For months, Victor travels with his friend, Henry Clerval, trying to clear his mind on the mission set by his creature. While everything they visit is beautiful, he is unable to find comfort while knowing that his beloved are being threatened. Finally, he says farewell to his friend and goes off to a house on an island, and surrounded by nature and solitude, begins his work on building a companion for his creature.
Yet then, in the middle of his work, Victor is struck by the fact that the union of the new partner and creature might not go as smoothly as they anticipate, and that even more, if it did, that they might reproduce and multiply the threat to humanity. Terrified by the idea, he destroys his work in progress, right under the very eyes of his creature. Betrayed and maddened, the creature promises for him pain beyond death, and departs.
And such pain, the creature does cause. Upon leaving his labratory and traveling across the sea, Victor finds Clerval a lifeless body. After barely recovering from weeks of grieved illness, Victor marries Elizabeth in an attempt to make her happy, yet she too is strangled to death on her wedding night. His father soon follows in grief.
Having lost all those who are precious to him, he pursues the creature in his despair, vowing never to rest before it is destroyed. This fruitless journey has, then, led him to Robert Walton.
Robert is, while terrified by the story to some degree, more fascinated by the existance of the supernatural creature and its formation than anything else. But the excitement is dampened by Victor’s fading health and their being trapped in the ice. The crews, fearful for their lives, demand Robert to return if the ice melts, and Victor’s short burst of inspiring speech fails to actually convince them.
The ice then does allow them passage, and in the returning journey, Victor tells Robert that his duty to humanity is greater than his duty to his creation’s happiness, and that he does not regret his choice. He states that the creature should die because it had commited murder on his dearest friends, but that he leaves the choice to Robert. With that, he passes away.
Then, left alone, Robert discovers the creature in the cabin of the ship, grieving Victor’s death. The creature exclaims upon query that it is in fact himself who suffered the most from the murders he committed–in the loss of the humanity and the wisdom he had once possessed, his own misery in his knowledge that he could never lay his hands on the satisfaction he had sought in his every action, and most of all, in the ceaseless pang of guilt on all the innocent deaths he had caused. And in this misery, the creature no longer regrets to die, of which he announces that he would. With that, it disappears into the world of icy, desolate nature.
“But it is true that I am a wretch. I have murdered the lovely and the helpless; I have strangled the innocent as they slept, and grasped to death his throat who never injured me or any other living thing. I have devoted my creator, the select speciment of all that is worthy of love and admiration among men, to misery; I have pursued him even to that irremediable ruin. There he lies, white and cold in death. You hate me; but your abhorrence cannot equal that with which I regard myself. I look on the hands which executed the deed; I think on the heart in which the imagination of it was conceived, and long for the moment when these hands will meet my eyes, when that imagination will haunt my thoughts no more.” (Shelley, 165)
The passage reveals the full extent of not only the awareness the creature has on his own actions, but the amount of guilt he feels on all the crimes that he had committed. He said, before that, that he had lost his humanity in his murders, but it seems, at least in this moment of reflection, that the creature is very human in his feelings indeed. It leaves the reader to wonder, however, if this is enough to excuse him. The creature’s dissatisfaction that lies under his deeds is Victor’s responsibility–but does that make him responsible for Clerval and Elizabeth’s death as well? How much of it is nature, and how much of it is nurture? The question applies both on the murder, and the guilt by which the creature considers it.