Frankenstein Chapter 16 Summary

Instructor: Meredith Spies

Meredith has studied literature and literary analysis, holding a master's degree in liberal arts with a focus on depictions of femininity vs masculinity in literature and art.

This lesson is a summary of chapter sixteen from Mary Shelley's ''Frankenstein''. It also contains a brief synopsis of preceding events in the novel pertinent to this chapter, but it is important to have read previous chapters in order to fully understand this lesson.

What leads to the events in chapter sixteen of Frankenstein?

Until this chapter in the novel, the creature and his creator, Victor Frankenstein, have been moving along different timelines. The shifting point of view narration coalesces in chapter sixteen, as the creature's and Victor's timelines finally intersect. Consequently, the creature's narration of the events from earlier in Victor's telling of the story (namely William's murder and Justine being framed, then convicted of the crime) begin the climax of the novel.

After Victor rejected the creature, the creature himself sought safety and companionship, first retreating to the woods to hide, then befriending De Lacey, a blind old man who lives in the woods, exiled from his native France under charges of treason. De Lacey treats the creature kindly and gives him hope for the future, assuring him that he will not be lonely forever. When De Lacey's children return, however, the creature is driven away.

Pen and ink drawing of Geneva
Pen and ink drawing of Geneva

Summary of Frankenstein, Chapter Sixteen

Chapter sixteen relays the story of William Frankenstein's murder and subsequent events from the creature's point of view. The De Lacey family rejects the creature after the blind Monsieur De Lacey's children return and see with whom their father has been keeping company. Feeling lonely and bereft again, the creature lashes out, burning the De Lacey cottage to the ground and setting out for Geneva to find Victor. The creature wants to punish Victor for making him if he was not going to teach him and love him. He wants Victor to suffer as much as he suffers.

As he travels to Geneva, he saves a young girl from drowning, but, upon being seen by others who had come to help, he is shot. His appearance made people think he meant to harm the girl. The creature is enraged and vows to retaliate against all mankind, not just Victor. He spends nearly a year traveling through the woods to reach the Geneva area, hiding during the day and traveling under cover of darkness.

When he is near Geneva, he comes across William Frankenstein while searching for food and shelter. He recognizes William as Victor's youngest brother and kills him, his first act of revenge against Victor. He takes the locket containing the image of Victor and William's late mother from the body and carries it with him as he continues on his quest for shelter. He reaches a nearby barn and finds Justine sleeping in the hayloft. He plants the locket on her and retreats, knowing she will be blamed for the murder of William.

The creature tells Victor this story in person, uniting their two separate timelines in the novel. He makes a demand of Victor. The creature wants a mate, someone to share existence with. He reminds Victor that his own actions have caused the destruction of lives and the anguish he is feeling. Additionally, he calls out Victor's cowardice and vanity, begging for relief from the seemingly unending loneliness and feeling of abandonment and rejection.

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