It was written in 1818 (and created on the night of the famous 'ghost story' party in the Villa Diodati in Cologny (one of the locations in the book) by Lake Geneva when Byron and Shelley were also present and John Polidori created The Vampyre.
The classic story is that Victor Frankenstein, a young man, becomes obsessed with alchemy and later natural philosophy and studies to learn the secret of life. He then constructs a monster from bits of dead bodies (making it extra large because that is easier than dealing with fiddly little bits) and brings it to life. But the moment that he sees it he is overcome with disgust at its ugliness (the book really pushes the romantic view that beauty equates to goodness) and flees the laboratory. The creature escapes into the world where it realises that it is alone and viewed with loathing by any it encounters. It educates itself, bizarrely, by spying on a French family and reading three books, of which two are Paradise Lost and The Sorrows of Werter. Realising it can never be accepted in society it goes to Frankenstein to ask him to make it a mate. He agrees to do so and, when he finally refuses, the monster begins its revenge. Frankenstein then pursues his monster around the world, ending in the icy wastes around the North Pole.
It is a corker of a tale, “the strangest tale that ever imagination formed.” (V3 August 26th, 17—),
slowed down a bit by the author who adds various extraneous bit. The NT stage version (see below) removed most of these unnecessary subplots. This, of course, begs the question as to whether novels are a fundamentally different art from plays. It has been suggested in The Genius of Shakespeare by Jonathan Bate that Shakespeare stripped out character motivation when he adapted a story for the stage (for example turning Pandosto into The Winters Tale) because people are prepared to accept a character as fundamentally of one sort and see where that leads in the abbreviated form of a play which they won't do in the far more extensive form of a novel.
The book starts and ends with a frame narrative, originally in letters and later as journal entries. Frame narratives enable an author to start at a moment of high drama, creating a 'hook', and then to return to the start of the story to build up the characters.
A British explorer, Robert Walton, searching for a sea passage across the North polar ice pack, and thus in himself seeking to add to the knowledge of mankind, (he says: “You cannot contest the inestimable benefit which I shall confer on all mankind to the last generation, by discovering a passage near the pole”; Letter 1) sees "a being which had the shape of a man, but apparently of gigantic stature" crossing the pack ice with a sled and shortly after picks up another sled traveller who needs rescuing. These are the monster and its creator, respectively, and the bulk of the narrative consists of the tale that Frankenstein tells.
After telling us about his education, in which he discovers, by chance, the famous alchemists of the past, Victor resolves to create life, assembling a man from bits of bodies dug up from graveyards. As soon as the creature comes to life, Victor is horrified at its ugliness, and rejects it. The creature runs away.
Victor, having been ill (illnesses were so useful in old books as a way of jumping over a passage of time), goes home to discover that his little brother William has been murdered (by the monster) and innocent maid Justine is hanged for the crime. Victor meets the monster on an Alp and the monster then tells Victor what has been happening to him in all this time. He spent most of the time hiding near to a remote cottage where a young man and his sister live with their blind grandfather. The monster spies on them, thus teaching itself to speak and, by the chance discovery of books (Milton's Paradise Lost, Plutarch’s Lives, and Goethe's The Sorrows of Werter) he learns to read and he educates himself. We then stray into a sub-plot explaining the background of these people in the forest and providing Felix with a Turkish wife. In the end, they too reject the monster when they see him. So he comes to Geneva and (accidentally, he really doesn't know his own strength) murders William.
On the mountain the monster reasons with Victor. He is lonely because of all the rejection. He wants Victor to make him a bride. “I am alone, and miserable; man will not associate with me; but one as deformed and horrible as myself would not deny herself to me. My companion must be of the same species, and have the same defects. This being you must create.” (V2 C8) Or else. Victor agrees, if the monster swears to take the wife and live remote from humanity (in South America). [In The Invention of Nature, Andrea Wulf suggests that this is because the exploration of Venezuela by Alexander von Humboldt was a hot topic of conversation in the salons of London at the time she was writing the book.]
