with an almost humorous degree of social grace. On the brink of hypothermia and starvation, Frankenstein nonetheless has the presence of mind to inquire after the direction of the ship. This passage is an apt introduction to Frankenstein and his characteristic verbal elegance.
"draught..." See in text (Letter IV)
Draught, is the British spelling of draft, which can refer to a breeze, or a drink. Shelley uses it metaphorically here; Victor is essentially asking if Walton has also drunk from the fountain of knowledge. Victor’s calling the draught intoxicating reflects how thirsty for knowledge he truly is. Regardless, he goes on to warn Walton about the dangers of pursuing knowledge by sharing his own experience.
"the violence of his feelings, he appeared to despise himself for being the slave of passion; ..." See in text (Letter IV)
The violence of Victor’s feelings suggests that his emotions are intense and wild, making it difficult for him to contain them. “Slave of passion” implies that Victor is so obsessed with gaining knowledge that he is a slave to the process. These descriptions depict excessive emotion, an element in Romanticism. At the same time, they reveal the self-contradictory nature within Victor: he dislikes himself for being so passionate about knowledge.
"a being which had the shape of a man, but apparently of gigantic stature,..." See in text (Letter IV)
This is the reader’s first encounter with Victor Frankenstein’s creature. Shelley purposefully describes the creature as large, but with the “shape of a man.” Doing so makes readers question the creature’s humanity, specifically in regards to his physical appearance.
"brother of my heart...." See in text (Letter IV)
Such word choices are typical of romantic literature. Walton’s calling Victor a “brother of [his] heart” reveals how much he cares about Victor and how he sees qualities in Victor similar to his own. This also reinforces Walton’s desperation for a friend on his expedition. Victor naturally becomes the kind of friend that Walton has been waiting for.
Chapter I 6
"Every one loved Elizabeth. The passionate and almost reverential attachment with which all regarded her became, while I shared it, my pride and my delight...." See in text (Chapter I)
Elizabeth’s character can be interpreted as the embodiment of the innocence and purity that Frankenstein wishes he could have. Frankenstein has demonstrated a level of darkness as well as an interest in the occult, tendencies which will only become stronger as the novel goes on. Elizabeth is the antithesis of these characteristics. Instead, she stands for all that is pure and good.
"She appeared of a different stock..." See in text (Chapter I)
Notice how Frankenstein’s description of his parents’ benevolence is colored by a condescending tone. When they enter the cottage, Frankenstein notices that this child is “of a different stock,” or of a greater value than the other peasants in the home. This condescension once again marks Victor as an unreliable narrator to the discerning reader.
"With this deep consciousness of what they owed towards the being to which they had given life, added to the active spirit of tenderness that animated both..." See in text (Chapter I)
In this first chapter, Frankenstein establishes the behaviors of good parents. He makes a point of illustrating parenthood as an obligation towards one’s child because one has brought this child into the world. Frankenstein seems to admire his parents’ devotion to him and his upbringing. As the story progresses, the reader will find that Frankenstein does not follow his own standards for good parenting with the creature he creates.
"There was a show of gratitude and worship in his attachment to my mother, differing wholly from the doting fondness of age, for it was inspired by reverence for her virtues, and a desire to be the means of, in some degree, recompensing her for the sorrows she had endured, but which gave inexpressible grace to his behaviour to her...." See in text (Chapter I)
Remember that this description of Frankenstein’s parents occurs within the frame story of Frankenstein telling his life story. The romantic notions and glorification of these two people suggests a lot about Victor’s perspective on the world, namely his romanticized, binary view of people.
"I cannot refrain from relating them..." See in text (Chapter I)
Notice how Frankenstein draws out the story of his youth rather than immediately jumping into telling the story of the monster. From a storytelling perspective, this could be interpreted as a narrative device that helps to establish Victor’s family and personality. Within the story, this could be interpreted as Victor trying to delay talking about his crimes and suggest that the character feels shame for his actions .
" I received a lesson of patience, of charity, and of self-control,..." See in text (Chapter I)
The description of Victor as an “innocent and helpless creature” from “Heaven” suggests that his parents believed in the tabula rasa principal of upbringing, or that children are born as blank slates who must be taught everything they need to know. This belief gave Victor's parents a “deep consciousness” to teach him “patience, [charity, and self-control.]” Ironically, as the story advances, the reader will realize that Victor does not entirely live out these qualities.
Chapter II 8
"It was a strong effort of the spirit of good; but it was ineffectual. Destiny was too potent, and her immutable laws had decreed my utter and terrible destruction...." See in text (Chapter II)
Frankenstein describes his shift away from alchemy and mysticism towards mathematics and “secure” science as if a guardian angel was attempting to divert him from his ill-fated course. However, the chapter concludes with a more pessimistic message; that Frankenstein was always destined to follow a path of destruction, led by the dark forces of the occult and ‘natural philosophy.’
"by some fatality the overthrow of these men disinclined me to pursue my accustomed studies...." See in text (Chapter II)
After witnessing lightning striking an oak tree and having the laws of electricity explained to him, Frankenstein immediately rejects the teachings of Agrippa, Paraclesus etc. in favor of the “secure” science of mathematics. This sudden change in belief demonstrates how Frankenstein is easily swayed from his own beliefs and thinking.
"Sir Isaac Newton..." See in text (Chapter II)
Sir Issac Newton (1642–1726) was an English mathematician, physicist and astronomer that would have been known in Shelley’s time as a “natural philosopher.” Newton most famously formulated the theory of gravity. However, Newton also dabbled in alchemy and the occult and was said to be looking for the philosopher’s stone for over half his lifetime. Frankenstein’s reference to Newton as a child picking up shells is an allusion to Newton’s memoirs in which he states: “I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” Frankenstein compares his own frustrations to Newton’s in arguing that he has been unable thus far to make any major discoveries.
