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Frankenstein Chapter 18 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 18 of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The lesson also includes a brief synopsis of events precipitating the chapter and a short analysis of some major themes in chapter 18.

Precipitating Events to Chapter 18 of Frankenstein

The creature confronts Victor Frankenstein on the slopes of Montanvert in the Chamonix Valley. Victor had gone there to seek the Romantic ideal of healing in nature and had begun to experience a measure of relief from his deep depression and anguish, but the creature arrived at the tiny hut where Victor was staying and cornered him, destroying his peace.

The creature details why he killed William, Victor's youngest brother, and framed Justine Moritz. He tells Victor that he is lonely and violent because of what Victor has done--namely, creating then abandoning him to a world that does not understand nor want him. He tells Victor that he owes him a companion and demands that Victor make him a mate. Victor refuses, but the creature pushes and Victor finally relents under coercion. The creature promises that he will flee with his mate to South America so they may live outside of society and be alone together. He also tells Victor that he will be monitoring the progress of his mate's creation closely and threatens to cause Victor more loss and grief if he tries to renege. Victor has no choice now; he must build the mate or his family will suffer.

Victor Begins His Research

Once back in Geneva, where his family and Elizabeth note his mad appearance and frantic demeanor, Victor begin to look into new developments in the scientific community since his initial creation of the creature several years previous. Victor finds that he will need to go to England in order to complete his research before beginning his new creation. He gets himself together and manages to present a calmer, less-frenzied front to his loved ones. He tells his father, Alphonse, that he would like to go to London for a tour. A tour was common practice among upper classes in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries where people, especially young men, would go on long trips to other European countries to ostensibly learn about the culture and see the sights, believing it would round their education, lend them a bit of polish, or even help with health problems. Telling Alphonse that he would be touring England would ensure Victor could remain abroad, doing research, without raising suspicion from his family or Elizabeth.

Leaving Geneva

Alphonse takes the news of Victor's supposed tour well but wonders if it is due to a reluctance to marry Elizabeth rather than a need for relaxation. Victor assures him that he truly wishes to marry Elizabeth but rejects Alphonse's suggestions to marry at once, to use a wedding as a balm for the family's recent grief. Victor does not want to marry while the creature's demand has yet to be met. He fears that marrying Elizabeth before making the creature's mate will further enrage the creature and lead to more deaths.

Instead, he agrees that his trip will not last more than a year, and he will take his friend Henry Clerval with him. Clerval is Victor's childhood friend and a foil to Victor. He balances Victor's character by being cheerful, friendly, and the epitome of the Romantic ideal of a man (at least in the eyes of 19 year old Mary Shelley--many scholars think it possible she modeled Clerval on her own husband and his friends). Clerval never asks Victor what he is doing with his research and does not know, at this point in the novel, that Victor made the creature or that he is about to make anther.

Clerval and Victor leave Geneva in September and travel down the Rhine, through France and Germany, and eventually reach England by late December.

Nature No Longer Heals

Rhine Valley in Viamala
Rhine Valley in Viamala

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