Summary: Chapter 23In the evening, Victor and Elizabeth walk around the grounds, but Victor can think of nothing but the monster’s imminent arrival. Inside, Victor worries that Elizabeth might be upset by the monster’s appearance and the battle between them. He tells her to retire for the night. He begins to search for the monster in the house, when suddenly he hears Elizabeth scream and realizes that it was never his death that the monster had been intending this night. Consumed with grief over Elizabeth’s death, Victor returns home and tells his father the gruesome news. Shocked by the tragic end of what should have been a joyous day, his father dies a few days later. Victor finally breaks his secrecy and tries to convince a magistrate in Geneva that an unnatural monster is responsible for the death of Elizabeth, but the magistrate does not believe him. Victor resolves to devote the rest of his life to finding and destroying the monster.Analysis: Chapters 21–23Victor’s pattern of falling into extended illness in reaction to the monster suggests that the deterioration of his health is, to some extent, psychologically induced—as if guilt prevents him from facing fully the horribleness of the monster and his deeds. “The human frame could no longer support the agonizing suffering that I endured, and I was carried out of the room in strong convulsions,” he recounts of his despair at seeing Henry’s corpse, making an explicit link between psychological torment and physical infirmity. That Victor also falls ill soon after creating the monster and experiences a decline in health after the deaths of William and Justine points toward guilt as the trigger for this psychological mechanism.Henry again serves as a link between Victor and society, as his death brings Alphonse to visit his son.
“Nothing, at this moment, could have given me greater pleasure than the arrival of my father,” Victor says. As a result of spending so much time in Ingolstadt ignoring his family, and also as a result of the monster’s depredations, Victor becomes aware of the importance of interaction with family and friends. Having failed to inspire love in Victor, the monster seeks to establish a relationship with his creator that would force his creator to feel his pain. By destroying those people dear to Victor, the monster, acutely aware of the meaningfulness of social interaction, brings Victor closer and closer to the state of solitude that he himself has experienced since being created.Victor’s formerly intense connection with sublime nature continues to fade, providing him no refuge from the horror of the monster’s deeds. No longer an enlightening or elevating source of inspiration or consolation, the natural world becomes a mere landscape within which Victor’s tragic dance with the monster plays itself out. The barren Arctic wasteland into which Victor soon chases the monster embodies the raw and primal quality of his hatred for his creation and becomes the final, inescapable resting place for both man and monster.
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