"I feel exquisite pleasure in dwelling on the recollections of childhood, before misfortune had tainted my mind..." See in text (Chapter II)
This is one of the rare moments in which we witness Victor perceive knowledge as “misfortune” or a negative element in his life. He enjoys reflecting on his childhood because he longs for the innocence he once had. “Tainted” suggests that gaining knowledge pollutes one’s mind, further emphasizing how obtaining knowledge can be bad and how one cannot unlearn what they’ve learned. This raises the question of whether knowledge acquisition is good or bad in the context of the Enlightenment.
"secrets of heaven..." See in text (Chapter II)
Victor’s thirst for knowledge is not limited to the hows and whys of Nature on Earth. He has a strong desire to go beyond earthly knowledge and to comprehend the “secrets of heaven.” This choice of words suggests that Victor is pursuing what is beyond human knowledge and intelligibility. In addition, this implies that his pursuit is offensive and will continue to offend Nature as the story progresses.
"Harmony was the soul of our companionship, and the diversity and contrast that subsisted in our characters drew us nearer together...." See in text (Chapter II)
In this passage, Shelley shows the differences between Elizabeth and Victor, and how such differences set the foundation of their relationship. While Elizabeth has a gentle spirit and strong admiration for Nature, Victor has an overwhelming passion for investigating Nature’s elements and causes. In this comparison, Elizabeth serves as an example of how humans should embrace and appreciate Nature, submitting to its powers and mysteries without questioning it. Shelley’s depiction of Elizabeth also emphasizes Victor’s desire to question and conquer Nature.
"It was my temper to avoid a crowd and to attach myself fervently to a few. ..." See in text (Chapter II)
Victor’s natural inclination is to avoid crowds and only allow himself to be close to a few people. This is likely due to his upbringing in a loving and close-knit family and why he felt indifferent towards his schoolmates. Regardless, he eventually develops a camaraderie with Henry Clerval.
"It was a strong effort of the spirit of good; but it was ineffectual. Destiny was too potent, and her immutable laws had decreed my utter and terrible destruction...." See in text (Chapter II)
The “strong effort of the spirit of good” represents Nature’s final attempt to turn Victor away from the path of self-destruction. However, Victor’s stubborn and prideful character causes him to ignore Nature’s efforts, making them “ineffectual.” After creating the monster, Victor realizes that Destiny, with laws “immutable,” or never-changing, has “decreed” his “terrible destruction” for his crime of creation. Shelley personifies Destiny, giving it agency and authority, emphasizes its power.
Chapter III 4
"one by one the various keys were touched which formed the mechanism of my being: chord after chord was sounded, and soon my mind was filled with one thought, one conception, one purpose...." See in text (Chapter III)
Frankenstein describes, using the image of playing a piano, the moment that his obsession entirely overcomes him. Frankenstein is represented by the piano, which produces sound by depressing keys that then strike chords in the piano’s interior. An outside force—Waldman’s words—causes Frankenstein’s “keys” to trigger, and now he is filled with nothing but the echoing sounds of his ambition: “I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation.”
"Chance—or rather the evil influence..." See in text (Chapter III)
Again we see Frankenstein attempting to mitigate his responsibility for his future actions. Here he refers to coincidence using divine references, like “evil” and “angel,” to make its force seem more powerful than he. After Frankenstein’s meetings with his professors, he resolves to prove that he can upstage them. He wants Walton to believe that it is chance, not ambition, that leads to his creature. He wants to be seen as a victim of chance and bad luck rather than the creator of his own fate and responsibilities.
"when she recalled the sunshine of her smiles and spent them upon us..." See in text (Chapter III)
Frankenstein portrays Elizabeth as an ideal partner, a beautiful being whose selflessness is unparalleled. This is most present in this simile, where Elizabeth’s smiles are likened to sunshine —warm and enjoyable. Elizabeth, unlike Frankenstein, is devoted to others’ well-being, and her presence illuminates even those caught in grief. There is also the implication that Elizabeth’s time is limited as she “spends” her brightness on others, implying that she has a finite amount left to give.
"Yet from whom has not that rude hand rent away some dear connection?..." See in text (Chapter III)
The “rude hand” in this passage refers to death, which tears loved ones apart, sometimes unexpectedly. Notice how Frankenstein is making his experience universal, asking the question, “Who hasn’t felt the pain of death?” In doing so he seeks to provide sympathetic motivation for his later experiments to bring the dead back to life, and to mitigate his responsibility for the pain he has caused.
Chapter IV 11
"Learn from me, if not by my precepts..." See in text (Chapter IV)
Frankenstein returns to the present in order to beg Walton to embrace daily life instead of recklessly seeking fulfillment and satisfaction in discovery and science. Shelley again shows readers how the two men are similar, including their obsession with knowledge and glory. However, notice how words like “dangerous” and “allow” suggest that ambitious men, like Frankenstein, are ultimately doomed for their hubris.
"A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me..." See in text (Chapter IV)
We now clearly see Frankenstein’s arrogance and ambition. While in retrospect he knows that life and death are too complicated to be manipulated by science, in this moment he lacks wisdom to see the truth behind his blind ambition. Light and dark appear again, representing knowledge and ignorance as well as good and evil. Frankenstein wishes to bring light (knowledge) into the world, but he cannot control it and, as we’ll see, he doesn’t know how to properly deal with his creation or the consequences of his actions.
"Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world..." See in text (Chapter IV)
Frankenstein’s desire to bring “light into our dark world” reveals him to be like the Greek Titan Prometheus, who first gave fire to humanity and betrayed the will of the gods. For this, Prometheus was punished. We’ll soon see the consequences of Frankenstein’s actions. Furthermore, words like “break” and “torrent” reveal how Frankenstein’s violent impulses and lofty dreams are typical of romantic heroes. Since he has a heightened comprehension of the world, he must exist outside society, isolated in his pursuit.
