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Chapter I.

Published onJun 17, 2019
Chapter I.

Volume II.

Chapter I.

Nothing is more painful to the human mind, than, after the feelings have been worked up by a quick succession of events, the dead calmness of inaction and certainty which follows, and deprives the soul both of hope and fear. Justine died; she rested; and I was alive. The blood flowed freely in my veins, but a weight of despair and remorse pressed on my heart, which nothing could remove. Sleep fled from my eyes; I wandered like an evil spirit, for I had committed deeds of mischief beyond description horrible, and more, much more, (I persuaded myself) was yet behind. Yet my heart overflowed with kindness, and the love of virtue. I had begun life with benevolent intentions, and thirsted for the moment when I should put them in practice, and make myself useful to my fellow-beings. Now all was blasted: instead of that serenity of conscience, which allowed me to look back upon the past with self-satisfaction, and from thence to gather promise of new hopes, I was seized by remorse and the sense of guilt, which hurried me away to a hell of intense tortures, such as no language can describe.

This state of mind preyed upon my health, which had entirely recovered from the first shock it had sustained. I shunned the face of man; all sound of joy or complacency was torture to me; solitude was my only consolation—deep, dark, death-like solitude.

My father observed with pain the alteration perceptible in my disposition and habits, and endeavoured to reason with me on the folly of giving way to immoderate grief. “Do you think, Victor,” said he, “that I do not suffer also? No one could love a child more than I loved your brother”; (tears came into his eyes as he spoke); “but is it not a duty to the survivors, that we should refrain from augmenting their unhappiness by an appearance of immoderate grief? It is also a duty owed to yourself; for excessive sorrow prevents improvement or enjoyment, or even the discharge of daily usefulness, without which no man is fit for society.”

This advice, although good, was totally inapplicable to my case; I should have been the first to hide my grief, and console my friends, if remorse had not mingled its bitterness with my other sensations. Now I could only answer my father with a look of despair, and endeavour to hide myself from his view.

About this time we retired to our house at Belrive. This change was particularly agreeable to me. The shutting of the gates regularly at ten o’clock, and the impossibility of remaining on the lake after that hour, had rendered our residence within the walls of Geneva very irksome to me. I was now free. Often, after the rest of the family had retired for the night, I took the boat, and passed many hours upon the water. Sometimes, with my sails set, I was carried by the wind; and sometimes, after rowing into the middle of the lake, I left the boat to pursue its own course, and gave way to my own miserable reflections. I was often tempted, when all was at peace around me, and I the only unquiet thing that wandered restless in a scene so beautiful and heavenly, if I except some bat, or the frogs, whose harsh and interrupted croaking was heard only when I approached the shore—often, I say, I was tempted to plunge into the silent lake, that the waters might close over me and my calamities for ever. But I was restrained, when I thought of the heroic and suffering Elizabeth, whom I tenderly loved, and whose existence was bound up in mine. I thought also of my father, and surviving brother: should I by my base desertion leave them exposed and unprotected to the malice of the fiend whom I had let loose among them?

At these moments I wept bitterly, and wished that peace would revisit my mind only that I might afford them consolation and happiness. But that could not be. Remorse extinguished every hope. I had been the author of unalterable evils; and I lived in daily fear, lest the monster whom I had created should perpetrate some new wickedness. I had an obscure feeling that all was not over, and that he would still commit some signal crime, which by its enormity should almost efface the recollection of the past. There was always scope for fear, so long as any thing I loved remained behind. My abhorrence of this fiend cannot be conceived. When I thought of him, I gnashed my teeth, my eyes became inflamed, and I ardently wished to extinguish that life which I had so thoughtlessly bestowed. When I reflected on his crimes and malice, my hatred and revenge burst all bounds of moderation. I would have made a pilgrimage to the highest peak of the Andes, could I, when there, have precipitated him to their base. I wished to see him again, that I might wreak the utmost extent of anger on his head, and avenge the deaths of William and Justine.

Our house was the house of mourning. My father’s health was deeply shaken by the horror of the recent events. Elizabeth was sad and desponding; she no longer took delight in her ordinary occupations; all pleasure seemed to her sacrilege towards the dead; eternal woe and tears she then thought was the just tribute she should pay to innocence so blasted and destroyed. She was no longer that happy creature, who in earlier youth wandered with me on the banks of the lake, and talked with ecstacy of our future prospects. She had become grave, and often conversed of the inconstancy of fortune, and the instability of human life.

