In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, how does the magistrate react to Victor's request and how does Victor deal with this reaction?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

When Victor approaches the magistrate in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the magistrate (a "criminal judge") listens with his whole attention. Sometimes he is skeptical, but other times he is horrified.

However, when Victor calls upon the man to pursue the monster as is deemed appropriate by the law (based on the creature's murderous actions), the magistrate balks.

I would willingly afford you every aid in your pursuit; but the creature of whom you speak appears to have powers which would put all my exertions to defiance. Who can follow an animal which can traverse the sea of ice, and inhabit caves and dens where no man would venture to intrude? Besides, some months have elapsed since the commission of his crimes, and no one can conjecture to what place he has wandered or what region he may now inhabit.

The magistrate provides a long list of reasons he cannot comply: the monster is too powerful: it would be a waste of the magistrate's time. No one would be able to pursue the creature, especially to places that man cannot navigate easily. And too much time has passed since his crimes: where would they look for him?

Victor insists that he will be nearby—for who knows the creature and his motivations more clearly than Victor? Victor challenges the man saying that the magistrate doesn't believe Victor and therefore will do nothing.

The magistrate immediately refutes this saying he will do all that he can, but he still believes the creature will be impossible to capture, and tells Victor to prepare himself for for this eventuality.

Victor turns to the magistrate and explains his plans to proceed:

You refuse my just demand: I have but one resource; and I devote myself, either in the my life or death, to his destruction.

Victor intends to pursue the monster himself. Sensing Victor's intense rage and dedication of purpose, the magistrate tries to calm Victor like a child, while perceiving (as Victor sees it) Frankenstein's madness.

In frustration, Victor addresses the magistrate:

'Man,' I cried, 'how ignorant art thou in thy pride of wisdom! Cease; you know not what tit is you say.'

One last time Victor chides the man for his lack of vision (though who can blame him in face of this fantastic story). The magistrate either doesn't believe Victor, or if he does, is sure that mere men can do nothing to apprehend, hold and/or punish the creature. He makes excuses of why he cannot succeed.

Victor leaves the magistrate with a new understanding that if something is to be done, Victor must do it himself.

[Victor] Frankenstein vows to pursue the monster until one of them destroys the other.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team