Frankenstein Chapter 23 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 23 from Mary Shelley's ''Frankenstein''. The lesson also contains a brief overview of events leading to chapter 23 and an analysis of some important themes in the chapter.

What Leads to Chapter 23?

After his return to Geneva, Victor decides to marry Elizabeth. He also confesses to Alphonse, his father, that he is responsible for the deaths of William, Justine, and Henry (they were all killed by the creature). Alphonse worries Victor is deranged and fears for his health. Victor and Elizabeth prepare to marry, but he tells her he has a horrible secret he will reveal to her the night of the wedding. He remembers the creature's promise to be present on his wedding night and decides that, whether he kills the monster or the monster kills him, he will be free either way. After the wedding, Victor and Elizabeth set out for Lake Como for their honeymoon. Victor's worry and anguish about the creature take away any happiness he may have felt.

The Honeymoon

Chapter 23 begins with Elizabeth and Victor on the first night of their honeymoon, staying in an inn on Lake Geneva, in Evian. It is, indeed, a dark and stormy night, one of the many Gothic elements utilized by Shelley to convey a sense of foreboding and to foreshadow horrible events. Gothic literature hallmarks include elements of Romanticism (strong nature imagery, picturesque ruined castles, damsels in distress) and horror (inhuman creatures, things that go bump in the night).

Evian on Lake Geneva
Evian on Lake Geneva

Victor is deep in the throes of paranoia over the creature's threat and, promising to tell Elizabeth his dire secret later, he sends her to their rooms while he roams the inn with a pistol in hand, waiting for the creature to appear. While he patrols, he hears a scream and rushes back to his room to find Elizabeth -- dead. She has been strangled, which is the creature's preferred method of murder.

Victor sees the creature fleeing via the window and fires at him, but misses. As other inn guests rush into the room, Victor reveals the truth about the creature, swearing to return to Geneva to protect his family, then collapsing in a fit of exhaustion.

Back to Geneva

Victor hurries back to Geneva, aware the creature is watching him and is not far away, feeling a connection to his creation despite not seeing him. He goes immediately to Alphonse, who takes the news of Elizabeth's death badly. He collapses and dies within days of Victor's news.

Victor's grief turns to vengeance, and he decides there is only one thing he can do. He goes to the magistrate and tells all. The magistrate thinks Victor is mad and does not really believe him. Besides, he reasons, even if the creature were real, what could anyone do to catch him? Victor, in a fit of anger, sets off on his own to track the creature and plans to kill him, even if he himself dies in the process.

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