Frankenstein

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Victor Frankenstein Character Analysis

The oldest son in the Frankenstein family, the eventual husband of Elizabeth Lavenza, and the novel's protagonist and narrator of most of the story (he tells his story to Robert Walton, who relates it to the reader). From childhood, Victor has a thirst for knowledge and powerful ambition. These two traits lead him to study biology at university in Ingolstadt, where he eventually discovers the "secret of life" and then uses that knowledge to create his own living being. But Frankenstein is also prejudiced, and cannot stand his creation's ugliness. He thinks it a monster though in fact it's kind and loving. Victor's abandonment of his "monster" creates a cycle of guilt, anger, and destruction, in which first the monster takes vengeance upon Victor, and then Victor swears vengeance on the monster. In the end, Victor resembles the monster he hates far more than he would care to imagine.

Victor Frankenstein Quotes in Frankenstein

The Frankenstein quotes below are all either spoken by Victor Frankenstein or refer to Victor Frankenstein. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Family, Society, Isolation Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the W. W. Norton & Company edition of Frankenstein published in 2012.
Letter 4 Quotes
You seek for knowledge and wisdom, as I once did; and I ardently hope that the gratification of your wishes may not be a serpent to sting you, as mine has been.
Related Characters: Victor Frankenstein (speaker), Robert Walton
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Victor Frankenstein prepares to tell Walton his story, a story driven by Frankenstein's own brush with maddening ambition. Once again Mary Shelley draws the reader's attention to parallels between Victor and Walton: the men are both well-educated, adventurous, and hungry for glory. Here, though, Victor speaks of his own goals in the past tense, and the reader can infer that he has suffered a dismal reversal of fortune, that his quest for glory and knowledge has ended in despair.

Victor's mention of a metaphorical "serpent" in this section is one of the novel's many allusions to the Bible and John Milton's Paradise Lost, an epic poem that dramatizes Satan's rebellion against God and his subsequent role in Adam and Eve's banishment from the Garden of Eden. Once an angel, Satan led an unsuccessful rebellion against God, who cast him from Heaven. He later appears in Eden as a snake and corrupts Adam and Eve, encouraging them to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (This transgression, in which Adam and Eve disobeyed God's laws and gained corrupting knowledge, matches Victor's transgression in creating the monster, which was a perversion of natural laws.) Many Romantic writers (including Mary Shelley) actually saw Satan as a sympathetic character, awesome in his ambition and intellect. Victor and the Monster have much in common with Milton's Satan: they lead isolated lives, they have sinned against mankind, and they usually act with passion. In this quote, Victor describes the Monster as the "serpent," a manifestation of Satan himself—though it is certainly possible to argue that Victor is misguided in identifying the Monster, rather than his own ambition, as being the serpent.

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Chapter 4 Quotes
Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world.
Related Characters: Victor Frankenstein (speaker)
Related Symbols: Light
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

In Chapter 4, Victor describes how he pursues his scientific studies under Waldman's tutelage and discovers the "cause of generation and life." He decides to put this knowledge to use and build a new, gigantic human being. Here, Victor is still describing his unflagging enthusiasm to Walton: he has not yet made the Monster and come to regret it.

Shelley highlights Victor's arrogance and ambition in this section, and the obvious absurdity of his goal, by using the verb "appeared." Only in retrospect does Victor understand that life and death are vast, complicated concepts that cannot simply be manipulated by science. But at the time, in his ambition and belief in the primacy of knowledge, Victor ironically lacks the wisdom to see these deeper truths. The symbol of Light plays into this relationship between enlightenment and blindness. For instance, a "flash of lightning" illuminates the Monster in Chapter 7. Victor wants to bring light (i.e. scientific knowledge) into the world, and yet he cannot control its radiance and the light becomes terrifying, dangerous. Put another way: the "light" Victor seeks is so bright that it blinds him to the consequences of his actions. In this way, Victor is indeed the "Modern Prometheus," following in the footsteps of the Classical Greek Titan who first gave humans fire, and in so doing disobeyed the Gods and was terribly punished. 

Finally, Shelley shows us here that Victor has the violent impulses (as shown by the words "break" and "torrent") and lofty dreams that are typical of a Romantic hero. He refuses to abide by conventions and exists outside society, tormented by a heightened understanding of the world. Interestingly, the Monster will go on to exhibit many of these same traits. 

Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.
Related Characters: Victor Frankenstein (speaker), Robert Walton
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Victor begs Walton to reconsider his own ambition and look for fulfillment and satisfaction not in discovery but in daily life. Shelley shows us again that the two men share several qualities, including an obsession with knowledge and glory. She makes it clear that ambitious men are doomed, using the words "dangerous" and "allow."

In this sentence, Victor establishes a distinction between two types of men: one who "believes his native town to be the world" and one who "aspires to become greater than his nature will allow." The first is a happy member of society because he is "native" to the world — he considers his fellow men to be his peers and does not reject them in favor of scientific discovery. The second, on the other hand, resembles a Romantic hero in his isolation, ambition, and misery. He has no "native town," no real domestic comforts, and in trying to become great cuts himself off from the rest of the world. Victor's mastery of life and death made him such a person, and Walton risks becoming one if he does not abandon his plans. 

Chapter 5 Quotes
For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.
Related Characters: Victor Frankenstein (speaker), The Monster
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:

Victor has finally accomplished his goal: he has brought the Monster to life. However, he is immediately disgusted by his creation, such as the Monster's pale eyes and taut skin. In this section, he explains to Walton how his scientific enthusiasm suddenly morphed into repulsion. 

This is an essential moment in the novel, as it marks the beginning of Victor's disillusionment, a progressive loss of innocence. While his innocence is certainly beautiful, Shelley shows us that it is necessarily fleeting — the noun "dream" implies that reality and innocence are at odds with each other. They cannot coexist, and not one of the novel's characters escapes unscathed, unharmed by human ambition or injustice. 

Here, Shelley also introduces us to the Monster's unfortunate appearance, one that elicits "horror and disgust" in Victor. The creature will face such visceral reactions and intolerance from everyone he meets throughout the novel. Yet Shelley depicts the Monster as a complex, intelligent, and sympathetic figure, asking us to think about prejudice and empathy as we form our own opinions of him. 

Chapter 7 Quotes
[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 demon to whom I had given life.
Related Characters: Victor Frankenstein (speaker), The Monster
Related Symbols: Light
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

At the beginning of Chapter 7, Victor learns that William, his brother, has been strangled in a cemetery. He makes immediate plans to return to Geneva, where he will console his family. Entering the city at night as a thunderstorm breaks out overheard, he heads first to the cemetery in question. He sees the Monster's shape as a bolt of lightning floods the landscape, and understands that his own creation has murdered his brother. 

Again, Shelley depicts Victor's disgust for the Monster: though Victor has only seen the Monster (and not spoken with him) at this point, he already looks upon him with hatred. The words "demon," "hideous," and "wretch" betray his prejudice. He doesn't acknowledge that the Monster's appearance might not correspond to its emotional or intellectual state. 

Light, too, plays a crucial role in this section. Many of the novel's important scenes involve bright, blinding lights, both literal (as in this case) or metaphorical. Light can stand for scientific discovery, on the one hand, but also the harsh reality of lost innocence — as the lightning shows Victor the horrible truth of the situation. 

Chapter 10 Quotes
All men hate the wretched; how then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things! Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature, to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us.
Related Characters: The Monster (speaker), Victor Frankenstein
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

Victor travels to Chamounix, an Alpine village, following the death of his brother and the execution of Justine. He finds solace in the "sublime" mountains and spectacular views, all of which soothe his troubled mind. However, as Victor crosses a glacier one day, the Monster confronts him for the first time. 

The Monster makes an impassioned speech, accusing Victor of intolerance, and yet also aligning himself with his creator. Shelley makes it clear that both figures are "miserable," physically and psychologically isolated: both are Romantic heroes, tormented by guilt and loneliness. Not only are the words "creature" and "creator" similar, but they remind us of Satan's relationship to God in Paradise Lost. Satan, too, is God's "creature," cast from the heavenly realm and sentenced to a miserable existence.

Victor has treated the Monster with fear and disgust up until this point — and in the conversation following this quote, the Monster describes this injustice and his first painful months in the world. Shelley does not dismiss or caricature the Monster. Yet this quote foreshadows the inevitable mortal conflict between the two characters, as only "annihilation" can break the ties that bind them.  