"science and mechanics..." See in text (Chapter IV)
Frankenstein is referring to the First Industrial Revolution, which took place over the course of several decades from approximately 1760–1830. He brings this up as a means to inspire and push himself to take on the task of animating a dead human. With all the advancements in science and mechanics at the time, Frankenstein considers himself up to the challenge. Frankenstein’s pride is revealed by this desire to bring life to a deceased human, rather than an animal, and his belief that he can achieve this task alone.
"and the moon gazed on my midnight labours, while, with unrelaxed and breathless eagerness, I pursued nature to her hiding-places...." See in text (Chapter IV)
Night is often associated with suspicious or immoral actions. Victor’s conducting his work and experiments at midnight implies that he is doing wrong. Yet, he cannot hide. Nature, represented by the moon, is watching Victor’s actions. Regardless, Victor continues to chase Nature down to her “hiding-places,” which implies that she does not wish to be found. Moreover, Victor’s sense of “unrelaxed and breathless eagerness” shows that he is anxious and acknowledges his wrongful behavior but still wishes to commit it.
"My cheek had grown pale with study, and my person had become emaciated with confinement...." See in text (Chapter IV)
This vivid description shows how Victor has isolated himself and neglected his physical and mental health for his study. At the same time, Victor is made an example of how obsession is harmful to the human body and mind.
"A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me...." See in text (Chapter IV)
Victor’s ambition is constantly fueling his sense of pride. He not only wants to be notable for his studies and discoveries within humanity, but he also wishes to create a new species that would worship him. This desire is reflected in the language Shelley uses here, which bears strong resemblance to phrases from the Christian biblical tradition.
"Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world. ..." See in text (Chapter IV)
Though Victor understands the natural intertwined relationship between life and death, he refuses to accept it; instead, he wishes to interfere with Nature’s law. To him, such interference is a noble and divine act, in which he sees himself as a godly figure, bringing light into the dark world.
"What had been the study and desire of the wisest men since the creation of the world was now within my grasp...." See in text (Chapter IV)
Victor’s thought reflects his prideful character and how confident he feels about the progress he has made in his studies and discoveries; he believes that he has surpassed the wisest men long before him.
"I beheld the corruption of death succeed to the blooming cheek of life..." See in text (Chapter IV)
This description reflects the intertwined relationship of life and death. Specifically, it highlights the fact that in the end, death overcomes life. At the same time, this description reveals Victor’s narrow view on life and death. To him, death is a form of corruption, which is bad and ugly, whereas life is like a blooming cheek that suggests youth, good health, and beauty. It is this perspective that motivates Victor to eventually disturb the natural relationship between life and death by creating life.
"during which I paid no visit to Geneva, but was engaged, heart and soul, in the pursuit of some discoveries,..." See in text (Chapter IV)
While “engaged” implies that Victor is occupied with his scientific pursuits, it can also symbolize how his heart and soul are “married” to his pursuit of knowledge. He is so committed to it that he neglects his home, Geneva, along with his family.
Chapter V 4
"‘I have ten thousand florins a year without Greek, I eat heartily without Greek.’..." See in text (Chapter V)
Clerval’s father’s stance toward life is antithetical to that Frankenstein’s. While Frankenstein possesses an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, Clerval’s father is pragmatic in his outlook, figuring that knowledge is only useful in its capacity to put food on the table. Henry Clerval himself is somewhere between the two: he is scholarly enough to be interested in university study, but is not nearly as intellectually obsessed as Frankenstein.
"and I thought that I held the corpse of my dead mother in my arms; a shroud enveloped her form, and I saw the grave-worms crawling in the folds of the flannel...." See in text (Chapter V)
In his disturbed sleep, Frankenstein has a deeply troubling and perplexing dream. Elizabeth, his beloved cousin, transforms into the image of his own mother who, in turn, proves to be dead in his arms. One apparent thematic connection between the dream and the recent developments in the story can be found in the loss of innocence. Just as Frankenstein’s illusions regarding his powers of creation are shattered, his dream offers a similarly illusion-shattering series of images. Casting a psychoanalytic gaze on the dream, Victor’s love for Elizabeth appears to be intertwined with his love for his own mother. There is a similarly devastating realization of inevitable death.
"and I threw myself on the bed in my clothes, endeavouring to seek a few moments of forgetfulness. But it was in vain: I slept, indeed, but I was disturbed by the wildest dreams...." See in text (Chapter V)
Frankenstein mistakenly believes that he can escape the horror of his creation through sleep. For Frankenstein, going to bed is akin to going into denial. This reaction is similar to an episode in Dostoyevsky’s 1866 novel Crime and Punishment. After committing a murder he had justified to himself, Raskolnikov, the novel’s protagonist, attempts to escape his feelings of guilt through sleep. For both Raskolnikov and Frankenstein, sleep offers no solace. Guilt proves to be a recurrent theme throughout the rest of Frankenstein.
"His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks...." See in text (Chapter V)
Upon seeing Victor, the creature attempts to communicate verbally and physically. It is important to note that he is described very much like a human baby that wants his or her parent, producing inarticulate sounds and smiling, which is universal human baby behavior.
Chapter VI 3
"M. Waldman inflicted torture when he praised, with kindness and warmth, the astonishing progress I had made in the sciences...." See in text (Chapter VI)
Notice how Frankenstein’s perspective on praise and school has drastically changed since the creature’s creation. The attention and praise that he once craved now “torture” him. His own guilt and shame transforms their recognition of his success into a painful reminder of his sins.
"Ever since the fatal night, the end of my labours, and the beginning of my misfortunes..." See in text (Chapter VI)
Notice how the creature and Victor’s recognition of his deeds ominously creeps into his mind throughout this chapter. While Victor tries to pretend that the creature does not exist, he cannot shake these misfortunes from his mind.
"CLERVAL THEN PUT the following letter into my hands. It was from my own Elizabeth:—..." See in text (Chapter VI)
Notice the absence of the creature or a recognition of what he has done at the beginning of this chapter. Frankenstein, awoken from his long sleep, seems to be repressing his knowledge of the creature and avoiding the consequences of his actions.
