In the second section of Frankenstein by Mary Shelly, Victor Frankenstein succumbs to an overwhelming darkness in his psyche after his brother William is killed by his creation. He is distraught not only because of his responsibility to creating the Monster, but the fact that he cannot clear the name of Justine Moritz, the girl who was a ward of the Frankenstein family and executed wrongly for the murder of William Frankenstein. Alphonse Frankenstein, Victor’s father, attempts to clear the minds of his family from their recent terrors and takes them to Belrive, Switzerland as a distraction. Victor experiences a bout of happiness surrounded by nature and free of trouble, taking a boat and traveling across Lake Geneva often to relax. One day on one of his expeditions, this time to the Summit of Montanvert, Victor runs into the Monster again. They argue for a while, with Victor threatening violence. Eventually he relents to the Monster’s requests and follows him into a cave where the Monster recounts his life.
The Monster explains to Victor the hardships of his short life, and how he taught himself to understand the world. The Monster talked about how he first encountered fire, the first time he viewed himself, and his encounters with humans. He quickly came to understand beauty, and fear when he encountered humans. He also learned language, and kindness from a poor family he watched from afar. Eventually he gathered the courage to speak to one of the residents of the poor household, De Lacey, who is blind and would not be able to view his horrific features. Unfortunately the other members of the household returned and drove him off with disgust, leaving the Monster alone without a familiar again. The Monster’s thirst for companionship drives him mad with rage against his creator who left him to ruin. The Monster talks about how he found the Frankenstein residence and killed William while blaming Justine for the murder.
After this recounting of events, the Monster requests that Victor creates a companion for him. Victor vehemently refuses, horrified at the thought of bringing another Monster into the world when the first one killed two people so close to him. The Monster is persuasive however, and makes promises to travel to an uninhabited place and live there with his companion for the rest of his life, never bothering Frankenstein again. Eventually realizing that he has no way of controlling the monster, Victor gives in to his demands and agrees to create a companion for the Monster.
A theme that has intrigued me in this story has been education and knowledge decreasing the quality of life of characters. Victor Frankenstein pursues the knowledge to create life from the dead, and manages his goal. Unfortunately for him, the knowledge does not improve his reputation or acclaim, but backfires and ruins his life and harming those he loves. The Monster, in the second section of the book, gathers knowledge of the world around him, and its people. But as he does this, he comes to realize how isolated he is as a freak of nature. The knowledge he gains depresses him, and eats away at his mind driving him to murder for revenge. This knowledge warps his mind and thoughts, instead of improving his life. The books he reads on human culture and nature do not draw him closer to companionship with humans, but rather pushes him farther away the more he learns.