Frankenstein Summary and Analysis
by Mary Shelley
Walton, in continuation:
Walton fondly recalls Victor's face, its shifting expressions; he remembers how his "fine and lovely eyes" were, by turns, filled with indignation, sorrow, and wretchedness. Walton is extremely curious as to how Victor was able to generate life; when questioned, however, Victor becomes extremely agitated. He entreats Walton to learn from his miseries, rather than endeavoring to create new ones; he says that, "like the archangel who aspired to omnipotence" (i.e. Satan), he "is chained in eternal hell."
Upon learning that Walton has prepared a written account of his history, Frankenstein corrects and augments it; he primly remarks that he does not want a "mutilated version to go down to posterity." With each successive conversation, Walton grows fonder of Victor, whose eloquence and erudition never fail to impress him; he feels that he has found the beloved friend whom he has always been seeking. Victor thanks him for his affection, but says that no new tie can replace the ones that he has lost.
In subsequent letters to his sister, Walton writes of the dire danger in which he and his crew find themselves. They are everywhere surrounded by mountains of ice, and it is not clear whether they will be able to free themselves; if, by a miracle, they are saved from death, the crew wants to return to England. Many of them have already died of cold and frostbite.
Walton hesitates, unwilling to grant their request. Even though he is in a half conscious state, Victor rouses himself enough to chastise the men for wishing to abandon their "glorious expedition." He tells them that they will be hailed as "benefactors of the species...brave men who encountered death for honor and for the benefit of mankind" if they continue with their expedition; to turn back would be pure cowardice, unbefitting a man. The men are unable to reply, and Victor lapses back into sleep.
The men remain firm in their demands, however, and Walton consents to return to England. He is bitterly disappointed to have lost his dreams of glory. When Walton informs Frankenstein that he is determined to head south, Victor says that he, unlike Walton, will not abandon his quest. He attempts to leap out of bed, but is too weak to do so; the doctor who is summoned to examine him says that he only has a few hours left to live.
On his deathbed, Victor says that he finds his past conduct to be blameless; he entreats Walton, "in perfect reason and virtue," to pursue the creature's destruction after his death. In a rare moment of sanity, he tells the young captain to avoid ambition; only a moment later, however, he reconsiders, and says that Walton may succeed where he himself failed. With that, he dies.
At midnight on the evening of Frankenstein's death, the creature steals into the ship to view the body of his dead creator. He utters exclamations of grief and horror, but moves to escape when Walton walks into the chamber. Walton asks him to stay. The creature, overcome with emotion, says that Victor, too, is his victim; he asks Frankenstein to pardon him for his crimes. Despite all that has transpired between them, the creature still harbors love for his creator.
Walton regards the creature with a mixture of curiosity and compassion, but cannot bring himself to console him. The creature says that it caused him agony to commit his crimes, since his heart "was fashioned to be susceptible to love and sympathy"; only the greatness of his misery drove him to vice and hatred. Walton, though he is touched by the creature's remorse, still feels great indignation at his crimes: he says that the creature has "thrown a torch into a pile of buildings, and when they were consumed...sat among the ruins and lamented the fall."
The creature ruefully remarks that he did not expect to find any sympathy from Walton, but is content to suffer alone. He cannot believe that he is the same being who once dreamed of sublime beauty and transcendent goodness; now he is "the fallen angel become a malignant devil." He wonders why Walton does not despise Felix, or the rustic who sought to kill the savior of his child; the monster feels himself to be "an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on." Walton's hatred of the creature cannot, however, equal the creature's hatred of himself; the creature says that he will throw himself upon a funeral pyre, and thus be saved from the enormity of his remorse. With that, he leaves the ship, and is "lost in darkness and distance."
In death, Frankenstein appears to have learned nothing at all from his sufferings. He still wants posterity to revere and remember him, as is indicated by his augmentation of Walton's written account of his tale. He commands Walton's men to continue their expedition, thereby endangering their own lives and the lives of their fellow men; it is clear that the pursuit of fame and glory is still foremost in his mind. Recall that he, too, once longed to "benefit the species" through scientific enterprise; his creature and all the havoc his creature has wrought was the result.
Even at the moment of his death, Victor displays an unparalleled selfishness: he asks Walton to continue the quest for vengeance that has brought Victor himself to such ruin, and tells him that he need not forsake his outsize ambitions. Frankenstein, though we pity him for all he has lost, remains irredeemably arrogant, and seems to regard human life as being ultimately less valuable than pioneering endeavor. Walton, for his part, has learned little from Frankenstein's tale: he is consumed with curiosity about how one might generate life, and bitterly laments the termination of his voyage.
It is important to note that both Frankenstein and his creature compare themselves to Satan in this final chapter: both feel they have fallen from a great height to end in ruin and decay. Once again, they are indissolubly linked it is as though they have become the same person. It is therefore only logical that the creature should die now that Frankenstein is dead: he has lost his animating principle, the person who made his life worth living.
We discover that the creature did not relish his crimes; instead, they were abhorrent to him; he is wracked (as his creator was) with guilt and self-hatred. His last description of himself is as an "abortion," a metaphor that is of the utmost significance: the creature does not feel that he has ever truly lived. Like an aborted child, he was unwanted by his parent, and was never permitted to fully develop: he is a monster, not-quite-human, but with the capacity for humanness. This creature, who has been said to carry hell within himself, chooses to die by fire; in this way can he completely destroy the body that was so hated by so many.
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- About Frankenstein
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- Summary and Analysis of Letters 1-4
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 1-4
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 5-8
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 9-12
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 13-16
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 17-20
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 21-24
- Summary and Analysis of Walton, continued
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