Why was Victor Frankenstein in the Arctic?

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Victor has chased his creation, the monster, into the Arctic because he wants to destroy him. The creature has led him to this frozen wasteland by leaving notes and clues as to his whereabouts.

When Walton and the crew find Victor, he is emaciated and ill, trapped on an ice...

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Victor has chased his creation, the monster, into the Arctic because he wants to destroy him. The creature has led him to this frozen wasteland by leaving notes and clues as to his whereabouts.

When Walton and the crew find Victor, he is emaciated and ill, trapped on an ice floe and near death. He tells them, when he is well enough to talk, that he had almost caught up with the creature when the ice he was on broke away, stranding him.

When Walton tells Victor of his desire to pursue his scientific ambition no matter what the cost, Victor is roused to tell his own story of what too much scientific ambition cost him. His story, he hopes, will work as warning to people not to become too ambitious.

Victor dies before he is able to kill the monster he created.

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As with many frame stories, the novel begins at the end.  Victor tells the ship's captain, Robert Walton, that he was "seeking one who fled from me."  This ties with the sighting of a man of "gigantic stature" who was driving a dogsled over the ice.  Thus, Victor has chased the creature to the Arctic.

The Arctic also represents the exotic, and often isolate, settings often found in Gothic and Romantic literature.  This novel straddles the line here, with some elements of both genres.  The beauty and purity of the vast whiteness creates a romantic setting while the isolation and harshness of the elements lend to the gothicism of the novel. 

For Victor, this setting ultimately kills him; it is apparent that he cannot survive the chase any longer.  The creature may have desired to draw him away to a place without men, but he overestimated Victor's ability to survive the trip.

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Victor Frankenstein begins the story (which is actually near the end of the story, chronologically) in the Arctic because he has chased the "daemon" to whom he gave life there.  One day, when their ship was hemmed in by ice, Captain Walton and his men saw a dog sled in the distance, going north, and driven by something that looked like a man except that it was very much larger. 

The next day, when the ice has begun to break up, a man who we later find out is Victor has floated up to the ship on a piece of ice.  Although he only has one living dog remaining to pull his sled, and despite the fact that "His limbs were nearly frozen, and his body dreadfully emaciated by fatigue and suffering," he will not come aboard the ship until he knows which way they sail.  Despite the fact that he would certainly die on the ice, alone, he will only get on the boat if it is going in the same direction as the creature, who he intends to pursue until one or both of them are dead.  Once he learns that they travel "towards the northern pole," he is then willing to come aboard.

This is why he's in the Arctic, to seek revenge on the daemon who killed almost everyone he ever loved.

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