Victor travels to a remote Orkney island to make Mrs Monster but at the last moment, realising that (a) the monster cannot guarantee his wife being good and (b) they might have children and spawn a new species of monsters some of whom would undoubtedly be evil. “One of the first results of those sympathies for which the daemon thirsted would be children, and a race of devils would be propagated upon the earth, who might make the very existence of the species of man a condition precarious and full of terror. Had I a right, for my own benefit, to inflict this curse upon everlasting generations?” (V3 C3) So he destroys the woman. The monster, seeing this, swears revenge: "I shall be with you on your wedding-night.” Victor interprets this to mean that the monster will kill him when he marries long-standing (and long-suffering) girlfriend Elizabeth.
We then have another sub-plot in which the monster kills Victor's friend Clerval but Victor finds himself suspected of the murder. Once that has been cleared up Victor can return to Geneva to marry Elizabeth. But the monster kills her (not him) on the wedding night.
Victor now swears vengeance on the monster, pursuing him through Europe and Siberia onto the frozen ice.
We end with Robert Walton's framing narrative. Victor dies (another use of a frame is that you can kill your principal narrator) and the monster is bereft and disappears into the frozen wastes. It ends with a classic final sentence: "He was soon borne away by the waves, and lost in darkness and distance." (V3 September 12th.)
It was subtitled The Modern Prometheus. Prometheus (whose name in Greek means forward thinking) defied Zeus to steal fire from Mount Olympus and give it to man; he was punished by being chained to a rock where nightly an eagle would come and tear out his liver (which regrew the next day). In the same way, Victor Frankenstein steals the secret of life from Nature and is consequently punished. However, the Prometheus story doesn't feature in the narrative which instead relies on Biblical concepts of the Fall in Paradise: the Monster at one point explicitly compares himself to Adam (which makes Victor, repeatedly named Frankenstein's 'Creator', God); there is another Fall referenced in that, at the end, Victor compares himself to Lucifer, the angel who was so full of pride that he was cast from heaven and Fell into Hell.
It is tempting to also compare the Frankenstein story to that of Faust, another German (though Victor is technically Swiss) who sold his soul for learning.
The NT theatre 2020 production
On Thursday 30th April 2020 a watched a live recording of the National Theatre production starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the monster and Jonny Lee Miller as Victor (they alternate these roles on successive performances); Naomie Harris as Elizabeth was also superb.
The play takes the basic ideas of the book and reworks them. It starts with the monster apparently breaking free of a membranous egg and, following several lightning strikes, gaining control of the spastic jerking of his limbs. It is a ballet: it was at least fifteen minutes before he speaks. This seems to have been derived from the middle of the book (Vol 2, Chap 3) in which the monster recalls his coming to life:
“It is with considerable difficulty that I remember the original æra of my being: all the events of that period appear confused and indistinct. A strange multiplicity of sensations seized me, and I saw, felt, heard, and smelt, at the same time; and it was, indeed, a long time before I learned to distinguish between the operations of my various senses." (V2 C3)
"I knew, and could distinguish, nothing ... No distinct ideas occupied my mind; all was confused. I felt light, and hunger, and thirst, and darkness; innumerable sounds rung in my ears, and on all sides various scents saluted me: ... My sensations had, by this time, become distinct, and my mind received every day additional ideas. My eyes became accustomed to the light, and to perceive objects in their right forms” (V2 C3)
The play has thus started at the moment of highest drama, obviating the need for the framing narrative. The play simplifies story, removing the Turkish subplot from the cottage story and the subplot of Justine being hanged for William's murder despite her innocence and the Clerval murder subplot. It also removed Robert Walton and the framing narrative (because there is no narrator in a play you can kill your principal protagonist). It also ended slightly differently with a living Frankenstein pursuing the monster.
