Chapter VII

ON MY RETURN, I found the following letter from my father:—

“MY DEAR VICTOR,—You have probably waited impatiently for a letter to fix the date of your return to us; and I was at first tempted to write only a few lines, merely mentioning the day on which I should expect you. But that would be a cruel kindness, and I dare not do it. What would be your surprise, my son, when you expected a happy and glad welcome, to behold, on the contrary, tears and wretchedness? And how, Victor, can I relate our misfortune? Absence cannot have rendered you callous to our joys and griefs; and how shall I inflict pain on my long absent son? I wish to prepare you for the woeful news, but I know it is impossible; even now your eye skims over the page to seek the words which are to convey to you the horrible tidings.

“William is dead!—that sweet child, whose smiles delighted and warmed my heart, who was so gentle, yet so gay! Victor, he is murdered! “I will not attempt to console you; but will simply relate the circumstances of the transaction.

“Last Thursday (May 7th), I, my niece, and your two brothers, went to walk in Plainpalais. The evening was warm and serene, and we prolonged our walk farther than usual. It was already dusk before we thought of returning; and then we discovered that William and Ernest, who had gone on before, were not to be found. We accordingly rested on a seat until they should return. Presently Ernest came, and inquired if we had seen his brother: he said, that he had been playing with him, that William had run away to hide himself, and that he vainly sought for him, and afterwards waited for a long time, but that he did not return.

“This account rather alarmed us, and we continued to search for him until night fell, when Elizabeth conjectured that he might have returned to the house. He was not there. We returned again, with torches; for I could not rest, when I thought that my sweet boy had lost himself, and was exposed to all the damps and dews of night; Elizabeth also suffered extreme anguish. About five in the morning I discovered my lovely boy, whom the night before I had seen blooming and active in health, stretched on the grass livid and motionless: the print of the murder's finger was on his neck.

“He was conveyed home, and the anguish that was visible in my countenance betrayed the secret to Elizabeth. She was very earnest to see the corpse. At first I attempted to prevent her; but she persisted, and entering the room where it lay, hastily examined the neck of the victim, and clasping her hands exclaimed, ‘O God! I have murdered my darling child!’

“She fainted, and was restored with extreme difficulty. When she again lived, it was only to weep and sigh. She told me that that same evening William had teased her to let him wear a very valuable miniature that she possessed of your mother. This picture is gone, and was doubtless the temptation which urged the murderer to the deed. We have no trace of him at present, although our exertions to discover him are unremitted; but they will not restore my beloved William!

“Come, dearest Victor; you alone can console Elizabeth. She weeps continually, and accuses herself unjustly as the cause of his death; her words pierce my heart. We are all unhappy; but will not that be an additional motive for you, my son, to return and be our comforter? Your dear mother! Alas, Victor! I now say, Thank God she did not live to witness the cruel, miserable death of her youngest darling!

“Come, Victor; not brooding thoughts of vengeance against the assassin, but with feelings of peace and gentleness, that will heal, instead of festering, the wounds of our minds. Enter the house of mourning, my friend, but with kindness and affection for those who love you, and not with hatred for your enemies.—Your affectionate and afflicted father,

ALPHONSE FRANKENSTEIN.

“GENEVA, May 12th, 17—.”

Clerval, who had watched my countenance as I read this letter, was surprised to observe the despair that succeeded the joy I at first expressed on receiving new from my friends. I threw the letter on the table, and covered my face with my hands.

“My dear Frankenstein,” exclaimed Henry, when he perceived me weep with bitterness, “are you always to be unhappy? My dear friend, what has happened?”

I motioned him to take up the letter, while I walked up and down the room in the extremest agitation. Tears also gushed from the eyes of Clerval, as he read the account of my misfortune.

“I can offer you no consolation, my friend,” said he; “your disaster is irreparable. What do you intend to do?”

“To go instantly to Geneva: come with me, Henry, to order the horses.”

During our walk, Clerval endeavoured to say a few words of consolation; he could only express his heartfelt sympathy. “Poor William!” said he, “dear lovely child, he now sleeps with his angel mother! Who that had seen him bright and joyous in his young beauty, but must weep over his untimely loss! To die so miserably; to feel the murderer's grasp! How much more a murderer that could destroy such radiant innocence! Poor little fellow! one only consolation have we; his friends mourn and weep, but he is at rest. The pang is over, his sufferings are at an end for ever. A sod covers his gentle form, and he knows no pain. He can no longer be a subject for pity; we must reserve that for his miserable survivors.”

