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Volume 2: Chapters 1 and 2 Summary and Analysis

Tormented by guilt and remorse after Justine’s death, Victor sinks into despair. His father tries to console him, but Victor’s terrible secret prevents him from taking any comfort in Alphonse’s words. After the Frankensteins retire to their country house in Belrive, Victor spends his nights alone on Lake Geneva. He often thinks of drowning himself but is unwilling to abandon his family to the malice of the creature. Victor’s only hope now lies in the thought of avenging William and Justine’s deaths by destroying his creation. Elizabeth, too, has fallen into a state of depression and disillusionment. Nevertheless, she attempts to comfort Victor and dissuade him from thoughts of revenge. Not even Elizabeth’s kind words, however, can bring Victor comfort, and instead he feels only fear that he might one day lose her.

One August day, Victor impulsively embarks on a journey toward the Alpine valley of Chamonix, hoping to find relief from his torment in the majesty of nature. About two months have passed since Justine’s execution. As he rides through the mountains and into the glacial valley, Victor finds his spirits lifted by the scenery, which he remembers from his childhood. His fear of the creature drops away as he contemplates the impressive scenery, which he regards as evidence of God’s omnipotence. Even so, he is still intermittently gripped by despair. Eventually he reaches the village of Chamonix, where he watches a lightning storm above Mont Blanc from the window of his room at the inn before falling into an exhausted sleep.

Victor spends a peaceful day roaming the beautiful valley, but the following morning he wakes up feeling melancholy. Though heavy rain and mist now obscure the mountains, he decides to ride out alone toward the summit of Montanvert. At one point, looking at his bleak surroundings, he thinks it would be better to be an animal than a human being. Around noon he arrives at the ascent, then crosses a glacier. As he pauses on the other side to take in the view, Victor feels his heart swell with joy and cries out to the “wandering spirits” of the mountains to either allow him this moment of happiness or take him away with them.

Just as he says this, Victor sees the creature coming toward him across the glacier. Though at first overcome with terror, he is quickly seized by rage and hatred. Addressing his creation as “Devil,” Victor threatens to avenge the deaths of his loved ones. The creature responds that he expected to be greeted by his creator in this manner, as all humans hate the “wretched,” and he himself is “wretched beyond any living thing.” He says he will leave Victor and his loved ones alone if Victor will comply with his conditions, but that if he refuses, the creature will continue to exact his revenge. At this Victor angrily attacks the creature, who easily moves out of the way. The creature tells Victor that, as his creator, he owes his creation fair treatment and even affection. Though the suffering and loneliness he has endured have made him a “fiend,” the creature says that he was originally loving and benevolent. He promises to return to become that way again if Victor will listen to his story and grant him his request. Moved by a combination of curiosity and compassion, Victor agrees to follow the creature to his hut, as he feels it is his duty to hear his creation’s tale.

Analysis

When he first discovered the secret to instilling life, Victor naively envisioned himself as the beloved creator of a happy new species. Now, however, he finds himself responsible for the destruction of two innocent lives and the grief of his remaining family members. With Victor’s suffering, the meaning of Frankenstein’s subtitle—The Modern Prometheus —begins to become clear. In Greek myth, Prometheus was a Titan who created and cared for the human race. For his crime of stealing fire from the gods and giving it to human beings, Zeus condemned Prometheus to spend eternity...

(The entire section is 1,560 words.)