Chapter VII 5
" I, the creator..." See in text (Chapter VII)
While Victor may not see himself as a God, obvious comparisons such as this one suggest that Shelley intended to portray him as one. This statement is also another reference to the novel’s subtitle, “The Modern Prometheus,” since Prometheus was the creator of humankind in Greek mythology.
"My tale was not one to announce publicly; its astounding horror would be looked upon as madness by the vulgar...." See in text (Chapter VII)
Victor is aware of Justine Moritz’s innocence and aware that she is on trial for murder. Still, despite knowing who the real murderer is, Victor does not want to speak up and thus condemn himself or be deemed insane. Victor’s silence is seen by many readers as an act of complete cowardice and immorality.
"I wept like a child. “Dear mountains! my own beautiful lake! how do you welcome your wanderer? Your summits are clear; the sky and lake are blue and placid. Is this to prognosticate peace, or to mock at my unhappiness?”..." See in text (Chapter VII)
Here, Victor wonders if the clear weather of his homeland is designed to honestly foretell—or “prognosticate”—peace, or to mock his unhappiness. In this way, Victor speaks as if nature is specifically engineered for him and him alone. This once again suggests that Victor is prideful and self-centered, and believes that he is, in some way or another, the controller or influencer of nature.
" a very valuable miniature that she possessed of your mother. ..." See in text (Chapter VII)
This miniature refers to a locket which held a picture of Frankenstein’s mother inside. Elizabeth had given this locket to William. When Elizabeth examines William’s body she notices his neck is bare, and thus assumes William’s murderer was a thief who stole the locket. This thinking causes Elizabeth great distress, as she feels guilty for giving William the locket that supposedly led to his death.
"the deformity of its aspect, more hideous than belongs to humanity, instantly informed me that it was the wretch, the filthy dæmon..." See in text (Chapter VII)
Keep in mind that Victor’s description of the creature is always associated with its deformed appearance that he deems unfit for humanity. Furthermore, Victor is quick to judge the creature solely based on physical appearance, as they have not interacted yet. Sadly, this type of misjudgment and discrimination ultimately drives the creature to commit evil behavior.
Chapter VIII 12
"the first hapless victims to my unhallowed arts...." See in text (Chapter VIII)
These words foreshadow the coming tragedies throughout the rest of the novel. Though Justine and William are the first innocents dead at the hands of both Frankenstein and his creature, they will not be the last. Notice also how Frankenstein subtly shifts blame from himself to his creature—his “unhallowed art”—who he brought to life through dark processes. The word choice of “unhallowed,” meaning “unholy” or “profane,” shows that Frankenstein thinks of his creature in hellish terms.
"her's also was the misery of innocence, which, like a cloud that passes over the fair moon, for a while hides but cannot tarnish its brightness...." See in text (Chapter VIII)
Notice how Frankenstein draws a parallel between his anguish and Justine’s “misery.” According to him, both he and Justine suffer, but because Justine is innocent of any wrongdoing, her suffering is less than his. He describes Justine’s innocence as the moon, covered by a passing cloud, which represents the trial’s guilty verdict. Though Justine’s innocence is momentarily unseen, it is still present.
"I gnashed my teeth,..." See in text (Chapter VIII)
This phrasing is likely an allusion to the biblical gospels, in which sinners react to their final judgments by painfully grinding their teeth. Though Victor has not yet been fully punished for his arrogance, one part of his sentence has already been handed down: the death of the innocent Justine.
"I had none to support me..." See in text (Chapter VIII)
Close to the end of her life, Justine finds herself alone, without allies, and isolated from society and family, which is the case for many of the novel’s characters before their deaths. All she has left is her faith in God, so the threat of damnation is what leads her to confess. She’d rather confess to a crime she didn’t commit than face divine judgment for that crime.
" I could not sustain the horror of my situation;..." See in text (Chapter VIII)
Though Justine is the one accused of murder and facing capital punishment, Frankenstein’s self-centeredness constantly leads him to consider just how terrible he feels for witnessing—and indirectly causing—the whole set of circumstances. Notice how he says “my” situation, not “her” nor “our” situation.
"The poor victim, who on the morrow was to pass the awful boundary between life and death, felt not..." See in text (Chapter VIII)
While this description can be read as showing how self absorbed Victor is, it also serves to emphasize how Victor is overwhelmed by guilt since he claims Justine does not feel the great misery that he does.
"God raises my weakness, and gives me courage to endure the worst. I leave a sad and bitter world..." See in text (Chapter VIII)
Once again, we witness Justine’s strong spiritual faith, which defeats her fear of death. Her acknowledgment of the world being a sad and bitter place runs parallel with the Christian belief that we live in a broken world.
"The tortures of the accused did not equal mine; she was sustained by innocence, but the fangs of remorse tore my bosom, and would not forgo their hold...." See in text (Chapter VIII)
Victor describes his guilt as a set of fangs that are tearing up his heart, which emphasizes just how ashamed and terrible he feels. However, his belief that Justine’s emotional tortures do not measure up to his pain reveals how self-centered and unsympathetic he is.
"I could not sustain the horror of my situation;..." See in text (Chapter VIII)
Victor’s thought reveals his self-centered disposition, which is addressed multiple times within this chapter. While Justine is being condemned for a crime that he is indirectly responsible for, Victor is selfishly thinking about how horrible his own situation is.
"I see a fellow-creature about to perish through the cowardice of her pretended friends, I wish to be allowed to speak..." See in text (Chapter VIII)
Elizabeth’s words reflect her bold and just character. She is unafraid to not only call out the problem in the situation but also to state the problems of others, claiming the other supporters of Justine to be fake and cowardly friends.
"“God knows,” she said, “how entirely I am innocent. ..." See in text (Chapter VIII)
We begin to see how Justine is one of the most spiritually faithful characters portrayed in the story. Her statement reflects her trust in God and how she is ready to accept the false accusation in the eyes of humanity if she ends up having to do so.
