Study Guide

Frankenstein Revenge

By Mary Shelley


Chapter 9
Victor Frankenstein

When I reflected on his crimes and malice, my hatred and revenge burst all bounds of moderation. I would have made a pilgrimage to the highest peak of the Andes, could I when there have precipitated him to their base. (9.6)

Okay, but question: is there such a thing as "moderate" revenge? Is revenge an emotion that you can even feel moderately—like, wanting a little revenge?

Elizabeth read my anguish in my countenance, and kindly taking my hand, said, "My dearest friend, you must calm yourself. These events have affected me, God knows how deeply; but I am not so wretched as you are. There is an expression of despair, and sometimes of revenge, in your countenance that makes me tremble. Dear Victor, banish these dark passions. Remember the friends around you, who centre all their hopes in you. Have we lost the power of rendering you happy? Ah! While we love, while we are true to each other, here in this land of peace and beauty, your native country, we may reap every tranquil blessing—what can disturb our peace?" (9.8)

For a novel about creating life, Frankenstein doesn't talk much about religion. Here, though, we get a glimpse of an alternative moral structure: Christianity, which is all about turning the other cheek and avoiding revenge. Would the novel have turned out differently if Victor had listened?

Chapter 16

When I thought of my friends, of the mild voice of De Lacey, the gentle eyes of Agatha, and the exquisite beauty of the Arabian, these thoughts vanished and a gush of tears somewhat soothed me. But again when I reflected that they had spurned and deserted me, anger returned, a rage of anger, and unable to injure anything human, I turned my fury towards inanimate objects. As night advanced I placed a variety of combustibles around the cottage, and after having destroyed every vestige of cultivation in the garden, I waited with forced impatience until the moon had sunk to commence my operations. (16.12)

Well, burning your friends' cottage is definitely one way to take revenge. (Also, can we just point out that it is super racist that the monster keeps referring to everyone except Safie by name?)

The Monster

"I continued for the remainder of the day in my hovel in a state of utter and stupid despair. My protectors had departed and had broken the only link that held me to the world. For the first time the feelings of revenge and hatred filled my bosom, and I did not strive to control them, but allowing myself to be borne away by the stream, I bent my mind towards injury and death. (16.12)

You know that feeling when you stop trying to be a good person and just let yourself think nasty thoughts about the celebrity on the cover of US Weekly? That's how the monster feels here: he's just had it trying to be the better person.

The nearer I approached to your habitation, the more deeply did I feel the spirit of revenge enkindled in my heart. (16.17)

When you think about it, it totally sounds like the monster has a crush on Frankenstein: he even gets nervous and fired up when he closes in on the love/hate of his life.

"Frankenstein! you belong then to my enemy--to him towards whom I have sworn eternal revenge; you shall be my first victim." (16.30)

Notice that the monster thinks of William as "belonging" to Frankenstein. He doesn't seem to see much difference between killing William and burning down De Lacey's cottage—all's fair in revenge and war.

"Cursed, cursed creator! Why did I live? Why, in that instant, did I not extinguish the spark of existence which you had so wantonly bestowed? I know not; despair had not yet taken possession of me; my feelings were those of rage and revenge. I could with pleasure have destroyed the cottage and its inhabitants and have glutted myself with their shrieks and misery. (16.1).

Oops. It seems like the monster is getting mixed up: he starts out all mad at his creator, and he ends up by wanting to destroy the cottage and its inhabitants. (He manages to stick to burning down the cottage.) It looks like revenge can have collateral damage.

Chapter 20
Victor Frankenstein

All was again silent, but his words rang in my ears. I burned with rage to pursue the murderer of my peace and precipitate him into the ocean. I walked up and down my room hastily and perturbed, while my imagination conjured up a thousand images to torment and sting me. Why had I not followed him and closed with him in mortal strife? But I had suffered him to depart, and he had directed his course towards the mainland. I shuddered to think who might be the next victim sacrificed to his insatiate revenge. And then I thought again of his words -- "I WILL BE WITH YOU ON YOUR WEDDING-NIGHT." That, then, was the period fixed for the fulfillment of my destiny. In that hour I should die and at once satisfy and extinguish his malice. The prospect did not move me to fear; yet when I thought of my beloved Elizabeth, of her tears and endless sorrow, when she should find her lover so barbarously snatched from her, tears, the first I had shed for many months, streamed from my eyes, and I resolved not to fall before my enemy without a bitter struggle. (20.16)

Victor thinks that the monster's revenge is "insatiate"—that it'll never be satisfied. He's wrong. It will be satisfied, just as soon as he kills off everyone Victor has ever cared about.

Chapter 22
Victor Frankenstein

This letter revived in my memory what I had before forgotten, the threat of the fiend--"I WILL BE WITH YOU ON YOUR WEDDING-NIGHT!" Such was my sentence, and on that night would the daemon employ every art to destroy me and tear me from the glimpse of happiness which promised partly to console my sufferings. On that night he had determined to consummate his crimes by my death. Well, be it so; a deadly struggle would then assuredly take place, in which if he were victorious I should be at peace and his power over me be at an end. If he were vanquished, I should be a free man. Alas! What freedom? Such as the peasant enjoys when his family have been massacred before his eyes, his cottage burnt, his lands laid waste, and he is turned adrift, homeless, penniless, and alone, but free. Such would be my liberty except that in my Elizabeth I possessed a treasure, alas, balanced by those horrors of remorse and guilt which would pursue me until death. (22.14)

Victor is afraid of pulling Elizabeth into his destructive interactions with the monster, but his obsession will not give him peace.

As time passed away I became more calm; misery had her dwelling in my heart, but I no longer talked in the same incoherent manner of my own crimes; sufficient for me was the consciousness of them. By the utmost self-violence I curbed the imperious voice of wretchedness, which sometimes desired to declare itself to the whole world, and my manners were calmer and more composed than they had ever been since my journey to the sea of ice. (22.8)

Ooh, tricky. Frankenstein is using "self-violence" to keep himself under control, almost as if he's taking revenge on himself. Is that what this suicide mission is all about?

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