Chapter 16 Quotes
I am alone and miserable: man will not associate with me; but one as deformed and horrible as myself would not deny herself to me. My companion must be of the same species and have the same defects. This being you must create.
Related Characters: The Monster (speaker), Victor Frankenstein
Page Number: 101
Explanation and Analysis:

The Monster has just shared his tale with Victor, from his first nights in the wilderness to William's murder in the cemetery. He concludes with a demand: since all humans despise the Monster's appearance, and the Monster finds himself entirely alone and hated in the world, Victor must fashion an equally deformed female companion for him.

The questions of isolation and community are pertinent here, as the Monster seeks exactly the kind of companionship that the world, full of prejudice and intolerance, has denied him. To Shelley, a healthy man is one who does not lead a solitary existence: by this logic, Victor and the Monster are consumed and destroyed by their single-minded and lonely obsessions.

We should also note that Shelley gives another nod to Milton here. In an earlier chapter, the Monster had pored over Paradise Lost, noting the obvious parallels between himself, Satan, and Adam. And so his desire for a female companion, in a way, comes from his identification with Adam, the first man. Eve is the only other human being in Eden, and is Adam's only companion, created because Adam was alone: a female Monster would play a similar role. The Monster demands that this companion belong to his "species."

Chapter 20 Quotes
You can blast my other passions, but revenge remainsrevenge, henceforth dearer than light of food! I may die, but first you, my tyrant and tormentor, shall curse the sun that gazes on your misery.
Related Characters: The Monster (speaker), Victor Frankenstein
Related Symbols: Light
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:

At the beginning of Chapter 20, Victor toils in his laboratory, creating a female companion for the Monster. However, as he considers the Monster's many crimes, he concludes that a female companion might exacerbate rather than solve the problem. He destroys his work and the Monster eventually confronts him, vowing revenge. 

Victor has eliminated the possibility of companionship and love in the Monster's life once and for all: in consequence, revenge becomes the Monster's only motivating desire. (The repetition of "revenge" and the exclamation mark indicate that this is a pivotal moment, in which the stakes are high.) The Monster has watched humans (notably the De Lacey family) reject him, and has now seen Victor destroy the very creature that could have secured his happiness. 

Light appears again in this section, bearing its telltale ambiguous significance. Here, the sun seems particularly foreboding (prompting a curse from Victor) and the quote itself is a threat, an assurance of miseries still to come.

Chapter 22 Quotes
If for one instant I had thought what might be the hellish intention of my fiendish adversary, I would rather have banished myself forever from my native country and wandered a friendless outcast over the earth than have consented to this miserable marriage. But, as if possessed of magic powers, the monster had blinded me to his real intentions; and when I thought that I had prepared only my own death, I hastened that of a far dearer victim.
Related Characters: Victor Frankenstein (speaker), The Monster, Elizabeth Lavenza
Page Number: 137
Explanation and Analysis:

Victor has returned to Geneva, following Henry's death and his own nervous illness. He has become engaged to Elizabeth — and though he thinks about the Monster's final threat a great deal ("I will be with you on your wedding night"), he fails to understand that Elizabeth is in danger. Shelley makes no attempt to disguise Elizabeth's future demise in this section: we have no doubt that the "far dearer victim" is Victor's fiancée.

Victor believes he has grasped the situation, and this arrogant certainty "blinds" him to the truth. (He even announces that the Monster "blinded [him] to his real intentions.") Victor's ambition and his fallibility are inextricable: beset by lofty desires (either for revenge, glory, or the peace of death), he cannot always see the reality of a situation. 

Shelley reminds us of Victor's curious position, at once a loving family member and an outcast, and the word "native" is crucial to this quote. It should remind us of Chapter 4, when Victor tells Walton that a "man who believes his native town to be the world" is happier than an ambitious one. Victor is too caught up in his research to belong to his family or his environment; like Robert Walton and the Monster, he is not at home in the world. Shelley does not present this as a desirable state. 



Walton, in continuation Quotes
Seek happiness in tranquility and avoid ambition, even if it be only the apparently innocent one of distinguishing yourself in science and discoveries.
Related Characters: Victor Frankenstein (speaker)
Page Number: 157
Explanation and Analysis:

These are Victor's final words to Walton, as he breathes his last aboard the ship. It is a final, explicit statement of advice that both Walton and the reader have already inferred from earlier conversations (including Victor's statement "Learn from me [...] how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge" in Chapter 4). Shelley writes these statements as commands (in the imperative), lending them even more weight and solemnity. 