"such a declaration would have been considered as the ravings of a madman..." See in text (Chapter VIII)
It is ridiculous how Victor is more afraid of sounding like a madman for declaring the truth than letting the innocent and lovable Justine, who is considered a family member, die for his mistake. Victor’s fear reflects his narcissism, which fuels his inner cowardice.
Chapter IX 4
"I was a wreck— but nought had changed in those savage and enduring scenes...." See in text (Chapter IX)
Frankenstein draws a comparison between himself and the natural world around him. While much has happened to change and cause him grief, the mountains, valleys, and the natural world remain unchanged from his childhood. On the one hand, Shelley uses this moment to demonstrate the lasting power and strength of the natural world, which makes human concerns insignificant in comparison. However, this line also reveals Frankenstein’s hubris: he has changed, he is a wreck, and so he is frustrated that the natural world has not changed as well.
"but now misery has come home, and men appear to me as monsters thirsting for each other's blood...." See in text (Chapter IX)
Elizabeth considers herself responsible for William’s death, and she carries that guilt with her. That moment marked a loss of innocence for Elizabeth. Now that Justine has been executed, and that Elizabeth knows in her heart that Justine was not guilty, Elizabeth continues to be corrupted, no longer remaining the happy and innocent person she once was. This sentence marks this transition in her worldview.
"often, I say, I was tempted to plunge into the silent lake, that the waters might close over me and my calamities for ever...." See in text (Chapter IX)
Frankenstein’s temptation to end his life stems from the guilt he feels for the loss of William and Justine. His feelings indicate that he sympathizes with the dead, even envying their rest, but the guilt is so strong that he cannot end his troubles by ending his life. These thoughts of suicide are most profound and repeated when Frankenstein removes himself from the society of others.
"Sleep fled from my eyes; I wandered like an evil spirit, for I had committed deeds of mischief beyond description horrible, and more, much more (I persuaded myself), was yet behind...." See in text (Chapter IX)
Shelley’s description of Victor’s miserable state after he realizes that his creature is a danger to humankind accurately reflects the anatomy of guilt. Victor’s crime is so horrendous that even sleep “[flees]” from him; Nature is punishing him for playing God. The lack of rest and guilt causes him to “[wander] like an evil spirit.” Such a description strengthens the parallel between Victor and the monster, who wanders in the story as humanity’s misfit. Victor’s “benevolent intentions” and “[thirst] for the moment” to apply them show how he desperately wants to right his wrong. Regardless, he is seized by guilt and thrown into a “hell of intense tortures.”
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"Cursed (although I curse myself) be the hands that formed you!..." See in text (Chapter X)
In a sudden moment of self-awareness, Frankenstein is forced to acknowledge that in some sense the curses he casts at the monster are curses against himself. The hatred Frankenstein feels for the creature can be seen as a projection of his deep guilt for having created it. Frankenstein remains unable to take full responsibility for his creation.
"Yet I ask you not to spare me: listen to me; and then, if you can, and if you will, destroy the work of your hands...." See in text (Chapter X)
The creature’s request is perhaps surprising. He is, as he admits, lonely and miserable, subject to the hatred of humanity, including his creator. What the creature asks of Frankenstein is primarily understanding. He wants his story to be heard before he is destroyed. This desire for understanding is deeply human, rendering the creature even more pitiable.
"I am thy creature, and I will be even mild and docile to my natural lord and king, if thou wilt also perform thy part, the which thou owest me...." See in text (Chapter X)
Despite the creature’s misery and the painful state of his being, he nonetheless feels an inherent sense of indebtedness towards Frankenstein. The creature’s sense that Frankenstein is his “natural lord and king” is a reflection of the English conception of divine-right monarchy. Whatever the creature’s disappointment or anger may be, he intuitively senses an unshakable allegiance to Frankenstein.
"They congregated round me; the unstained snowy mountain-top, the glittering pinnacle, the pine woods, and ragged bare ravine; the eagle, soaring amidst the clouds—they all gathered round me and bade me be at peace...." See in text (Chapter X)
Frankenstein’s encounter with the dramatic Swiss landscape is psychological: what he sees is dependent on his mood. When he experiences torment, the landscape appears troubled. In this passage, however, the figures of the landscape—the mountain-top and the eagle—take on a pure, idealized form as beacons of consolation during his peaceful sleep.
"through the silent working of immutable laws, was ever and anon rent and torn, as if it had been but a plaything in their hands...." See in text (Chapter X)
Frankenstein’s encounter with the natural world is defined by two competing thought processes. On one hand, Frankenstein is guided by his logical, scientifically trained mind in search of “immutable laws.” In his survey of the natural world, he wants to understand the abstract principles by which it functions. On the other hand, Frankenstein wants to experience the sublime, to be “elevated,” and to feel his grief “subdued and tranquillised.” He is torn, as his impulses are both rational and romantic.
"“How can I move thee? Will no entreaties cause thee to turn a favourable eye upon thy creature, who implores thy goodness and compassion? Believe me, Frankenstein: I was benevolent; my soul glowed with love and humanity: but am I not alone, miserably alone? You, my creator, abhor me; what hope can I gather from your fellow-creatures, who owe me nothing? they spurn and hate me. The desert mountains and dreary glaciers are my refuge. ..." See in text (Chapter X)
The creature’s string of questions reflect his desperation for Frankenstein’s empathy and acceptance; the creature implores, or begs, for Frankenstein’s compassion. Moreover, the creature emphasizes how it was humanity’s cruel mistreatment that has caused his soul to no longer “[glow] with love,” and instead, to cause him to feel “miserably alone.” Not only has the creature physically secluded himself from humanity, referring to the “desert mountains and dreary glaciers” as his “refuge,” but he has also mentally secluded himself from humanity, calling humans “Frankenstein’s fellow creatures.”