Clerval spoke thus as we hurried through the streets; the words impressed themselves on my mind and I remembered them afterwards in solitude. But now, as soon as the horses arrived, I hurried into a cabriolet, and bade farewell to my friend.

My journey was very melancholy. At first I wished to hurry on, for I longed to console and sympathise with my loved and sorrowing friends; but when I drew near my native town, I slackened my progress. I could hardly sustain the multitude of feelings that crowded into my mind. I passed through scenes familiar to my youth, but which I had not seen for nearly six years. How altered every thing might be during that time! One sudden and desolating change had taken place; but a thousand little circumstances might have by degrees worked other alterations, which, although they were done more tranquilly, might not be the less decisive. Fear overcame me; I dared no advance, dreading a thousand nameless evils that made me tremble, although I was unable to define them. I remained two days at Lausanne, in this painful state of mind. I contemplated the lake: the waters were placid; all around was calm; and the snowy mountains, “the palaces of nature,” were not changed. By degrees the calm and heavenly scene restored me, and I continued my journey towards Geneva.

The road ran by the side of the lake, which became narrower as I approached my native town. I discovered more distinctly the black sides of Jura, and the bright summit of Mont Blanc. 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?”

I fear, my friend, that I shall render myself tedious by dwelling on these preliminary circumstances; but they were days of comparative happiness, and I think of them with pleasure. My country, my beloved country! who but a native can tell the delight I took in again beholding thy streams, thy mountains, and, more than all, thy lovely lake!

Yet, as I drew nearer home, grief and fear again overcame me. Night also closed around; and when I could hardly see the dark mountains, I felt still more gloomily. The picture appeared a vast and dim scene of evil, and I foresaw obscurely that I was destined to become the most wretched of human beings. Alas! I prophesied truly, and failed only in one single circumstance, that in all the misery I imagined and dreaded, I did not conceive the hundredth part of the anguish I was destined to endure.

It was completely dark when I arrived in the environs of Geneva; the gates of the town were already shut; and I was obliged to pass the night at Secheron, a village at the distance of half a league from the city. The sky was serene; and, as I was unable to rest, I resolved to visit the spot where my poor William had been murdered. As I could not pass through the town, I was obliged to cross the lake in a boat to arrive at Plainpalais. During this short voyage I saw the lightning playing on the summit of Mont Blanc in the most beautiful figures. The storm appeared to approach rapidly; and, on landing, I ascended a low hill, that I might observe its progress. It advanced; the heavens were clouded, and I soon felt the rain coming slowly in large drops, but its violence quickly increased.

I quitted my seat, and walked on, although the darkness and storm increased every minute, and the thunder burst with a terrific crash over my head. It was echoed from Salêve, the Juras, and the Alps of Savoy; vivid flashes of lightning dazzled my eyes, illuminating the lake, making it appear like a vast sheet of fire; then for an instant everything seemed of a pitchy darkness, until the eye recovered itself from the preceding flash. The storm, as is often the case in Switzerland, appeared at once in various parts of the heavens. The most violent storm hung exactly north of the town, over that part of the lake which lies between the promontory of Belrive and the village of Copêt. Another storm enlightened Jura with faint flashes; and another darkened and sometimes disclosed the Môle, a peaked mountain to the east of the lake.

While I watched the tempest, so beautiful yet terrific, I wandered on with a hasty step. This noble war in the sky elevated my spirits; I clasped my hands, and exclaimed aloud, “William, dear angel! this is thy funeral, this thy dirge!” As I said these words, I perceived in the gloom a figure which stole from behind a clump of trees near me; I stood fixed, gazing intently: I could not be mistaken. A flash of lightning illuminated the object, and discovered its shape plainly to me; its gigantic stature, and the deformity of its aspect, more hideous than belongs to humanity, instantly informed me that it was the wretch, the filthy dæmon, to whom I had given life. What did he there? Could he be (I shuddered at the conception) the murderer of my brother? No sooner did that idea cross my imagination, than I became convinced of its truth; my teeth chattered, and I was forced to lean against a tree for support. The figure passed me quickly, and I lost it in the gloom. Nothing in human shape could have destroyed the fair child. He was the murderer! I could not doubt it. The mere presence of the idea was an irresistible proof of the fact. I thought of pursuing the devil; but it would have been in vain, for another flash discovered him to me hanging among the rocks of the nearly perpendicular ascent of Mont Salêve, a hill that bounds Plainpalais on the south. He soon reached the summit, and disappeared.

I remained motionless. The thunder ceased; but the rain still continued, and the scene was enveloped in an impenetrable darkness. I revolved in my mind the events which I had until now sought to forget: the whole train of my progress toward the creation; the appearance of the work of my own hands alive at my bedside; its departure. Two years had now nearly elapsed since the night on which he first received life; and was this his first crime? Alas! I had turned loose into the world a depraved wretch, whose delight was in carnage and misery; had he not murdered my brother?