Not only does Victor tell Walton that he should "avoid ambition," but the dying man goes on to condemn "science and discoveries" in particular. Scientific ambition is only "apparently innocent:" it appears noble and worthwhile, yet leads to the same misery and arrogance. Tranquility, then, is of the utmost importance, and Shelley seems to support this point of view. The Romantic heroes in the novel (e.g. the Monster, Victor, Walton) have either endured a solitary, abnormal life or sought out such an existence. Ambition leads to isolation; isolation, in turn, leads to misery and anger.

Victor does not die a fully reformed man, however. In the sentences leading up to this quote, he asks Walton to take on his burden and exact revenge against the Monster. We see that he remains conflicted until his final breath, wavering between revenge and forgiveness, ambition and tranquility. 

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Victor Frankenstein Character Timeline in Frankenstein

The timeline below shows where the character Victor Frankenstein appears in Frankenstein. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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The stranger, Victor Frankenstein, says he was born in Naples and grew up in Geneva, Switzerland. His father,... (full context)
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Victor, his parents, and all the Frankensteins adored Elizabeth. She became to him a "more than... (full context)
Chapter 2
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Victor describes his perfect childhood. He and Elizabeth got along perfectly, though she favored poetry while... (full context)
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In addition to Elizabeth, Victor shares a close friendship with Henry Clerval, his well-read schoolmate. Like Victor, Clerval possesses a... (full context)
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As he grows up, Victor becomes fascinated with "natural philosophy," and reads widely among the thinkers in this field who... (full context)
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One day, when Victor observes lightning strike a tree, he realizes that the laws of science are beyond human... (full context)
Chapter 3
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Just before Victor turns seventeen, Elizabeth catches scarlet fever and passes it on to Victor's mother, who dies.... (full context)
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He meets with his professor of natural philosophy, M. Krempe, who tells Victor that his previous studies have all been a waste of time. Yet Victor then attends... (full context)
Chapter 4
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Victor becomes so caught up in natural philosophy that he ignores everything else, including his family.... (full context)
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Victor decides to build a race of beings, starting with one creature. He spends months alone... (full context)
Chapter 5
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After months of effort, Victor is successful in bringing his creature to life. But once alive, the creature's appearance horrifies... (full context)
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Victor runs from the room and tries to sleep, but nightmares of death and tombs wake... (full context)
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Still avoiding his apartment, Victor wanders Ingolstadt, and runs into Henry Clerval, who has come to university to embark on... (full context)
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Victor checks to see if the monster is still in his apartment, and is overjoyed to... (full context)
Chapter 6
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In her letter, Elizabeth updates Victor on his brothers, and says that Justine Moritz, a former servant of the Frankensteins, has... (full context)
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Victor introduces Clerval to his professors, but though they praise him Victor finds anything connected with... (full context)
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Near the end of term, as Victor and Clerval wait to travel back to Geneva, they take a tour around Germany which... (full context)
Chapter 7
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On returning from the tour, Victor receives a letter from his father saying that his youngest brother, William, has been murdered.... (full context)
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Near where his brother died, Victor sees a figure resembling the monster. He realizes that the monster killed William, which means... (full context)
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When Victor arrives home the next day, his brother Ernest tearfully informs him that Justine has been... (full context)
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Victor announces to his family that Justine is certainly not guilty, but says no more since... (full context)
Chapter 8
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Victor wishes he could confess in Justine's place, but his absence at the time of the... (full context)
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Victor speaks with a member of the court, who says that Justine has already confessed to... (full context)
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The next day Justine is executed. Victor feels guilt overwhelm him for his secret role in William and Justine's deaths. (full context)
Chapter 9
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Victor despairs that his good intentions have resulted in such horror. Soon the Frankensteins go to... (full context)
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One day Elizabeth tells Victor that she no longer sees the world the same way after witnessing the execution of... (full context)
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A while later Victor decides to travel to Chamonix, France, hoping the trip will provide relief from his "ephemeral,... (full context)
Chapter 10
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At Chamonix, Victor continues to feel despair. He again tries to escape it through nature: he climbs to... (full context)
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But with great eloquence the monster claims to be Victor's offspring. "I ought to be thy Adam," it says. (full context)