Paradise well and truly lost:
This is slightly muddled in the book. The monster is Adam (which makes Frankenstein God) and monster Adam begs his creator for a bride. But also the monster equates himself with Lucifer, the devil who falls from Heaven. But at the same time Victor can be read as Lucifer: Lucifer was kicked out of Heaven because he rebelled against God and the reason for the rebellion is that he was proud; it is Victor's pride (as well as his eating of the Tree of Knowledge) that has led to his downfall. It seems a bit of a muddle which the play resolved by having the monster say: "I should be Adam ... but Satan is the one I sympathise with."
This would appear to be based on a couple of instances when both the monster and Victor talk about Adam and Lucifer:
The monster says: “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 misdeed. Every where 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.” (V2 C2)
The monster also links the two: “Like Adam, I was created apparently united by no link to any other being in existence; but his state was far different from mine in every other respect. He had come forth from the hands of God a perfect creature, happy and prosperous, guarded by the especial care of his Creator; he was allowed to converse with, and acquire knowledge from beings of a superior nature: but I was wretched, helpless, and alone. Many times I considered Satan as the fitter emblem of my condition; for often, like him, when I viewed the bliss of my protectors, the bitter gall of envy rose within me.”
“I, like the arch fiend, bore a hell within me” (V2 C8)
The thunderstorm theme
There are a surprising number of electrical storms in the book:
“On a sudden I beheld a stream of fire issue from an old and beautiful oak, which stood about twenty yards from our house; and so soon as the dazzling light vanished, the oak had disappeared, and nothing remained but a blasted stump.” (V1 C1) The ‘struck by lightning in a thunder storm’ is a foreshadowing of the destructive power of lightning which Victor will later harness to create life ... with an equally damaging result. It is reprised in V3C2 when Victor describes himself as : “I am a blasted tree; the bolt has entered my soul” (V3 C2)
“He constructed a small electrical machine, and exhibited a few experiments; he made also a kite, with a wire and string, which drew down that fluid from the clouds.” (V1 C1)
“The darkness and storm increased every minute, and the thunder burst with a terrific crash over my head.” (V1 C6)
The beauty = goodness theme
The main problem for the monster is that he is so repulsive that people fear him or flee him or are repelled with him. This is foreshadowed when Victor decides he won't attend his chemistry lectures because the teacher is ugly: “I did not feel much inclined to study the books which I procured at his recommendation. M. Krempe was a little squat man, with a gruff voice and repulsive countenance; the teacher, therefore, did not prepossess me in favour of his doctrine.” (V1 C2) I find this theme problematic, although I presume it is a typical romantic trait. There is a thread through literature in which ugliness is equated to criminality and I wonder whether this reflects human psychology.
Perhaps because ugliness is equated with disease and death: “I saw how the fine form of man was degraded and wasted; I beheld the corruption of death succeed to the blooming cheek of life; I saw how the worm inherited the wonders of the eye and brain.” (V1 C3) A sociologist might add that there was a good chance that poverty was also correlated with ugliness because a poor person would have more chance of being disabled because of the physical nature of their work, especially in those days with health and safety, and poor people would be more subject to disfiguring diseases of deprivation.
The theme comes most to light in the moment of scientific triumph: "His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful!—Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion, and straight black lips." (V1 C4)
This equation of good and beauty is justified when the monster says: "Cursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God in pity made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image” (V2 C7)
Before creating the monster, Victor thinks: “A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve their’s.” (V1 C4) But, famously, when the monster comes to life, Victor is repulsed by it (the beauty = goodness theme). Running away from his child (a metaphor of post-natal depression?) is bad parenting, at least in the opinion of the child.
When Victor meets the monster again, and is reproved by him, he thinks: “For the first time, also, I felt what the duties of a creator towards his creature were, and that I ought to render him happy before I complained of his wickedness.” (V2 C2)
In the end, the monster mourns the death of his parent: “That is also my victim!” he exclaimed; “in his murder my crimes are consummated; the miserable series of my being is wound to its close! Oh, Frankenstein! generous and self-devoted being! what does it avail that I now ask thee to pardon me? I, who irretrievably destroyed thee by destroying all thou lovedst.” (V3 September 12th.)