“When I reflect, my dear cousin,” said she, “on the miserable death of Justine Moritz, I no longer see the world and its works as they before appeared to me. Before, I looked upon the accounts of vice and injustice, that I read in books or heard from others, as tales of ancient days, or imaginary evils; at least they were remote, and more familiar to reason than to the imagination; but now misery has come home, and men appear to me as monsters thirsting for each other’s blood. Yet I am certainly unjust. Every body believed that poor girl to be guilty; and if she could have committed the crime for which she suffered, assuredly she would have been the most depraved of human creatures. For the sake of a few jewels, to have murdered the son of her benefactor and friend, a child whom she had nursed from its birth, and appeared to love as if it had been her own! I could not consent to the death of any human being; but certainly I should have thought such a creature unfit to remain in the society of men. Yet she was innocent. I know, I feel she was innocent; you are of the same opinion, and that confirms me. Alas! Victor, when falsehood can look so like the truth, who can assure themselves of certain happiness? I feel as if I were walking on the edge of a precipice, towards which thousands are crowding, and endeavouring to plunge me into the abyss. William and Justine were assassinated, and the murderer escapes; he walks about the world free, and perhaps respected. But even if I were condemned to suffer on the scaffold for the same crimes, I would not change places with such a wretch.”

I listened to this discourse with the extremest agony. I, not in deed, but in effect, was the true murderer. Elizabeth read my anguish in my countenance, and kindly taking my hand said, “My dearest cousin, you must calm yourself. These events have affected me, God knows how deeply; but I am not so wretched as you are. There is an expression of despair, and sometimes of revenge, in your countenance, that makes me tremble. Be calm, my dear Victor; I would sacrifice my life to your peace. We surely shall be happy: quiet in our native country, and not mingling in the world, what can disturb our tranquillity?”

She shed tears as she said this, distrusting the very solace that she gave; but at the same time she smiled, that she might chase away the fiend that lurked in my heart. My father, who saw in the unhappiness that was painted in my face only an exaggeration of that sorrow which I might naturally feel, thought that an amusement suited to my taste would be the best means of restoring to me my wonted serenity. It was from this cause that he had removed to the country; and, induced by the same motive, he now proposed that we should all make an excursion to the valley of Chamounix. I had been there before, but Elizabeth and Ernest never had; and both had often expressed an earnest desire to see the scenery of this place, which had been described to them as so wonderful and sublime. Accordingly we departed from Geneva on this tour about the middle of the month of August, nearly two months after the death of Justine.

The weather was uncommonly fine; and if mine had been a sorrow to be chased away by any fleeting circumstance, this excursion would certainly have had the effect intended by my father. As it was, I was somewhat interested in the scene; it sometimes lulled, although it could not extinguish my grief. During the first day we travelled in a carriage. In the morning we had seen the mountains at a distance, towards which we gradually advanced. We perceived that the valley through which we wound, and which was formed by the river Arve, whose course we followed, closed in upon us by degrees; and when the sun had set, we beheld immense mountains and precipices overhanging us on every side, and heard the sound of the river raging among rocks, and the dashing of waterfalls around.

The next day we pursued our journey upon mules; and as we ascended still higher, the valley assumed a more magnificent and astonishing character. Ruined castles hanging on the precipices of piny mountains; the impetuous Arve, and cottages every here and there peeping forth from among the trees, formed a scene of singular beauty. But it was augmented and rendered sublime by the mighty Alps, whose white and shining pyramids and domes towered above all, as belonging to another earth, the habitations of another race of beings.

We passed the bridge of Pelissier, where the ravine, which the river forms, opened before us, and we began to ascend the mountain that overhangs it. Soon after we entered the valley of Chamounix. This valley is more wonderful and sublime, but not so beautiful and picturesque as that of Servox, through which we had just passed. The high and snowy mountains were its immediate boundaries; but we saw no more ruined castles and fertile fields. Immense glaciers approached the road; we heard the rumbling thunder of the falling avalanche, and marked the smoke of its passage. Mont Blanc, the supreme and magnificent Mont Blanc, raised itself from the surrounding aiguilles, and its tremendous dome overlooked the valley.