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The monster continues that it was once benevolent, and turned to violence only after Victor, its creator, abandoned it. It begs Victor to listen to its story. Victor, for the... (full context)
Chapter 15
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The monster adds that when it fled from Victor's apartment it accidentally took some of his journal entries, which turned out to describe its... (full context)
Chapter 16
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...and a desire for revenge. He burns down the cottage and heads for Geneva and Victor. (full context)
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The chapter ends with the monster's demand that Victor create a female counterpart for him. (full context)
Chapter 17
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The narrative returns to Victor's voice. Fearing that two monsters will just cause more murder and destruction, Victor refuses to... (full context)
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The monster argues that its violence stems from its misery, and that Victor, as its creator, is responsible for that misery. The monster adds that if Victor creates... (full context)
Chapter 18
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Almost immediately, Victor begins to question the wisdom of creating a companion for the monster and delays. He... (full context)
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Alphonse senses Victor's distress, and thinks it might stem from some reluctance on Victor's part to marry Elizabeth.... (full context)
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Alphonse and Victor agree that he will go to England for a time not to exceed a year,... (full context)
Chapter 19
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Victor and Clerval arrive in London in October. Victor continues to despair, avoiding people unless they... (full context)
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Victor and Clerval travel to Scotland. There, Victor leaves Clerval with a friend and travels on... (full context)
Chapter 20
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One night in his lab, Victor worries that the new creature he's creating might refuse to live away from humans, or... (full context)
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Hours later, the monster returns to Victor's lab. It now refers to Victor only as "Man" and vows revenge. It promises: "I... (full context)
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A letter soon arrives from Clerval suggesting they resume their travels. Victor gathers up his laboratory materials and rows out into the ocean to dump them. Victor... (full context)
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When Victor lands a group of angry townspeople gathers around his boat. He's a suspect in a... (full context)
Chapter 21
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At Mr. Kirwin's office, Victor learns that a man in his mid-twenties was found dead on the shore with black... (full context)
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When Victor regains awareness he is still in prison. Mr. Kirwin treats him kindly, advising him that... (full context)
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Two weeks later Victor is released because the court has nothing but circumstantial evidence against him. Despairing and determined... (full context)
Chapter 22
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En route to Geneva, they stop in Paris so Victor can regain his strength. His father tries to help by getting him to engage with... (full context)
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While in Paris, Victor receives a letter from Elizabeth. She expresses her desire to marry Victor, but worries he... (full context)
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A week later Victor and his father arrive in Geneva. The wedding takes place ten days later. Yet as... (full context)
Chapter 23
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A storm rolls in after they arrive at the cottage. Victor, armed with a pistol and terrified that the monster will attack at any moment, sends... (full context)
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Victor rushes back to Geneva. The news of Elizabeth's death overwhelms his father Alphonse, who dies... (full context)
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Victor goes mad for several months and is kept in a cell. When he regains his... (full context)
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Victor curses the magistrate and all of humanity. "Man," he cries, "how ignorant art thou in... (full context)
Chapter 24
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Victor decides to leave Geneva forever. While visiting the graves of his family he swears revenge,... (full context)
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For months, Victor tracks the monster northward into the frigid Arctic regions, led by clues and taunting notes... (full context)
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This is the point at which Walton's ship rescued Victor. The narrative returns to the present. Victor, knowing he's dying, begs Walton to take vengeance... (full context)
Walton, in continuation
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...his sister, Margaret Saville. In a letter on August 26, Walton says that he believes Victor's story and recalls how Victor described himself as the victim of "lofty ambition," which brought... (full context)
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...turn the ship around and head for home as soon as the ice frees them. Victor speaks up in his defense, telling the rebellious crew members they should "be men," for... (full context)
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...says that he has turned back, his hopes of "glory" and "utility" crushed. In addition, Victor has died. Victor had objected to Walton's decision to turn back his ship and said... (full context)
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Walton interrupts his letter upon hearing a disturbance in the cabin where Victor's body lies. He returns to tell Margaret that he has just seen the monster crying... (full context)