The moral bargain:
Frankenstein claims that there is a sort of moral bargain, equivalent, perhaps, to the social contract of Hobbes. This had been used, initially, to justify the rule of monarchs such as Charles I and Victor, when he travels to England, is enamoured of Oxford because of its association with the Royalist court during the Civil War. But it had been elaborated since then to suggest that the monarch had duties to the people as well as the other way around and the abnegation of these duties enabled anarchy. The monster here is asserting a moral equivalent of this social contract. If the Golden Rule is to Do as you would be Done By then this is its negative. If someone is badly treated, it asserts, he has the right to treat you badly in return:
“All men hate the wretched; how then must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things! Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature ... 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.” (V2 C1)
The idea that wickedness derives from unhappiness:
The monster claims: “I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous.” (V2 C2) and later: “I am malicious because I am miserable” (V2 C9)
The Prometheus theme
Except for the subtitle there seems very little pertaining to Prometheus although it might be argued that the 'Eating the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge' theme is linked. In the middle of the book, the monster remembers his first acquaintance with fire: “I found a fire which had been left by some wandering beggars” (V2 C3)
The Eden theme:
In the frame narrative, at the start, Victor tells Walton: “You seek for knowledge and wisdom, as I once did; and I ardently hope that the gratification of your wishes may not be a serpent to sting you, as mine has been.” (August 19th, 17—)
“I was alone. I remembered Adam’s supplication to his Creator; but where was mine? he had abandoned me, and, in the bitterness of my heart, I cursed him.” (V2 C7) But Adam's acquisition of Eve led ultimately to his expulsion from Paradise
“Sweet and beloved Elizabeth! I read and re-read her letter, and some softened feelings stole into my heart, and dared to whisper paradisaical dreams of love and joy; but the apple was already eaten, and the angel’s arm bared to drive me from all hope.” (V3 C4)
Eating the fruit of the Tree of KnowledgeI t is a little difficult to tell exactly where Mary Shelley stands on knowledge. Many people suggest that the book is condemns the acquisition of knowledge. Robert Walton starts the book as an explorer: “You cannot contest the inestimable benefit which I shall confer on all mankind to the last generation, by discovering a passage near the pole to those countries.” (V1 L1). And Victor's motivation at the start is the same: “What glory would attend the discovery, if I could banish disease from the human frame, and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death!” (V1 C1) Victor's favourite teac her at the University of Ingoldstat is also of the 'more knowledge is better' mindset: “The ancient teachers of this science,” said he, “promised impossibilities, and performed nothing. The modern masters promise very little; they know that metals cannot be transmuted, and that the elixir of life is a chimera. But these philosophers, whose hands seem only made to dabble in dirt, and their eyes to pour over the microscope or crucible, have indeed performed miracles. They penetrate into the recesses of nature, and shew how she works in her hiding places. They ascend into the heavens; they have discovered how the blood circulates, and the nature of the air we breathe. They have acquired new and almost unlimited powers; they can command the thunders of heaven, mimic the earthquake, and even mock the invisible world with its own shadows.” (V1 C2)
But Victor warns: “You seek for knowledge and wisdom, as I once did; and I ardently hope that the gratification of your wishes may not be a serpent to sting you, as mine has been.” (V1, August 19th, 17—) and, later, “Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge.” (V1 C4)
But at the end there is equivocality. When Walton asks about the process by which Victor reanimated dead material, Victor refuses to divulge: “Are you mad, my friend?” said he, “or whither does your senseless curiosity lead you? Would you also create for yourself and the world a demoniacal enemy?” (V3 August 26th, 17—) And yet he still sees the acquisition of knowledge as glorious: “For this was it a glorious, for this was it an honourable undertaking. You were hereafter to be hailed as the benefactors of your species; your name adored, as belonging to brave men who encountered death for honour and the benefit of mankind.” (V3 September 5th)
At the very end, Victor cannot blame himself. “During these last days I have been occupied in examining my past conduct; nor do I find it blameable. In a fit of enthusiastic madness I created a rational creature, and was bound towards him, to assure, as far as was in my power, his happiness and well-being. This was my duty; but there was another still paramount to that. My duties towards my fellow-creatures had greater claims to my attention, because they included a greater proportion of happiness or misery. Urged by this view, I refused, and I did right in refusing, to create a companion for the first creature. He shewed unparalleled malignity and selfishness, in evil: he destroyed my friends; he devoted to destruction beings who possessed exquisite sensations, happiness, and wisdom; nor do I know where this thirst for vengeance may end. Miserable himself, that he may render no other wretched, he ought to die. The task of his destruction was mine, but I have failed.” (V3 September 12th.) One might argue that this failure to repent, even on his death bed, is what finally damns Victor. He still cannot see that what he did was wrong, only that he has failed to prevent the evil consequences.