During this journey, I sometimes joined Elizabeth, and exerted myself to point out to her the various beauties of the scene. I often suffered my mule to lag behind, and indulged in the misery of reflection. At other times I spurred on the animal before my companions, that I might forget them, the world, and, more than all, myself. When at a distance, I alighted, and threw myself on the grass, weighed down by horror and despair. At eight in the evening I arrived at Chamounix. My father and Elizabeth were very much fatigued; Ernest, who accompanied us, was delighted, and in high spirits: the only circumstance that detracted from his pleasure was the south wind, and the rain it seemed to promise for the next day.

We retired early to our apartments, but not to sleep; at least I did not. I remained many hours at the window, watching the pallid lightning that played above Mont Blanc, and listening to the rushing of the Arve, which ran below my window.

Aric Maiden:

Fake news. A propos to our times, how can you ever be certain of reality, and just causality that brings order to chaos, when facts can be presented in such a skewed way into whatever form is most convenient. Elizabeth is the type that would rather be miserable from the truth, than happy in a pretty lie. How do you go on, move forward in confidence, when you realize that the narrative of reality that you’re expected to abide by is so subjective? This moment is the loss of Elizabeth’s innocence, and her faith, because she can no longer trust that justice will prevail.

Alexis Cruz:

Much like the other men in this story, Victor Frankenstein’s father shows that it is okay to express emotion. This idea of a sensitive man is no longer as prevalent in present times and men are encouraged to hide their feelings of sadness and grief. Frankenstein’s father also steps up as a father to console his son and encourage him to finish his grieving period seeing as Victor owes it to himself to be happy or, at the very least, fine. Another example of the sensitive men of the novel.

Karan Brar:

Men today are expected to be “manly” and therefore cannot show emotions because that can represent weakness. Victor’s father says “excessive sorrow prevents improvement or enjoyment”. Although Victor’s father encourages him to grieve, he explains how it can prevent him from feeling better.

Tanya Bui:

Recurring motif of the power of nature (Romantic type ideal). The description of the Alps is that it is almost unworldly with its size and intimidating presence. Undermines the cottages, the trees, the castles, the human race with its reign.

Karan Brar:

The Alps are described as “white and shining pyramids”. The theme of the significance of nature occurs over and over, describing the alps as belonging to another earth.

Aliyah Faith Cantada:

Based on Victor’s introduction, he portrays the feeling of pain and guilt after the death of Justine. The natural reaction to being quiet about our own mistakes reflect upon Victor as he understands that the death of his younger brother was from his own hands. Victor’s responsibility for creating his creature leads to a haunting future for him. The creature, known to be inevitable and manipulating, proceeds to murder his creators’ remaining loved ones, leaving a heavy feeling in him.

Karan Brar:

Victor is feeling guilty for the deaths of his loved ones. He mentions how though he is still alive by saying “the blood flowed freely in my veins” he is feeling remorse and nothing can be undone.

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Austin Chavoen:

The Luddites of the Industrial Revolution destroyed the machines that were helping the world to progress because they felt threatened, just as Victor Frankenstein felt threatened by his own progress and had wanted to destroy it. This is also much like technologies today such as AI, artificial intelligence. For example, in the movie The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Tony Stark, (played by legendary actor Robert Downey Jr.), creates an AI that he believes will be able to help him, which they then spend nearly the entire movie trying to destroy because they fear that it is a threat. The movie series, Terminator, is also about people who create a technology to help better the world, and then spend multiple movies trying to destroy. Yes these are just movies but these movies were made because this is a real fear that people have.

Motivations & Sentiments
Joel Gereboff:

The concept of guilt may well be a bit more complicated than it first appears. The two most common understandings of guilt are at work in the text, prompting us to think about the idea of guilt in relation to both Victor and the creature. First, guilt describes the person who is responsible for an act that is unethical or illegal or both. Second, guilt describes the feelings that arise after an act—feelings that can be said to haunt a person and potentially shape his or her future actions.

The second understanding of guilt is clarified by psychoanalytic thought, which theorizes that guilt can be at work even when a person does not consciously attribute his or her actions to its effects. For more on this understanding, see Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents [1930] 1961. Freud’s arguments about the inextricable link between guilt and civilization make for a fascinating parallel to Frankenstein.

In the first understanding, guilt is also attributed to a person for failing to do what he or she believes is required in a situation. For example, Victor could be seen as guilty for his failure to make the creature’s existence public, especially at the trial of Justine. As Shakespeare has Claudius say in Hamlet, “[M]y stronger guilt defeats my strong intent” (III.iii.44).

Later in the novel, Victor makes a universal claim about the consequences of guilt: “Ah! it is well for the unfortunate to be resigned, but for the guilty there is no peace” (here).