No one can conceive the anguish I suffered during the remainder of the night, which I spent, cold and wet, in the open air. But I did not feel the inconvenience of the weather; my imagination was busy in scenes of evil and despair. I considered the being whom I had cast among mankind, and endowed with the will and power to effect purposes of horror, such as the deed which he had now done, nearly in the light of my own vampire, my own spirit let loose from the grave, and forced to destroy all that was dear to me.

Day dawned; and I directed my steps towards the town. The gates were open, and I hastened to my father's house. My first thought was to discover what I knew of the murderer, and cause instant pursuit to be made. But I paused when I reflected on the story that I had to tell. A being whom I myself had formed, and endued with life, had met me at midnight among the precipices of an inaccessible mountain. I remembered also the nervous fever with which I had been seized just at the time that I dated my creation, and which would give an air of delirium to a tale otherwise so utterly improbable. I well knew that if any other had communicated such a relation to me, I should have looked upon it as the ravings of insanity. Besides, the strange nature of the animal would elude all pursuit, even if I were so far credited as to persuade my relatives to commence it. And then of what use would be pursuit? Who could arrest a creature capable of scaling the overhanging sides of Mont Salêve? These reflections determined me, and I resolved to remain silent.

It was about five in the morning when I entered my father's house. I told the servants not to disturb the family, and went into the library to attend their usual hour of rising.

Six years had elapsed, passed in a dream but for one indelible trace, and I stood in the same place where I had last embraced my father before my departure for Ingolstadt. Beloved and venerable parent! He still remained to me. I gazed on the picture of my mother, which stood over the mantel-piece. It was an historical subject, painted at my father's desire, and represented Caroline Beaufort in an agony of despair, kneeling by the coffin of her dead father. Her garb was rustic, and her cheek pale; but there was an air of dignity and beauty, that hardly permitted the sentiment of pity. Below this picture was a miniature of William; and my tears flowed when I looked upon it. While I was thus engaged, Ernest entered: he had heard me arrive, and hastened to welcome me. He expressed a sorrowful delight to see me: “Welcome, my dearest Victor,” said he. “Ah! I wish you had come three months ago, and then you would have found us all joyous and delighted! You come to us now to share a misery which nothing can alleviate; yet you presence will, I hope, revive our father, who seems sinking under his misfortune; and your persuasions will induce poor Elizabeth to cease her vain and tormenting self-accusations.—Poor William! he was our darling and our pride!”

Tears, unrestrained, fell from my brother's eyes; a sense of mortal agony crept over my frame. Before, I had only imagined the wretchedness of my desolated home; the reality came on me as a new, and a not less terrible, disaster. I tried to calm Ernest; I inquired more minutely concerning my father and her I named my cousin.

“She most of all,” said Ernest, “requires consolation; she accused herself of having caused the death of my brother, and that made her very wretched. But since the murderer has been discovered—”

“The murderer discovered! Good God! how can that be? who could attempt to pursue him? It is impossible; one might as well try to overtake the winds, or confine a mountain-stream with a straw. I saw him too; he was free last night!”

“I do not know what you mean,” replied my brother, in accents of wonder, “but to us the discovery we have made completes our misery. No one would believe it at first; and even now Elizabeth will not be convinced, notwithstanding all the evidence. Indeed, who would credit that Justine Moritz, who was so amiable, and fond of all the family, could suddenly become capable of so frightful, so appalling a crime?”

“Justine Moritz! Poor, poor girl, is she the accused? But it is wrongfully; every one knows that; no one believes it, surely, Ernest?”

“No one did at first; but several circumstances came out, that have almost forced conviction upon us; and her own behaviour has been so confused, as to add to the evidence of facts a weight that, I fear, leaves no hope for doubt. But she will be tried to-day, and you will then hear all.”

He then related that, the morning on which the murder of poor William had been discovered, Justine had been taken ill, and confined to her bed for several days. During this interval, one of the servants, happening to examine the apparel she had worn on the night of the murder, had discovered in her pocket the picture of my mother, which had been judged to be the temptation of the murderer. The servant instantly showed it to one of the others, who, without saying a word to any of the family, went to a magistrate; and, upon their deposition, Justine was apprehended. On being charged with the fact, the poor girl confirmed the suspicion in a great measure by her extreme confusion of manner.

This was a strange tale, but it did not shake my faith; and I replied earnestly, “You are all mistaken; I know the murderer. Justine, poor, good Justine, is innocent.”

