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Frankenstein | Chapter 17 (Volume 3, Chapter 1) | Summary

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Summary

Not eager to begin his work, Victor relates, he procrastinated in Geneva and found "returning tranquility" on the lake. Meanwhile, Mr. Frankenstein pressed Victor to marry Elizabeth. Victor agreed, reassuring his father that he indeed loved her as a future wife, not as a sister. Reluctant to marry before he created the Monster's promised mate, Victor decided to first go to England to do research, find some information he needs, and keep his family safe by staying away.

Worried about Victor's mental health, his father and Elizabeth arranged for Henry Clerval to accompany Victor. Although this interfered with the solitude Victor felt he needed to complete his task, he was happy to travel again with Henry and hoped that Henry's presence would keep the Monster away. Victor set off in August, with the understanding that he and Elizabeth would marry when he returned, although he told her the trip would take two years.

Victor and Henry traveled though Germany and Holland on the Rhine before arriving in London. Henry was especially delighted at the scenery; Victor was preoccupied by the task set for him by the Monster. In his account to Walton, Victor remembers his "beloved friend," praising Henry's "imagination" and "sensibility," and quoting from two romantic poems: "The Story of Rimini" by Leigh Hunt and "Tintern Abbey" by William Wordsworth. He expresses to Walton his sadness that Henry is now dead.

Analysis

In Victor's discussion of Henry, Shelley includes a six-line excerpt from William Wordsworth's 1798 poem "Tintern Abbey," one of the most famous romantic poems. Typical of Wordsworth's poems, "Tintern Abbey" describes nature's ability to touch an individual and prompt powerful emotions and profound reflections. Henry is deeply moved by the beautiful scenery, which he "loved with ardor." However, thinking of this landscape now, while on the ship with Walton, brings sadness to Victor, as it reminds him of Henry. This sadness actually contrasts with the theme of Wordsworth's poem, which establishes that the pleasures in nature he felt as a youth can be recollected and experienced again later in life. Nature can still conjure powerful emotions in Victor, possessor of the romantics' affinity with nature, but sometimes the burden of his actions and their results weighs too heavily on him, and nature's restorative powers are ineffectual.

This scene also reinforces the theme of human companionship (friendship) and its importance. Despite his fears and depression, Victor enjoys Henry's company, while the joy of friendship is cruelly denied to the Monster.

Victor's conversations with his father and Elizabeth about marrying her reinforce the recurring idea of passive females. Victor and his father settle the question of Elizabeth's marriage; she is not consulted. Similarly, Victor alone decides that this wedding will only occur after he returns. She has no choice in the timing, either. Females are pawns; males are the decision makers.

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