Links with other works.
On the ship, Robert Walton writes to his sister: "I shall kill no albatross, therefore do not be alarmed for my safety.” (Letter 2) This is presumably a reference to Coleridge's Rime of the Antient Mariner which was published in 1798 and revised in 1817, just before Frankenstein was published.
“In the Sorrows of Werter, besides the interest of its simple and affecting story, so many opinions are canvassed, and so many lights thrown upon what had hitherto been to me obscure subjects, that I found in it a never-ending source of speculation and astonishment. The gentle and domestic manners it described, combined with lofty sentiments and feelings, which had for their object something out of self, accorded well with my experience among my protectors, and with the wants which were for ever alive in my own bosom. But I thought Werter himself a more divine being than I had ever beheld or imagined; his character contained no pretension, but it sunk deep. The disquisitions upon death and suicide were calculated to fill me with wonder. I did not pretend to enter into the merits of the case, yet I inclined towards the opinions of the hero, whose extinction I wept, without precisely understanding it. “ (V2 C7)
“I learned from Werter’s imaginations despondency and gloom” (V2 C7)
“Paradise Lost excited different and far deeper emotions. I read it, as I had read the other volumes which had fallen into my hands, as a true history.” (V2 C7)
Building the story:
“I felt great relief in being the fellow-pupil with my friend, and found not only instruction but consolation in the works of the orientalists. Their melancholy is soothing, and their joy elevating to a degree I never experienced in studying the authors of any other country. When you read their writings, life appears to consist in a warm sun and garden of roses,—in the smiles and frowns of a fair enemy, and the fire that consumes your own heart.” (V1 C5) It is great to see how Shelley interposes intervals of idyll in between the moments of horror.
Why is he called Victor? Has he won anything?April 2020;
- “What may not be expected in a country of eternal light? I may there discover the wondrous power which attracts the needle” (V1 L1)
- “I have no friend, Margaret: when I am glowing with the enthusiasm of success, there will be none to participate my joy; if I am assailed by disappointment, no one will endeavour to sustain me in dejection.” (V1 L2)
- “I am preparing to depart. I am going to unexplored regions, to ‘the land of mist and snow;’ but I shall kill no albatross, therefore do not be alarmed for my safety.” (V1 L2)
- “friendship is not only a desirable, but a possible acquisition. I once had a friend, the most noble of human creatures, and am entitled, therefore, to judge respecting friendship.” (V1, August 13th, 17—)
- “The raising of ghosts or devils was a promise liberally accorded by my favourite authors, the fulfilment of which I most eagerly sought; and if my incantations were always unsuccessful, I attributed the failure rather to my own inexperience and mistake, than to a want of skill or fidelity in my instructors.” (V1 C1)
- “Wealth was an inferior object; but what glory would attend the discovery, if I could banish disease from the human frame, and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death!” (V1 C1)
- “None but those who have experienced them can conceive of the enticements of science. In other studies you go as far as others have gone before you, and there is nothing more to know; but in a scientific pursuit there is continual food for discovery and wonder.” (V1 C3)
- "To examine the causes of life, we must first have recourse to death. I became acquainted with the science of anatomy: but this was not sufficient; I must also observe the natural decay and corruption of the human body.” (V1 C3)
- “Darkness had no effect upon my fancy; and a church-yard was to me merely the receptacle of bodies deprived of life, which, from being the seat of beauty and strength, had become food for the worm.” (V1 C3)
- “Now I was led to examine the cause and progress of this decay, and forced to spend days and nights in vaults and charnel houses.” (V1 C3)
- Soon Victor has his eureka moment: “from the midst of this darkness a sudden light broke in upon me—a light so brilliant and wondrous, yet so simple, that while I became dizzy with the immensity of the prospect which it illustrated, I was surprised that among so many men of genius, who had directed their inquiries towards the same science, that I alone should be reserved to discover so astonishing a secret.” (V1 C3)
- “After days and nights of incredible labour and fatigue, I succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life; nay, more, I became myself capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter.” (V1 C3)
- “I was like the Arabian who had been buried with the dead, and found a passage to life aided only by one glimmering, and seemingly ineffectual, light.” (V1 C3): I confess I don't know who this Arabian is.
