Summary: Chapter 9
After Justine’s execution, Victor becomes increasingly melancholy. He considers suicide but restrains himself by thinking of Elizabeth and his father. Alphonse, hoping to cheer up his son, takes his children on an excursion to the family home at Belrive. From there, Victor wanders alone toward the valley of Chamounix. The beautiful scenery cheers him somewhat, but his respite from grief is short-lived.
Summary: Chapter 10
One rainy day, Victor wakes to find his old feelings of despair resurfacing. He decides to travel to the summit of Montanvert, hoping that the view of a pure, eternal, beautiful natural scene will revive his spirits.
When he reaches the glacier at the top, he is momentarily consoled by the sublime spectacle. As he crosses to the opposite side of the glacier, however, he spots a creature loping toward him at incredible speed. At closer range, he recognizes clearly the grotesque shape of the monster. He issues futile threats of attack to the monster, whose enormous strength and speed allow him to elude Victor easily. Victor curses him and tells him to go away, but the monster, speaking eloquently, persuades him to accompany him to a fire in a cave of ice. Inside the cave, the monster begins to narrate the events of his life.
Analysis: Chapters 9–10
These chapters contain some of the novel’s most explicit instances of the theme of sublime nature, as nature’s powerful influence on Victor becomes manifest. The natural world has noticeable effects on Victor’s mood: he is moved and cheered in the presence of scenic beauty, and he is disconsolate in its absence. Just as nature can make him joyful, however, so can it remind him of his guilt, shame, and regret: “The rain depressed me; my old feelings recurred, and I was miserable.”
Shelley aligns Victor with the Romantic movement of late-eighteenth- to mid-nineteenth-century Europe, which emphasized a turn to nature for sublime experience—feelings of awe, hope, and ecstasy. Victor’s affinity with nature is of particular significance because of the monster’s ties to nature. Both distinctly at home in nature and unnatural almost by definition, the monster becomes a symbol of Victor’s folly in trying to emulate the natural forces of creation.
Formerly a mysterious, grotesque, completely physical being, the monster now becomes a verbal, emotional, sensitive, almost human figure that communicates his past to Victor in eloquent and moving terms. This transformation is key to Victor’s fuller understanding of his act of creation: before, it was the monster’s physical strength, endurance, and apparent ill will that made him such a threat; now, it is his intellect.
The monster clearly understands his position in the world, the tragedy of his existence and abandonment by his creator, and is out to seek either redress or revenge. For the first time, Victor starts to realize that what he has created is not merely the scientific product of an experiment in animated matter but an actual living being with needs and wants.
While Victor curses the monster as a demon, the monster responds to Victor’s coarseness with surprising eloquence and sensitivity, proving himself an educated, emotional, exquisitely human being. While the monster’s grotesque appearance lies only in the reader’s imagination (and may be exaggerated by Victor’s bias), his moving words stand as a concrete illustration of his delicate nature. For the reader, whose experience with the monster’s ugliness is secondhand, it is easy to identify the human sensitivity within him and sympathize with his plight, especially in light of Victor’s relentless contempt for him. The gap between the monster and Victor, and between the monster and human beings in general, is thus narrowed.
One of the ways in which the monster demonstrates his eloquence is by alluding to John Milton’s
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