Mary Shelley, Frankenstein: Ch. 10

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It was nearly noon when I arrived at the top of the ascent. For some time I sat upon the rock that overlooks the sea of ice. A mist covered both that and the surrounding mountains. Presently a breeze dissipated the cloud, and I descended upon the glacier. The surface is very uneven, rising like the waves of a troubled sea, descending low, and interspersed by rifts that sink deep. The field of ice is almost a league in width, but I spent nearly two hours in crossing it. The opposite mountain is a bare perpendicular rock. From the side where I now stood Montanvert was exactly opposite, at the distance of a league; and above it rose Mont Blanc, in awful majesty. I remained in a recess of the rock, gazing on this wonderful and stupendous scene. The sea, or rather the vast river of ice, wound among its dependent mountains, whose aerial summits hung over its recesses. Their icy and glittering peaks shone in the sunlight over the clouds. My heart, which was before sorrowful, now swelled with something like joy; I exclaimed, "Wandering spirits, if indeed ye wander, and do not rest in your narrow beds, allow me this faint happiness, or take me, as your companion, away from the joys of life."

As I said this I suddenly beheld the figure of a man, at some distance, advancing towards me with superhuman speed. He bounded over the crevices in the ice, among which I had walked with caution; his stature, also, as he approached, seemed to exceed that of man. I was troubled; a mist came over my eyes, and I felt a faintness seize med, but I was quickly restored by the cold gale of the mountains. I perceived, as the shape came nearer (sight tremendous and abhorred!) that it was the wretch whom I had created. I trembled with rage and horror, resolving to wait his approach and then close with him in mortal combat. He approachedd; his countenance bespoke bitter anguish, combined with disdain and malignity, while its unearthly ugliness rendered it almost too horrible for human eyes. But I scarcely observed this; rage and hatred had at first deprived me of utterance, and I recovered only to overwhelm him with words expressive of furious detestation and contempt.

"Devil," I exclaimed, "do you dare approach me? And do not you fear the fierce vengeance of my arm wreaked on your miserable head? Begone, vile insect! Or rather, stay, that I may trample you to dust!d And, oh! That I could, with the extinction of your miserable existence, restore those victims whom you have so diabolically murdered!"

"I expected this reception," said the daemon. "All men hate the wretched;d how, then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things! Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature, to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us. You purpose to kill me. How dare you sport thus with life? Do your duty towards me, and I will do mine towards you and the rest of mankind. If you will comply with my conditions, I will leave them and you at peace; but if you refuse, I will glut the maw of death, until it be satiated with the blood of your remaining friends."

"Abhorred monster! Fiend that thou art! The tortures of hell are too mild a vengeance for thy crimes. Wretched devil! You reproach me with your creation, come on, then, that I may extinguish the spark which I so negligently bestowed."

My rage was without bounds; I sprang on him, impelled by all the feelings which can arm one being against the existence of another.

He easily eluded me and said,

"Be calm! I entreat you to hear me before you give vent to your hatred on my devoted head. Have I not suffered enough, that you seek to increase my misery? Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend itd. Remember, thou hast made me more powerful than thyself; my height is superior to thine, my joints more supple. But I will not be tempted to set myself in opposition to thee. I am thy creature, and I will be even mild and docile to my natural lord and king if thou wilt also perform thy part, the which thou owest me.(d) Oh, Frankenstein, be not equitable to every other and trample upon me alone, to whom thy justice, and even thy clemency and affection, is most due. Remember that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeedd. Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous.d"

X [d] a mist came over my eyes, and I felt a faintn…

Writing & Reading

The imagery and sensations are those too of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."

X [d] and then close with him in mortal combat. He …

This is of course preposterous and vainglorious boasting. He's just described him as huge and traveling with superhuman speed. 

X [d] Begone, vile insect! Or rather, stay, that I …


These are such absurd exclamations that we have to assume Frankenstein has lost some grip on reality. By contrast, the monster is unperturbed, thoughtful, and dignified.

X [d] hate the wretched;


Contained in this hyperbole is a psychology of contempt. The wealthy despise the poor, who are half-living proof of the fundamental injustices of social life that has benefited the affluent. 

X [d] Life, although it may only be an accumulation…

Writing & Reading

Shelley until now has kept the monster from the reader, thereby encouraging us to see him entirely through Frankenstein's jaundiced eyes. Now, when we at last meet him, we discover he's indistinguishable from us in feeling and, moreover, a "person" who speaks with a noble dignity that transcends blame or resentment and makes Frankenstein appear mean by comparison. 

X [(d)] I am thy creature, and I will be even mild an…


X [d] I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drive…


Comparing himself with Lucifer means he compares Frankenstein with God. The monster reveals that he has read Paradise Lost in the manner William Blake and other Romantic poets, above all Shelley and Byron, have: that an omnipotent but mean-spirited, tyrannical God refuses responsibility. The fallen angel  is a victim of ruthless despotism. Milton is of "the devil's party" because t…

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X [d] Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous.

Manners & Morals

A stunningly revolutionary demand. The monster inverts much traditional ethical thought, including that of Plato, Aristotle, and the Judeo-Christian tradition, which rests on the premise that only by behaving virtuously can we become happy.

From the Ancient Greeks through Shaftesbury (Search), virtue was the …

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