Frankenstein Chapter 17 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 and brief analysis of chapter 17 in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The timelines in the story have converged and, at this point, the creature and Victor Frankenstein are on the same narrative arc.

Overview of Previous Chapters

The creature has caused the deaths of William, Victor's youngest brother, and Justine Moritz, a longtime, beloved member of the Frankenstein household whom the creature framed for William's murder. Justine's acceptance of her fate sent Victor into agonies over his role in her death. After Justine's false confession (to avoid excommunication) and execution, Victor, his father Alphonse, and his fiancee Elizabeth fled the stress of Geneva for the Frankenstein home in Belrive. Victor was deep in depression and considered suicide but decided instead to take his father's advice and seek happiness before it was too late. Victor decided the bucolic scenery of the lake was not healing enough and departed for Chamonix, in nearby France. There, he experienced some relief from his fugue but, before he can depart for Belrive once more, he encountered the creature, who revealed his story thus far and brought their timelines into concurrence. The creature demanded Victor make him a mate to cure his loneliness.

The Slopes of Montanvert

View from Montanvert
View from Montanvert

The creature confronted Victor in a hut on the slopes of Montanvert, a glacier overlooking the Chamonix valley. It was a breathtaking landscape, popular among some tourists in the early 1800s for it's stark, majestic, and humbling landscape. Victor was horrified by the creature's demand and wondered what would happen if two such as his creation existed. If one was causing such mayhem, what would two do?

The creature blamed his anger and violence on his loneliness, something for which he blamed Victor. Victor created him, then abandoned him, leaving him to make his way in a world that did not want or understand him. He was an abomination in the eyes of all and acted accordingly. If he had a mate, he told Victor, they would go to South America and avoid all human contact (South America being a far less popular tourist destination in the early 1800s than it is today). He reminded Victor that he has already created life once. He merely needs to repeat the process.

Victor eventually agreed, and the creature promised that he will be monitoring Victor's progress -- a not-so-thinly veiled threat. The creature departed, and Victor made his way back to his family. Alphonse and Elizabeth were afraid when they saw him. He looked mad and wild. Victor was once again in the throes of anxiety and depression, any healing from nature long departed.

1823 image of actor TP Cooke as the creature
T P Cooke as Frankenstein

Nature and Foreshadowing

The location of the confrontation between the creature and Victor could not be farther removed from bucolic Belrive or Geneva in terms verdant beauty or the typical Romantic ideal of healing nature. Whereas Belrive and Geneva were green and close to clear, blue water and lush forests, Montanvert was icy, cold, and sharp. The glacier itself was described as ever-changing and the peaks dwarfed anything Victor had ever known before in terms of size. His hut was isolated and small -- nothing like spacious Belrive or his home in Geneva.

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