At that instant my father entered. I saw unhappiness deeply impressed on his countenance, but he endeavoured to welcome me cheerfully; and, after we had exchanged our mournful greeting, would have introduced some other topic than that of our disaster, had not Ernest exclaimed, “Good God, papa! Victor says that he knows who was the murderer of poor William.”

“We do also, unfortunately,” replied my father; “for indeed I had rather have been for ever ignorant than have discovered so much depravity and ingratitude in one I valued so highly.”

“My dear father, you are mistaken; Justine is innocent.”

“If she is, God forbid that she should suffer as guilty. She is to be tried to-day, and I hope, I sincerely hope, that she will be acquitted.”

This speech calmed me. I was firmly convinced in my own mind that Justine, and indeed every human being, was guiltless of this murder. I had no fear, therefore, that any circumstantial evidence could be brought forward strong enough to convict her. My tale was not one to announce publicly; its astounding horror would be looked upon as madness by the vulgar. Did any one indeed exist, except I, the creator, who would believe, unless his senses convinced him, in the existence of the living monument of presumption and rash ignorance which I had let loose upon the world?

We were soon joined by Elizabeth. Time had altered her since I last beheld her; it had endowed her with loveliness surpassing the beauty of her childish years. There was the same candour, the same vivacity, but it was allied to an expression more full of sensibility and intellect. She welcomed me with the greatest affection. “Your arrival, my dear cousin,” said she, “fills me with hope. You perhaps will find some means to justify my poor guiltless Justine. Alas! who is safe, if she be convicted of crime? I rely on her innocence as certainly as I do upon my own. Our misfortune is doubly hard to us; we have not only lost that lovely darling boy, but this poor girl, whom I sincerely love, is to be torn away by even a worse fate. If she is condemned, I never shall know joy more. But she will not, I am sure she will not; and then I shall be happy again, even after the sad death of my little William.”

“She is innocent, my Elizabeth,” said I, “and that shall be proved; fear nothing, but let your spirits be cheered by the assurance of her acquittal.”

“How kind and generous you are! every one else believes in her guilt, and that made me wretched, for I knew that it was impossible: and to see every one else prejudiced in so deadly a manner rendered me hopeless and despairing.” She wept.

“Dearest niece,” said my father, “dry your tears. If she is, as you believe, innocent, rely on the justice of our laws, and the activity with which I shall prevent the slightest shadow of partiality.”

Footnotes

  1. 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.

    — Emily, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. 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.

    — Emily, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. A dirge is a funeral lament, normally in the form of a song or a poem. Victor embraces the notion that the thunderstorm overhead is a dirge for William’s death. Once again, this description insinuates that nature is beholden to the affairs of humanity, and, more specifically, to the events of Victor’s life.

    — Emily, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. Le Môle is a mountain of the Chablais Alps to the east of Lake Geneva (modern-day France).

    — Emily, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. A promontory is similar to a headland or a peninsula. Belrive here is most likely now the Genevan suburb Collonge-Bellerive, which is separated from the village of Copet by a narrow part of of Lake Geneva.

    — Emily, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. The Salève is a mountain of the French Prealps, often called the "Balcony of Geneva". The Juras refers to the Jura mountain range located along the France-Switzerland border, north of the Western Alps. The Alps of Savoy is the third mountain range of this list, located in southeastern France. Frankenstein describes the loud thunderstorm echoing between these mountain ranges. By using these large mountain ranges as the ‘borders’ of this thunderstorm, Shelley creates a sense of grandiosity and magnificence for the reader. This setting further foreshadows the greater sense of terror and destruction in the coming chapters.

    — Emily, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. 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.

    — Emily, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. Mont Blanc is the highest mountain of the Swiss Alps and 11th highest in the world. It is significant the Victor notices Mt Blanc as he drives back from London, as this mountain will later form an integral setting for his confrontation with the creature.

    — Emily, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. A cabriolet is a carriage drawn by a horse. This type of carriage was usually light, with two wheels and a foldable roof.

    — Emily, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. Exertions here means efforts. To remit means to cancel or suspend; as such unremitted means unbroken or maintained. In this line, Frankenstein’s father despairs that while they continue their efforts to discover William’s killer, they have been unsuccessful.

    — Emily, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. 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.

    — Emily, Owl Eyes Staff
  12. Victor calling the creature a vampire suggests that he does not consider the creature a human being, or even a living thing. Moreover, vampires are acknowledged as abominations of nature; this reinforces the idea that Victor’s creature is not natural, in other words, not favored by Nature.

