Frankenstein
Mary Shelley
Contributed by Jerrold Mcmenamin
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Chapter 15-17
Summary

Summary: Chapter 15

While searching food in the woods around the cottage, the monster finds an abandoned leather bag containing some clothes and books. Eager to learn more about the world than through the chink in the cottage wall, he brings the books back to his hovel and starts reading. The books include Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Sorrows of Werter, a volume of Plutarch’s Lives, and John Milton’s Paradise Lost, the last of which has the most profound effect on the monster.

Unaware that Paradise Lost is a work of imagination; he reads it as a factual history and draws much similarity between the story and his own situation. He searches the pockets of his clothes, stolen long ago from Victor’s apartment, he gets hold of some papers from Victor’s journal. Soon, he is able to understand the horrific manner of his own creation and the disgust with which his creator regarded him. The monster has a strong urge to reveal himself to the cottagers in the hope that they will ignore his hideous exterior and befriend him. He decides to approach the blind De Lacey first, hoping to win him over even as Felix, Agatha, and Safie are away. De Lacey being blind, there is a good chance that he might be unprejudiced against his hideous exterior. Then, he may be able to convince other family members of his gentle nature. Soon, there is a good opportunity as Felix, Agatha, and Safie go for a long walk. The monster nervously enters the cottage and speaks to the old man. Just as he is explaining his situation, the other three return unexpectedly. Horrified by the demon's appearance, Felix drives him away.

Summary: Chapter 16

Stung by the rejection, the fiend vows to revenge himself against all human beings, his creator in particular. After travelling for months secretively he is about to reach Geneva. On the way, he sees a young girl, seemingly alone; the girl accidentally falls into a stream and is on the verge of drowning. The monster rescues the girl but the man accompanying her shoots him, suspecting him of having attacked her. As he is on the outskirts of Geneva, the monster meets Victor’s younger brother, William, in the woods. William introduces himself as the son of Alphonse Frankenstein, this enrages the demon and he strangles the boy to death with his bare hands. He grabs a picture of Caroline Frankenstein from the boy's hand and places it in the folds of the dress of a girl sleeping in a barn. Later, this girl, Justine Moritz, is executed for William’s murder. After explaining to Victor the circumstances under which he killed William, which finally led to Justine’s conviction, the monster urges Victor to create a companion for him.

Summary: Chapter 17

The monster asserts that it is his right to have a female companion. At first, Victor refuses, but the monster appeals to Victor’s sense of responsibility as his creator. He reminds Victor that all his evil actions have been due to his desperate loneliness. The monster assures Victor that he along with his mate will hide in a jungle in South America, far from human contact. The monster argues that with the love and care of his mate he will no longer be compelled to kill innocent people. Victor is somehow convinced by these arguments and finally agrees to create a female creature.

The beast is overjoyed but still skeptical, he tells Victor that he will monitor his progress, and that, Victor need not worry about contacting him when his work is done.

Analysis

All through the novel, Paradise Lost acts as a touchstone for the monster in trying to make sense of his identity. Comparing himself to both Adam as well as Satan — the monster perceives himself as both human and demonic — the beast finds himself hanging uncomfortably between the two realms.

“Like Adam, I was created apparently united by no link to any other being in existence but 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,” he says. He is scolded like Adam and cursed like Satan, the monster is painfully aware of his creator’s utter disdain for him. The monster continues to address the Victor directly, reminding the reader of the relationship between the two, the exact situation in which the story is being told — the hut on Montanvert — and the complicated narrative structure of the novel. Furthermore, quotes like “Unfeeling, heartless creator! You had endowed me with perceptions and passions, and then cast me abroad an object for the scorn and horror of mankind” give structure to the narrative formally and also stress that the monster is telling his story purposively. He wants to elicit a reaction from Victor and fix Victor’s responsibility for his disastrous plight. The theme of sublime nature keeps repeating in the monster’s narrative. Just as Victor is affected by nature, the creature too experiences nature's powerful impact on him and endowing him with human-like qualities. Victor seeks comfort in the high, cold, hard world of the Alps, as if to freeze his guilt about the murder. The monster, on the other hand, is serenaded by the soft colors and smells of a springtime forest, symbolizing a desire to be accepted in the world and interact with others. “Half surprised by the novelty of these sensations, I allowed myself to be borne away by them; and, forgetting my solitude and deformity, dared to be happy,” the monster says. Unlike Victor, he is able to dispel, although momentarily, the negative aspects of his existence.

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