- "Who shall conceive the horrors of my secret toil, as I dabbled among the unhallowed damps of the grave, or tortured the living animal to animate the lifeless clay?” (V1 C3)
- “I collected bones from charnel houses” (V1 C3)
- “The dissecting room and the slaughter-house furnished many of my materials” (V1 C3)
- “The summer months passed while I was thus engaged, heart and soul, in one pursuit. It was a most beautiful season; never did the fields bestow a more plentiful harvest, or the vines yield a more luxuriant vintage” (V1 C3) nicely contrasts the fecundity of nature with the sterility of what Victor is trying to do.
- “my enthusiasm was checked by my anxiety, and I appeared rather like one doomed by slavery to toil in the mines, or any other unwholesome trade, than an artist occupied by his favourite employment.” (V1 C3)
- “It was on a dreary night of November, that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs." (V1 C4)
- "Now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.” (V1 C4)
- “I had gazed on him while unfinished; he was ugly then; but when those muscles and joints were rendered capable of motion, it became a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived.” (V1 C4)
- “I threw the door forcibly open, as children are accustomed to do when they expect a spectre to stand in waiting for them on the other side” (V1 C4)
- “it is certainly more creditable to cultivate the earth for the sustenance of man, than to be the confidant, and sometimes the accomplice, of his vices; which is the profession of a lawyer.” (V1 C5)
- “When happy, inanimate nature had the power of bestowing on me the most delightful sensations.” (V1 C5)
- “The survivors are the greatest sufferers, and for them time is the only consolation.” (V1 C6)
- “Those maxims of the Stoics, that death was no evil, and that the mind of man ought to be superior to despair on the eternal absence of a beloved object, ought not to be urged. Even Cato wept over the dead body of his brother.” (V1 C6)
- "I considered the being whom I had cast among mankind, and endowed with the will and power to effect purposes of horror, such as the deed which he had now done, nearly in the light of my own vampire, my own spirit let loose from the grave, and forced to destroy all that was dear to me.” (V1 C6) Interesting use of the word vampire
- “I did confess; but I confessed a lie. I confessed, that I might obtain absolution; but now that falsehood lies heavier at my heart than all my other sins. The God of heaven forgive me! Ever since I was condemned, my confessor has besieged me; he threatened and menaced,” (V1 C7) Typical gothic anti-priest propaganda
- “We beheld immense mountains and precipices overhanging us on every side ...the river raging among rocks, and the dashing of waterfalls around ... Ruined castles hanging on the precipices of piny mountains; ... the mighty Alps, whose white and shining pyramids and domes towered above all, as belonging to another earth, the habitations of another race of beings.” (V2 C1)
- “am I not alone, miserably alone? You, my creator, abhor me; what hope can I gather from your fellow-creatures, who owe me nothing?” (V2 C2)
- “You accuse me of murder; and yet you would, with a satisfied conscience, destroy your own creature.” (V2 C2)
- “I was enchanted by the appearance of the hut: here the snow and rain could not penetrate; the ground was dry; and it presented to me then as exquisite and divine a retreat as Pandæmonium appeared to the daemons of hell after their sufferings in the lake of fire.” (V2 C3)
- “the strange system of human society was explained to me. I heard of the division of property, of immense wealth and squalid poverty; of rank, descent, and noble blood.” (V2 C5)