    — Jane, Owl Eyes Staff
  13. In European folklore, vampires were creatures that came back from the graves to visit their loved ones while causing trouble and deaths in the community that they once lived in when they were still alive. Victor describes the creature as a reflection of his own vampire and spirit. The paralleling of Victor and the creature will continue to occur in the story, revealing to us similarities shared between the two.

    — Jane, Owl Eyes Staff
  14. The phrase “the night before” emphasizes the temporal nature of human life. William was active and healthy, and now he is dead. Shelley’s use of this phrase shows this sharp contrast between life and death and reminds us that everything can change in an instant.

    — Jane, Owl Eyes Staff
  15. 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.

    — Jane, Owl Eyes Staff
  16. Shelley personifies lightning to help us visualize the view that Victor is experiencing, allowing further understanding of Victor’s emotions in relation to the sublime. Also, such a description of lightning playing on the mountain suggests that Nature is playful, yet should be highly respected.

    — Jane, Owl Eyes Staff
  17. This description and others in this chapter reinforce the Romantic element of nature’s sublime and the effects it has on the human soul. In Victor’s case, there is irony; Victor has offended Nature, yet he can only find true consolation in his interaction with her.

    — Jane, Owl Eyes Staff
  18. Note here how Victor is grasping at straws as he remains torn between implicating himself (and his creation) vs. remaining secret and insisting on Justine's innocence.

    — Noelle Thompson
  19. Note that it is a lightning storm that arouses the creature to come into view of his creator:  Victor.  And here Victor comes to realize the seriousness of the truth awaiting him.  His creation may very well be the killer of his own flesh and blood.

    — Noelle Thompson
  20. The reader should also find it interesting that Victor is asked and agrees to come home because of the consolation of Elizabeth.  She is the main reason.

    — Noelle Thompson
  21. Note how strangely and severely Elizabeth reacts to the information here.  She actually blames herself and immediately connects the murder to her allowing William to wear the locket with mother's picture.  Obviously she is already connecting the two.  The reader should connect the two as well.

    — Noelle Thompson
  22. Here we learn that Victor's dear little brother, William, has been killed.  In fact, he has been strangled.  "Luckily," there is evidence left upon William's cold neck. 

    — Noelle Thompson
  23. Now for Some Words of Interpretation. Most scholars consider chapter seven to be the turning point in Shelley’s novel because the creature has now acted of his own regard and furthered the plot. Further, the creature is no longer innocent, but guilty. Note the suspense that Shelley builds with the increasing thunderstorm on the mountain. The reader should be prepared to finally observe the creature in this environment: an environment of electricity (stemming from the natural science that peaked Victor’s interest at the outset). What should further arouse the reader’s curiosity is the fact that the creature was able to find Victor’s loved ones. Of course, what stands out in this chapter is the fact that Victor is torn: should he free Justine and reveal his creation, or should he keep Justine as accused and keep himself safe. Victor ends the chapter still keeping himself safe, of course. He does his best to state that Justine is innocent (much to the relief of Elizabeth); however, the reader should wonder if this will be enough. For a further explanation and description of plot, please see my first note that begins with the following phrase: “First, let us expound upon the plot of this particular chapter.”

    — Noelle Thompson
  24. First, let us expound upon the plot of this particular chapter. It begins with Victor getting a letter from his dad asking him to come right home. Unfortunately, little William has been strangled by an unknown culprit. On an evening walk where William ran ahead of the family, he was found dead with an imprint upon his neck showing he had been strangled. Curiously, also missing was the special locket and chain that Elizabeth had given William that had belonged to their mother before she died. Victor does, in fact, go right home. However, when he gets there, he is forced to stay outside of the city until the morning (because the gates are locked for safety). During this hiatus, Victor realizes that he has been gone from home for six full years. Further, it was two years ago that Victor created his special creature. A further curiosity is that Victor sees the creature amid bolts of lightning while he waits to enter the city. Victor worries that his creature might have something to do with the murder of his little brother. Feeling very torn, Victor comes to terms with the fact that his monster must have something to do with the murder, but to speak about that possibility would implicate Victor himself. Victor vows to remain quiet at the present time. Ironically, when Victor finally reaches home, he finds that the servant named Justine (who Elizabeth has always spoken of so very highly) is accused of the murder. Elizabeth is beside herself with this stress in regards to Justine. Victor does his best to reassure Elizabeth. He swears to Justine’s innocence and guarantees that Justine will not be found guilty of the murder of William. Elizabeth’s burden is lightened a bit by Victor’s promises. For further explanation, please see my note at the end of this book beginning with the following phrase: "Now for some words of interpretation." 

    — Noelle Thompson