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"I withdrew from the window, unable to bear these emotions...." See in text (Chapter XI)
While his experience with fire gave the creature practical knowledge about how to feed himself, this experience watching the De Laceys teaches him how to feel emotions like a human. These overwhelming feelings cause him to turn away from the window and suggest that the creature is extremely sensitive to his feelings.
"barbarity of man...." See in text (Chapter XI)
The creature compares the indifferent, cruelty of nature to the savage behavior of the people he has encountered. The creature seems equally afraid of people as he is of the elements.
"making a wretched appearance after the palaces I had beheld in the village...." See in text (Chapter XI)
Here the creature juxtaposes the beautiful houses of the village with the horrible hole in which he must live. Juxtapositions such as this one give the reader insight into the creature’s mentality and partially explain why the creature has behaved so badly so far in the novel. Though Frankenstein has called him a monster and an evil wretch, these descriptions of the creature’s early life cause the reader to feel sympathy for him.
"Pandæmonium..." See in text (Chapter XI)
It is interesting that the creature chooses to compare his homey hut to Satan’s Pandemonium. This might suggest that the creature thinks of himself as a type of wicked creature, such as a devil. The creature sees his first days as similar to burning on a lake of fire—a punishment fit for the devil who rebelled against God. However, at this point in the story the creature has not done anything befitting of this extreme punishment. Rather, his creator abandoned him to a world that believes his is terrifying and hideous. This allusion to Milton demonstrates the creature’s self-hatred and Frankenstein’s cruelty to his creation.
"gentle light stole over the heavens, and gave me a sensation of pleasure. ..." See in text (Chapter XI)
Light is symbolic for goodness and purity. The creature’s innate attraction to the light suggests that he was born as a blank slate rather than born inherently evil or vicious. His experiences in the world caused him to do evil things.
"I felt cold also, and half frightened, as it were instinctively, finding myself so desolate...." See in text (Chapter XI)
In these first recollections, the creature displays characteristics of humanity that differ greatly from the monstrous presentation Frankenstein has depicted. This perspective suggests that Frankenstein may have had an impact on how the creature developed if he had remained with it in its first days.
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" I found that these people possessed a method of communicating their experience and feelings to one another by articulate sounds. ..." See in text (Chapter XII)
Education is a key theme throughout the narrative. Victor is usually described as a man of learning. Here, however, the creature is shown to engage in learning language by observing the De Lacey family. This moment foreshadows later learning when the creature begins to read and comprehend more complex ideas.
"“A considerable period elapsed before I discovered one of the causes of the uneasiness of this amiable family: it was poverty; and they suffered that evil in a very distressing degree. ..." See in text (Chapter XII)
As the creature observes the De Lacey family, he grows and discovers the nature of humanity. This moment shows the creature’s burgeoning understanding of class. The creature’s compassion for the suffering of the De Laceys demonstrates that he is capable of kindness and empathy. We are unable to view the creature as wholly evil, as Frankenstein does, but instead realize that he shares many of the same wants as humans—chiefly the twin desires for companionship and love. In speaking of the De Laceys’ poverty, readers also can draw comparisons to Frankenstein’s privileged upbringing. Unlike his creature, Frankenstein seems wilfully ignorant of poverty and class difference.
"If such lovely creatures were miserable, it was less strange that I, an imperfect and solitary being, should be wretched. Yet why were these gentle beings unhappy?..." See in text (Chapter XII)
From this statement we see that the creature initially believes that beauty and companionship are the only requirements for happiness. Under this metric, he believes he must be the most unhappy creature of them all since he possesses neither. However, upon further examination of the De Lacey family, the creature learns of other afflictions that may hinder human happiness.
"“This day was passed in the same routine as that which preceded it. The young man was constantly employed out of doors, and the girl in various laborious occupations within. ..." See in text (Chapter XII)
The creature’s depiction of the De Lacey family shows them to be poor and belonging to the working-class. Felix and Agatha fulfil typical gender roles of the time, with the male leaving the house to find employment while the female remains home to perform domestic duties. The image of this family is the first introduction the creature has to what Shelley would have deemed “civilized” society.
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"I am poor, and an exile; but it will afford me true pleasure to be in any way serviceable to a human creature...." See in text (Chapter XV)
It is precisely his infirmities that allow De Lacey to assist the creature. His blindness allows him to hear the creature’s story without judging his frightening appearance. His old age and exiled status give him a high degree of empathy for those who may be different.
"But it was all a dream; no Eve soothed my sorrows, nor shared my thoughts; I was alone...." See in text (Chapter XV)
The creature imagines that his suffering and loneliness might be alleviated by a romantic partner. At the conclusion of Milton’s Paradise Lost, Adam and Eve cope with their fallen state through companionship. In his fallen state, the creature has no such companion.
"Satan had his companions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him; but I am solitary and abhorred...." See in text (Chapter XV)
No matter which character the creature compares himself to, he identifies some way in which his own lot in life is inferior. Having likened himself to Satan, he claims that even Satan had “his companions, fellow-devils… but I am solitary.” Indeed, loneliness is one of the creature’s central complaints and sorrows.
"Many times I considered Satan as the fitter emblem of my condition; for often, like him, when I viewed the bliss of my protectors, the bitter gall of envy rose within me...." See in text (Chapter XV)
In his reading of Paradise Lost, the creature considers which fallen figure he most nearly resembles. He does not associate with Adam, for Adam was made beautiful and was given a home. The creature then feels a closer association to Lucifer, who is, like him, gripped by envy and bitterness. In many ways, however, Victor Frankenstein is more akin to Lucifer than his creature. While Frankenstein has committed the satanic sin of pride by imitating the divine act of creation, his creature has done no such act. While Victor and the creature would both consider themselves to be wholly different from each other, the question of how each resembles Lucifer provides one way for considering how they are also alike.
