Analysis of Chapters 17 24 of Mary Shelley’s Novel


This presentation is an analysis of chapters
17-24 and the final letters of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein. Summary of Chapters 17-24 and the Final Letters
of Mary Shelley’s Novel Frankenstein This part of the novel begins with Frankenstein
and his creation concluding their long conversation about what the creature has spent his existence
doing, and he ends with a threat to Frankenstein that if Frankenstein does not create a mate
for him, he will destroy his life. At first Frankenstein refuses but ultimately
agrees to do so, and the monster agrees to move to South America with his new mate and
leave the continent of Europe if Frankenstein creates a mate for him. Frankenstein returns to his family in Geneva
and sinks back into a state of depression, and the family is alarmed by his haggard appearance. In Geneva he resumes his scientific studies
to find out the latest developments as he plans to recreate another creature to accompany
his original monster. He promises his father he will marry Elizabeth
after he returns on a trip across Europe, a trip he takes to cover his work on his second
creation. His best friend Henry Clerval joins his travels
— first to France, then Germany, then Holland and then London. He is so distraught about the prospect of
creating another creature that even the power of nature cannot bring him peace. In London, Clerval cheerfully site sees while
Frankenstein unhappily spends his time visiting scientists and learning how to create his
second creature. Frankenstein suggests they part ways, and
he goes to a small isolated island, one of the Orkney Islands, which are part of Scotland,
and continues his work on a mate for his creature. Frankenstein is emotionally distraught and
fearful for the safety of his family as he works on the desolate island. One day the monster shows up at his lab, and
Frankenstein becomes furious and given the second doubts he has been feeling about creating
another monster, he destroys his work and vows never to create another creature. The monster leaves warning him that he will
see him at his wedding. Frankenstein now has to dispose of the body
parts he has been using to create the second creature, and once he finishes throwing them
out to sea, he is caught in a violent storm and when he washes ashore he is arrested for
murder. His creature has strangled his best friend,
Henry Clerval, and Frankenstein is accused of being his murderer! Eventually, Frankenstein is acquitted for
the murder but not before spending two months in jail wasting away from grief to the point
almost of death. After his release his father takes his son
who is at death’s door due to grief, and they travel to France. He recovers slightly with the help of his
father and tries to confess his responsibility in the deaths of William, Justine and Henry
Clerval, but his father dismisses his confession as the ramblings of a sick man. He finally is well enough to marry Elizabeth
but is frightened about the promise the creature has made about being at his wedding. As promised, the monster shows up on Frankenstein’s
wedding night and strangles his new bride, Elizabeth. Victor confesses his creation of the monster,
but it is too late to do any good. A few days after hearing of the death of Elizabeth,
Victor’s father dies of a broken heart, and Victor vows revenge on the monster. He proceeds to chase the monster down first
from Geneva to the Mediterranean Sea where both board a shop bound for the Black Sea
where he chases the monster through Russia and then ultimately they end up in the Arctic
Circle, where Frankenstein’s story began. The story has been a flashback up to this
point, and it ends by returning to the frame in which it began with Robert Walton telling
the rest of the tale in the final letters. He tells of how Frankenstein wants to remain
in the Arctic hunting down the monster as he grows weaker and weaker. Walton humors him to the point of near mutiny
aboard his ship where the crew wants to leave the desolate Arctic. Eventually he dies, and the monster ends up
on board and is confronted by Walton over Frankenstein’s deathbed. He promises to leave without harming the crew
and live out his life in the Arctic. Important Themes
The important themes of the novel continue through the end. First is the importance of nature which reflects
the mood and psychological state of Frankenstein and the monster. Frankenstein has allowed himself to veer so
far from natural law that he can no longer feel restored by nature in his European trip. The storms and violent Arctic weather parallel
both Frankenstein’s and his monster’s emotions. The theme of alienation and the importance
of family and friends is further developed as Frankenstein’s monster takes each of
Frankenstein’s loved ones away from him, Frankenstein refuses to create a loved one
for the monster, and the scientific goal of creating a second creation alienates Frankenstein
from his family and friends. The theme of the corruption of society is
further developed as the monster continues to be rejected and abused by society simply
because he is grotesque in appearance and Frankenstein suffers to the point of near
death in prison for a crime he not only didn’t commit but also suffers from personally as
it is his friend who has been murdered. Additionally, this part of the novel illustrates
the danger of a quest for knowledge and use of science to violate natural law, as Frankenstein’s
monster wreaks havoc on his creator and those who are close to him as well as suffers personally
since Frankenstein and society reject him. Doubling
The Romantic characteristic of doubling continues in the last part of the novel where Frankenstein
and the monster share emotions and suffer together. The monster torments his creator for abandoning
him by killing best friend and wife, which results in the death of Frankenstein’s father. They are linked at the end of the novel as
Frankenstein remains committed to chasing down to seek revenge on the monster. At the end of the novel, both are alienated
from family, lovers and friends, and both live a miserable existence of mere survival
in the Arctic. Notice that they are together in death as
Frankenstein dies of exhaustion and grief. It is almost as if they are one person. Gothic/Romantic Elements
The novel uses important Romantic characteristics such as the glorification of nature; idealistic
portrayal of pastoral country life (through the De Lacey family); the depiction of society
as corrupt in the impact of society on the monster and Frankenstein’s scientific experiments
on his own life as well as those who are close to him; the supernatural elements in creating
the monster from dead body parts and the psychological connection between the monster and his creation;
the use of “doubling”; the emphasis of the emotion over reason as the feelings of
the monster and Frankenstein are explored in depth and have more influence on their
behaviors than reason; and the use of far-off and exotic settings as this novel takes place
all over Europe and in the Arctic. Gothicism is a subgenre of Romanticism and
emphasizes the use of mystery and the supernatural and gloomy, far-away places. Clearly this novel includes both Gothic and
Romantic elements. Frames
There are three plot lines in this novel which are known as three frames by which the story
is told. The main story line is that of Frankenstein’s,
which is told within the frame of Robert Walton’s letters, which give Frankenstein’s story
credibility and make it seem more realistic. The final theme is that of the monster’s
story, which is told by Walton based on what Frankenstein has told him. Giving the monster a voice makes him more
sympathetic as the reader can see his feelings and emotions and how he feels abandoned by
his creator and rejected by society through no fault of his own until he becomes embittered
and dangerous. Autobiographical Elements
Mary Shelley uses her experiences traveling Europe in this part of the novel as well as
making allusions to some of the significant Romantic literature of her day such as Wordsworth’s
“Tintern Abby.” Some critics have also said that the monster
could be autobiographical in a sense because she was in a sense abandoned by her own mother
since she died in childbirth, resulting in Mary Shelley being raised by a less-than-supportive
stepmother and relatives she was sent off to live with as she grew up. She may also feel monster-like or alienated
in her relationship with Percy Bysshe Shelley in that he was married to another woman when
he began having children with Mary.

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