Lettres à Madame Hanska

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Honoré de Balzac

Through a serious of letters to his sister in England, Robert Walton recounts the dangerous mission he faces. He is captaining a ship that is headed for the North Pole. While he is doing well on the early part of his journey, he ends up trapped due to so much ice in the sea. He is not able to get through to his final destination. At that time he sees Victor Frankenstein. Victor has been travelling across the ice by dog sled and the cold has weakened him to the point that he is very sick. Walton rescues him and gets him onboard the ship. He is planning to help Victor get back to good health. During their time together Victor tells Walton the entire story of how he created the monster and what happened to the monster afterward. Victor begins the story with what his life was like in Geneva, long before he was able to understand the secret of life and create something that actually lived.

The childhood he had was a time he considered to be "blissful" and very happy. He spent it in the company of Henry Clerval and Elizabeth Lavenza. It is important to note that Elizabeth was his cousin in the 1818 edition and his adopted sister in the 1831 edition. When he grew up he went to the University of Ingolstadt in order to study both chemistry and natural philosophy. While he is there studying he becomes basically consumed by the idea behind the secret of life. He is convinced that he can locate that secret and, after several years of research, he thinks he has found the key for which he was searching. He takes the knowledge he has gained and starts to build a creature. He uses any old body parts that he can locate, and essentially pieces the creature together as best he can. It takes him months to complete this. He decides one night to see if his beliefs about the secret of life are really accurate, and he brings the monster to life. He is so horrified by what he creates that he is remorseful and sick. He tries to sleep but the monster keeps standing over him, so he gets up and goes into the streets, wandering around wondering what he should do next.

Henry has also come to study at the University, and Victor sees him. They go back to Victor's apartment but the monster is gone. Victor is ill and feverish. He decides to go back to Geneva. His family is there and it will give him a chance to gain back his health and put the incident with the creation of the monster behind him. Right before he leaves Ingolstadt he gets a letter from his father that tells him William, his youngest brother, has been killed. Victor is overcome with grief and hurries home as quickly as he can. In order to get home he has to go through the woods where his brother was murdered. During that time he sees glimpses of the monster through the trees. That is enough to convince him that it was the monster that strangled his brother. When he gets to Geneva, he discovers that Justine Moritz has been accused of the crime. She is kind and gentle, and was taken in by the Frankenstein household. She has never caused them any trouble.

Even though she makes claims of innocence she is tried and found guilty. Upon her conviction for the crime she is put to death. Victor is very despondent because he knows that two innocent people whom he loved have now died because of the monster he created. He decides to go on a vacation up in the mountains in an effort to ease the grief he is feeling. One day he is alone and the monster comes and finds him while he is going across a huge glacier. The monster admits to William's murder, but begs Victor to understand. He killed William because he was trying to get back at Victor. Since his creation he has been shunned and forlorn. The loneliness has been nearly unbearable. The monster wants Victor to provide him with a mate who is equally as ugly. That way he will have a companion who will not find him hideous, and he will not have to feel so alone in the world.

Victor is horrified. The last thing he wants to do is make another monster. Eventually, though, he agrees because his creation is so passive with him and so eloquent about how important the issue is to him. Victor goes back to Geneva and then to England to collect information for creating a female monster. He takes Henry with him, but leaves his friend in Scotland and goes into seclusion on an island in the Orkneys to start the process of making another monster. He is considering whether his actions are moral one night when he looks out the window and see the monster grinning in at him. He thinks about the consequences of what he is doing and destroys the new monster he was making. The monster vows revenge on Victor's wedding night. He dumps the second creature's remains in the lake, but it is windy and he cannot get back to land. He eventually drifts to an unknown shore where he is arrested. He is accused of the murder of his friend Henry. He falls ill and is imprisoned while he recovers. Eventually, he is acquitted.

He returns to Geneva and marries Elizabeth. Thinking of the monster's warning he sends Elizabeth away on their wedding night to wait for him, and he waits for the monster. When he hears Elizabeth screaming he realizes that the monster was after her, not him. Elizabeth is killed and Victor goes home to his father. Shortly after that his father dies of grief and Victor decides the rest of his life will be devoted to locating the monster and getting his revenge. He tracks the monster northward toward ice. He is chasing him by dogsled and almost catches him. The sea swells beneath him and the ice breaks. The gap is too large to be bridged and the monster gets away. That is where Walton finds Victor and the narrative catches up to the letters Walton is writing to his sister. Despite Walton's best effort to help Victor recover, he is very sick. Soon after telling Walton the tale, Victor dies. Several days later Walton goes into the room where he has placed Victor's body and finds the monster crying over the body of his dead creator. The monster tells Walton all about his terrible solitude and immense suffering. He then says that he can end his suffering now because his creator has died. He leaves the ship and goes toward the northernmost area of ice, where he will allow the elements to take their toll and his existence will come to an end.

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