Frankenstein Chapters 21-24 - Walton's Letters Summary

  In Chapter 21, Victor finds himself ushered to the town magistrate, Mr. Kirwin. Some of the people in town say that they found the body of a man on the beach and, just before that, they saw a boat along shore that looked exactly like Victor's. In an attempt to prove whether or not he is guilty, Mr. Kirwin proposes that they take Victor to see the body. The idea is that, if he is guilty, his reaction might implicate him. Victor agrees to this and, when they reach the body, he is horrified to see that it is actually Henry Clerval and on his neck are the telltale bruises of strangulation. Victor knows, immediately, that the monster is to blame.

  As in other times of stress, Victor passes out and becomes ill. This recurring reaction in Victor seems to be a manifestation of his guilt. He is physically and psychologically unable to cope with the terrors he has caused. It's as if his body shuts down so that he doesn't have to think about or deal with his problems directly. As always, he runs from responsibility and facing the truth.

  This time, it takes Victor nearly two months to recover and, when he does, he is in prison. However, he is eventually released because there is only circumstantial evidence, none of which proves his guilt. His father has heard of the accusation and, by this time, has come to be by his son's side. After his release, Victor and his father travel back toward Geneva.

  In their travels, Victor and his father stop in Paris. Here, Victor receives a letter from Elizabeth who worries that his constant illness is because he is in love with another woman. Victor replies that this is certainly not the case, and he is poignantly reminded of the monster's warning that he will be with Victor on his wedding night. Victor has convinced himself that the monster plans to attack him on his wedding night and ruin his only shred of happiness.

  Once he arrives home, Victor, his father, and Elizabeth finally began to plan the wedding. Elizabeth continues to worry about Victor, and he tells her he has a secret that he can only reveal once they are married. Eventually, the wedding does take place, and Victor and Elizabeth leave to spend a night in a nearby family cottage.

  That evening, Victor worries that Elizabeth may be upset by the inevitable battle he expects between himself and the monster. After they walk the grounds, he sends her inside so, perhaps, she might escape having to see the battle. As he searches for the monster, he hears a scream. Victor realizes, too late, that the monster had intended to kill Elizabeth all along. With this terrible news of her death, Victor returns home. His father, shocked by the turn of events, dies a few days later. Victor vows that he will spend the rest of his life searching for the monster and, eventually, destroy him.

  Victor begins to track the monster for months on end, eventually ending up in the snowy, icy North. This is the point at which he had met Robert Walton. He tells Walton that, if he should die, he wants Walton continue on with his search for vengeance.

  This section shows, again, how similar Victor is to his own creation. While the monster vowed to take revenge upon his master following the death of his mate, Victor similarly vows to take revenge upon his creation after the death of his own mate. This idea really calls into question who the villain of the novel is after all. Victor is just as malicious as the monster becomes. On to of that, he was irresponsible to create the monster in the first place and irresponsible to abandon it. The monster, meanwhile, was shaped into what he became through circumstances beyond his control. Ultimately, this theme regarding the nature of evil is developed through the overlap of these two characters. Shelley seems to ask: how do we know evil in our world when we see it?

  In the very last portion of the novel, the narrative returns to Robert Walton's perspective. This closes the frame of the story and, additionally, Robert is able to validate Victor's story because of some letters Victor passed on to him. Victor remains near-death, and the crew of the ship requests to return to England. A few days before the ship is to depart, Victor Frankenstein dies. Robert tells his sister in his letters of how alone he feels, once again, when Victor dies. His searched-for companion is no more. This, as with previous chapters, reiterates the theme of the human need for companionship and, ultimately, the inevitable loneliness of the human condition.

  After Victor's death, Robert hears sounds coming from the room where Victor's body lies, and he enters, seeing the monster who is every bit as hideous as Victor insisted. The monster tells Robert of his suffering, regretting all of the evil things he did in his lifetime. He feels, however, that he himself is ready to die now that his creator is dead. And, with those words, he leaves the ship.

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