- “I learned that the possessions most esteemed by your fellow-creatures were, high and unsullied descent united with riches. A man might be respected with only one of these acquisitions; but without either he was considered, except in very rare instances, as a vagabond and a slave, doomed to waste his powers for the profit of the chosen few.” (V2 C5)
- “Of what a strange nature is knowledge! It clings to the mind, when it has once seized on it, like a lichen on the rock.” (V2 C5)
- “Satan had his companions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him; but I am solitary and detested.” (V2 C7)
- “Unfeeling, heartless creator! you had endowed me with perceptions and passions, and then cast me abroad an object for the scorn and horror of mankind.” (V2 C8)
- “You would not call it murder, if you could precipitate me into one of those ice-rifts, and destroy my frame, the work of your own hands.” (V2 C9)
- “I do not destroy the lamb and the kid, to glut my appetite; acorns and berries afford me sufficient nourishment.” (V2 C9) This is one of the more bizarre aspects of the book: the monster is Vegan!
- “You are my creator, but I am your master;—obey!” (V3 C3)
- “Who could be interested in the fate of a murderer, but the hangman who would gain his fee?” (V3 C4)
- “Ever since my recovery from the fever I had been in the custom of taking every night a small quantity of laudanum; for it was by means of this drug only that I was enabled to gain the rest necessary for the preservation of life.” (V3 C4)
- “life is obstinate, and clings closest where it is most hated.” (V3 C5)
- “What then became of me? I know not; I lost sensation, and chains and darkness were the only objects that pressed upon me. Sometimes, indeed, I dreamt that I wandered in flowery meadows and pleasant vales with the friends of my youth; but awoke, and found myself in a dungeon. Melancholy followed, but by degrees I gained a clear conception of my miseries and situation, and was then released from my prison. For they had called me mad; and during many months, as I understood, a solitary cell had been my habitation.” (V3 C5)
- “And now my wanderings began, which are to cease but with life. I have traversed a vast portion of the earth” (V3 C7)
- “My reign is not yet over,” (V3 C7)
- “Come on, my enemy; we have yet to wrestle for our lives” (V3 C7)
- “like the archangel who aspired to omnipotence, I am chained in an eternal hell” (V3 August 26th, 17—)
- “I trod heaven in my thoughts, now exulting in my powers, now burning with the idea of their effects. From my infancy I was imbued with high hopes and a lofty ambition; but how am I sunk!” (V3 August 26th, 17—)
- “a high destiny seemed to bear me on, until I fell, never, never again to rise.” (V3 August 26th, 17—)
- “My heart was fashioned to be susceptible of love and sympathy; and, when wrenched by misery to vice and hatred, it did not endure the violence of the change without torture, such as you cannot even imagine.” (V3 September 12th.)
- “You throw a torch into a pile of buildings, and when they are consumed you sit among the ruins, and lament the fall. Hypocritical fiend!” (V3 September 12th.)
- “When I call over the frightful catalogue of my deeds, I cannot believe that I am he whose thoughts were once filled with sublime and transcendant visions of the beauty and the majesty of goodness. But it is even so; the fallen angel becomes a malignant devil. Yet even that enemy of God and man had friends and associates in his desolation; I am quite alone.” (V3 September 12th.)
- “Am I to be thought the only criminal, when all human kind sinned against me?” (V3 September 12th.)
- “If thou wert yet alive, and yet cherished a desire of revenge against me, it would be better satiated in my life than in my destruction.” (V3 September 12th.)