Frankenstein Chapters 17-20 - Summary

  With Chapter 17, we see Victor's reaction to the monster's request for a mate. At first, Victor flat-out refuses the monster's demands. However, the monster then begins to appeal to Victor's sense of reason. The monster says that Victor owes him a mate for abandoning his responsibilities and leaving the monster to fend for himself. He also says that, if given a mate who can sympathize with his plight, he will no longer be driven to commit crimes. With his mate, he plans to flee to South America and live in the jungles, far away from any humans whom he might be able to harm.

  Finally, Victor agrees that he will grant the monster's request. The monster tells Victor that he will be checking in on him from time to time because he still doesn't trust his creator. He also states that he will know when the work is done, so there is no need for Victor to contact him.

  Victor departs from the monster, and he begins to have second thoughts about creating a she-monster. So, he procrastinates for a time, continuing to wallow in depression. He realizes, eventually, that he needs to travel to England to gather information. Alphonse, his father, questions Victor about the cause of his unhappiness, wondering if it is his impending marriage with Elizabeth that troubles him so. Victor assures him that this, in actuality, is the only source of hope and happiness in his life. Alphonse thinks perhaps they should expedite the marriage, but Victor doesn't want to marry Elizabeth until the she-monster is made, and both monsters are gone from his life forever. His father arranges a two-year trip across Europe for him, and Henry Clerval is to tag along with him.

  Henry and Victor make their way through several countries on their way to London. In Scotland, Victor urges Henry to stay with a friend of his while he makes a tour of Scotland alone. Victor heads to the Orkneys in Scotland-a small groups of islands-and settles into a shack on one remote island to begin making he female monster. As he devotes more and more time to this task, he becomes increasing disgusted with the prospect of making another horrifyingly hideous creature. He comes to have several concerns about this new creation. First, he knows that the monster will have-free will. What if she doesn't like the male monster? Or what if she doesn't want to seclude herself in South America? Victor also has a terrifying thought about what would happen of the two monsters had children, bringing more of these terrible creations into the world.

  Victor decides to destroy his half-formed creation, the monster watching through the window all the while. The monster is furious, vowing to Victor, "I will be with you on your wedding night." This is an example of foreshadowing in the text, or a hint at what is to come. An astute reader can assume that something bad is going to happen to Victor when he finally marries Elizabeth.

  The next night, Victor receives a letter from Henry, who is impatient to continue with their travels. Victor packs his things, and takes a boat out into the ocean to discard the remains of the female creature. A storm catches him off guard, and eventually he makes his way toward an unfamiliar town on the shore. As he disembarks, the townspeople tell him that he is under suspicion for a murder that occurred the previous night. This is an example of irony, or when something is different than you would expect. Victor may not have committed a murder of someone from the town but, in a sense, he did commit murder the previous night by discarding the remains of the she-monster.

  The near-creation of a female monster in this section is revealing in terms of how females are treated in the novel. Typically, the females in the novel are very passive. Victor's mother gives up her life by caring for Elizabeth and catching the same illness. Elizabeth seems content to wait endlessly for her fiancé to be ready to marry her. Justine died, unable to prove her innocence. Even the female monster's fate is entirely subject to men's judgment. Before she is even born, Victor fears his inability to control her and, thus, destroys her. The passivity of women in the novel is certainly something that should be noticeable to the reader if they step back for a moment and look at the actions of the primary female characters.

  Perhaps the only exception to this passive female is Safie; she disobeys her father of her own accord in order to run away and be with Felix. In fact, she defies a society that would oppress her.

  This is a curious statement about the female role in society from a female author. Shelley wrote at a time when it was considered unacceptable for women to be writers, so it seems unlikely that such an active woman who defied society's expectations should condone such submissive behavior. It is possible, instead, that perhaps she is drawing attention to the fact that women are too easy subverted by men in her society.

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