"I felt the greatest ardour for virtue rise within me, and abhorrence for vice,..." See in text (Chapter XV)
For the creature, Plutarch’s introduction to classical thought serves as a moral and ethical foundation. Whereas as Goethe’s work elucidates the creature’s inner world, the lives of the Greeks and Romans illustrate how he ought to act in the outer world.
"As I read, however, I applied much personally to my own feelings and condition. I found myself similar, yet at the same time strangely unlike to the beings concerning whom I read, and to whose conversation I was a listener...." See in text (Chapter XV)
The creature receives a different education from each of the three books he reads. Goethe’s novel offers him a sentimental education. The Sorrows of Young Werther was groundbreaking in its time for its use of free indirect discourse, a literary technique by which the narration enters the thoughts and feelings of the characters. This style of writing draws the reader into the subjective inner experience of the character, allowing for moments of powerful emotional recognition. The creature would have found much in common with the protagonist, Werther, who experiences endless loneliness and rejection.
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"Thus would she assuredly act, if her darkened eyes opened and she beheld me. The thought was madness; it stirred the fiend within me—not I, but she shall suffer: the murder I have committed because I am for ever robbed of all that she could give me, she shall atone...." See in text (Chapter XVI)
The creature punishes Justine for her reaction to his hideous form. More generally, he punishes her because he is enraged that no human will ever accept his physical form. He decides to punish her for not only his pain but also his sins; she shall pay penance for the murder he has committed. This strange logic demonstrates the creature’s profound reasoning skills, even if his premises and values are flawed.
" ‘Boy, you will never see your father again; you must come with me.’..." See in text (Chapter XVI)
The creature does not seem to recognize how threatening his demand is. He thinks only of his own isolation and loneliness and cannot empathize with the frightened child. This selfish and misunderstood drive makes the creature similar to Frankenstein.
"My daily vows rose for revenge..." See in text (Chapter XVI)
While the creature was previously focused on obtaining love and acceptance from humanity, now all he cares for is revenge. His love has turned to hatred because of his isolation and rejection.
"which shattered the flesh and bone. The feelings of kindness and gentleness which I had entertained but a few moments before gave place to hellish rage and gnashing of teeth...." See in text (Chapter XVI)
Here, the shot that shatters the creature’s flesh and bones also shatters his kindness and gentleness. This is the moment at which the creature fully relinquishes his benevolence.
"forked and destroying tongues. ..." See in text (Chapter XVI)
This description of the fire may be symbolic for the devil’s tongue. In the biblical story of Genesis, Satan disguises himself as a snake with a forked tongue and convinces Eve to eat an apple from the forbidden tree of knowledge by talking to her. The forked tongues of the fire symbolize the creature’s transition from innocence to malevolence. This is the moment in which the monster falls from his status as a benevolent creature.
"state of utter and stupid despair. My protectors had departed, and had broken the only link that held me to the world..." See in text (Chapter XVI)
The creature’s “despair” and anger are caused by isolation. He learned how to love from the De Lacey family and, now that they are gone, feels alone in the world once again. Notice that he calls them his “protectors” even though they are the ones who just expelled him from their property. The creature’s profound connection to these people that was not reciprocated.
"like the arch-fiend, bore a hell within me..." See in text (Chapter XVI)
This is an allusion to Milton’s Paradise Lost. In the first book, Satan realizes that heaven and hell are within him with his famous lines: “The mind is its own place, and in itself / Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.” This line suggests that heaven is not objectively perfect and hell is not objectively horrible; the state of the place depends on one’s perception. The creature cannot find peace or beauty in nature because his rage colors his perspective. Like Satan, the creature’s anger and envy turn this paradise into hell.
"the spark of existence which you had so wantonly bestowed..." See in text (Chapter XVI)
The adverb “wantonly” means without regard for rightness or consequences, done in a manner that expresses delight in wrongdoing or mischief. While this chapter will show the creature’s transform from innocence to malevolence, this “wanton” creation of life suggests that Frankenstein is the real villain of this story: he knowingly and recklessly brought life to this creature.
Chapter XIX 1
"I saw an insurmountable barrier placed between me and my fellow-men..." See in text (Chapter XIX)
Clerval serves as a foil to Frankenstein, actively participating in society with the enthusiasm of a younger Frankenstein. However, we can see that guilt and obsession have taken over Frankenstein, and he now seeks isolation and barriers between himself and society, only engaging with others when necessary. This isolation deprives him of a support system, which only compounds his troubles.
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"I was exceedingly surprised on receiving so rude an answer from a stranger;..." See in text (Chapter XX)
Though Frankenstein had expected to find refuge from the forces of nature in civilization, he discovers that the people awaiting him on shore are far from hospitable. One might say that, because of his crimes, Frankenstein has been cast out of the worlds of both nature and culture.
"I thought of Elizabeth, of my father, and of Clerval; all left behind, on whom the monster might satisfy his sanguinary and merciless passions...." See in text (Chapter XX)
Ultimately, Frankenstein’s actions in this scene are driven not so much by his desire for self-preservation or the preservation of humanity as a desire to protect his remaining loved ones. For a character so often guided by his isolated intellectual curiosity, this moment is remarkably heartfelt.
"I will watch with the wiliness of a snake, that I may sting with its venom...." See in text (Chapter XX)
The creature’s identification with Satan becomes more concrete when he likens himself to a “snake, that I may sting with its venom.” The snake, form Satan takes as tempter in the Garden of Eden, is the symbolic of humanity’s fall. The creature hopes to take vengeance on humanity in a similar manner.
"You can blast my other passions; but revenge remains—revenge, henceforth dearer than light or food!..." See in text (Chapter XX)
Despite the creature’s self-identification with Satan in Chapter XV, it is only here that he truly resembles Satan. In works such as Milton’s Paradise Lost and Goethe’s Faust, Satan is depicted as having such a bitter and envious attitude that he takes a vengeful stance towards being itself. When the creature declares his desire for revenge, driven by a similar bitterness, he beings to more authentically embody Satan’s philosophy.