Victor again feels guilt about not disclosing the existence of the destructive creature that he has created. Yet he continues to fail to recognize and concede that his treatment and desertion of the creature, not the initial creation, have brought about the destruction. In this instance, Victor does sense the potential impact of his desertion on his family and others but remains blind to his earlier desertion of his own creation.

Motivations & Sentiments
Joel Gereboff:

This ironic passage speaks of the reality that what appears to be true or what people take to be true is often false. Elizabeth recognizes and expresses to Victor Justine’s innocence and the injustice that has been done. But it is in fact Victor’s inability to profess the truth about the creature, the murderer, that is the greatest lie. Society can maintain its emotional and moral equilibrium so long as someone has “paid for a crime,” even when that person is innocent.

Karan Brar:

Someone had to be punished for the crime that was committed, that is the only way society can continue after a crime has been committed, and in this case even though the person was innocent.

Influences & AdaptationsPhilosophy & Politics
Ed Finn:

Mary presupposes a direct relationship between knowing the truth and experiencing happiness, though many other works of science fiction suggest otherwise. The Matrix (Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski, 1999) presented a generation of movie-goers with a choice between uncomfortable truths and blissful ignorance: “You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” One reading of Victor’s behavior is his desperate attempt to cling to something like happiness in the face of an increasingly dangerous truth.

Philosophy & Politics
Mary Drago:

The nature of truth has been debated by philosophers throughout human history. Difficult decisions about truth or deceit are often made by finding a set of facts to support a preexisting belief. In the legal system, the accused can be convicted based on circumstantial evidence that later turns out to be either patently false or unreliable or full of gaping holes (the Innocence Project is a nonprofit organization that focuses on overturning convictions in such cases). Justine’s fate is decided by just that type of evidence. In scientific endeavors, determining what is true from research results likewise requires ensuring that any analysis is independent of personal biases.

Motivations & Sentiments
Nicole Piemonte:

After the death of Justine Moritz, Elizabeth is confronted with the unpredictability and temporality of life—that is, the awareness that life is forever changing and moving forward even when its trajectory is one we would never choose for ourselves. In contrast to Victor, who at least initially was preoccupied with notions of fate and destiny, Elizabeth cannot help but see the world as unjust and capricious (see this note on existentialism).

Motivations & SentimentsScienceTechnology
Sheldon Krimsky:

The remorse Victor expresses is reminiscent of J. Robert Oppenheimer’s sentiments when he witnessed the unspeakable power of the atomic bomb. A passage from the Hindu scripture of the Bhagavad-Gita flashed before Oppenheimer’s mind: “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” In this short phrase, Oppenheimer, as one of the architects of the A-bomb, acknowledged that he had unleashed a force that could lead to the annihilation of civilization. He also proclaimed, “The physicists have known sin, and this is a knowledge they cannot lose” (qtd. in Bird and Sherwin 2005, 388).

Victor’s responsibility for his horrific scientific experiment has already passed. It appears that the creature is beyond control. All that is left is remorse. Oppenheimer, who witnessed a test of the atomic bomb at Los Alamos in 1945, still had an opportunity to prevent the use of the bomb against humans. Also see Heather E. Douglas’s essay “The Bitter Aftertaste of Technical Sweetness” in this volume.

Scientists’ responsibility must be engaged before their creations are unleashed; otherwise, the consequences cannot be retracted. Those scientists with high moral conscience view their responsibility to warn about the malevolent uses of scientific results to their students, to their colleagues, and to the public. They would cease and desist from scientific research that has no redeeming value but destruction or baneful dehumanization. Victor’s anguish is a warning to those scientists who bracket away the moral quality of their work under a banner of pure inquiry, whatever its outcome. Whether it is cloning a human being, creating a new biological weapon, releasing transgenic species, or designing human genomes, these ends call out for acts and acknowledgments of social responsibility.

Karan Brar:

The “creature” that Victor created through his experiments is now beyond his control. It is the responsibility of scientists to manage their experiments, now that all Victor has is regret.

Motivations & Sentiments
Joel Gereboff:

The interior anguish Victor experiences is given heightened expression here. Language has limitations, and Victor finds he cannot disclose his interior conflicts. He has a tortured conscience. Intense sensations of remorse and guilt disrupt his efforts to achieve and maintain a serene conscience, a sense of being right. No words can express the hell and torture he is feeling.