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"for to me the walls of a dungeon or a palace were alike hateful...." See in text (Chapter XXI)
Here, Frankenstein suggests that because of his mental state, all places are equally menacing. This sentiment echoes the creature’s allusion of Milton’s Paradise Lost that states “the mind is its own place and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.” This allusion suggests that one’s perception of a situation or location shapes their experience rather than the actual experience of the situation or location. Like his creature, Frankenstein’s perception colors all of his experiences and makes everything seem hateful.
"“some destiny of the most horrible kind hangs over me, and I must live to fulfil it, or surely I should have died on the coffin of Henry.”..." See in text (Chapter XXI)
This sentiment echoes Frankenstein’s lament over creating a female mate. He claims that he would have sacrificed himself to stop the monster in much the same way he claims that he would have “died on the coffin of Henry.” However, when he had the opportunity to save Justine, Frankenstein did nothing. This suggests that Frankenstein is pretending to be a martyr rather than genuinely being a martyr.
"“Are you then safe—and Elizabeth—and Ernest?”..." See in text (Chapter XXI)
This inquiry suggests that Frankenstein believes that his creature has already attacked his family. He may have sunk into such madness because he thought his family dead when he saw Henry.
"“That is my least concern: I am, by a course of strange events, become the most miserable of mortals. Persecuted and tortured as I am and have been, can death be any evil to me?”..." See in text (Chapter XXI)
Frankenstein considers himself the most miserable and tortured man to whom nothing more terrible can happen. Notice, however, that while he regrets the state his life has fallen into, he does not recognize his fault. He pities himself rather than atoning for his crimes or trying to set them right.
"often reflected I had better seek death than desire to remain in a world which to me was replete with wretchedness...." See in text (Chapter XXI)
Notice how Frankenstein thinks more and more about suicide as the story goes on. He seems to believe that he has nothing to live for, even though his family and love are still alive at home. Frankenstein’s thinking and speech begin to reflect the creature’s more and more as his life becomes more wretched.
"The past appeared to me in the light of a frightful dream..." See in text (Chapter XXI)
When his life and actions become too horrible to bear, Frankenstein seeks to escape reality in dreams. He imagines that all of the events that he has caused are merely dreams, and in this way he tries to distance himself from the reality of what he has done. This shows not only his extreme feelings of guilt, but also his cowardice in facing the consequences of his actions.
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" I was possessed by a maddening rage when I thought of him, and desired and ardently prayed that I might have him within my grasp to wreak a great and signal revenge on his cursed head...." See in text (Chapter XXIII)
Notice that Frankenstein’s vengeful anger mimics the creature’s own rage. The more Frankenstein descends into his madness and need for revenge, the more he becomes like the monster he pursues.
"Could I behold this and live? Alas! life is obstinate and clings closest where it is most hated...." See in text (Chapter XXIII)
Notice that Frankenstein’s dramatic portrayal of his anguish suggests that in looking at Elizabeth’s corpse part of him died. He laments that he did not die with her. Elizabeth’s death marks the death of Victor’s normal life. Though most of his family and friends have been killed, Victor has held out hope that he can resume his life or build a new life with his love. With her death, all of his hope and innocence dies as well. He also touches on life clinging to where it is most hated, perhaps alluding to the miserable lives he and his creature lead as a result of each other.
"I earnestly entreated her to retire, resolving not to join her until I had obtained some knowledge as to the situation of my enemy...." See in text (Chapter XXIII)
Frankenstein is so consumed with his own fear and hatred of the monster that he fails to take Elizabeth’s well-being into account. In sending her away to sleep and lying to her about what he fears, he leaves her unprotected and vulnerable.
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"Oh, Frankenstein! generous and self-devoted being! what does it avail that I now ask thee to pardon me?..." See in text (Chapter XXIV)
The creature returns once again to Frankenstein, only to find his corpse. The creature then seeks to reconcile his conflicted feelings for his creator, which have been defined from the outset by both rage and reverence. Despite the creature’s desire to destroy Frankenstein, he is stricken with grief and remorse upon finding him deceased. The creature now asks for redemption for having driven his creator to death, and yet understands the futility of such a pardon.
"but I had rather die than return shamefully—my purpose unfulfilled...." See in text (Chapter XXIV)
When Frankenstein asked Walton to “thrust your sword into [the creature’s] heart,” the younger man took the task seriously. In this reflection, Walton appears to have effectively taken on Frankenstein’s purpose as his own, referring to the killing of the creature as “my purpose.” Walton’s eagerness reveals his youth: only an impressionable person lets his purpose be dictated by another.
"At such moments vengeance, that burned within me, died in my heart, and I pursued my path towards the destruction of the dæmon more as a task enjoined by heaven..." See in text (Chapter XXIV)
In the later stages of his search for the creature, Frankenstein comes to envision a higher moral necessity to kill the creature than just personal revenge. It is as if he were an agent with “a task enjoined by heaven.” For Frankenstein, the stakes of his mission to destroy the monster have expanded from personal revenge to the protection of humanity.
"To you first entering on life, to whom care is new and agony unknown, how can you understand what I have felt and still feel?..." See in text (Chapter XXIV)
As Frankenstein nears the end of his personal account, he issues a rare address to his direct audience, Walton. Frankenstein’s sentiment reaches back across the boundary between innocence and experience. Having fallen from grace, Frankenstein recognizes that the youthful Walton cannot truly understand his story.
"sometimes he himself, who feared that if I lost all trace of him I should despair and die, left some mark to guide me...." See in text (Chapter XXIV)
Frankenstein and his creature are bound together by their mutual hatred of one another. The creature wants Frankenstein to pursue him endlessly so that Victor can know the same pain and torment as the creature. Frankenstein fails to realize that this is intentional on the creature’s part and convinces himself that hunting down and exacting revenge on the creature is his destiny.