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Contents > Author > Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley > Frankenstein 16 1797- 1851
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Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Frankenstein 16
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Chapter 16

"Cursed, cursed creator! Why did I live? Why, in that instant, did I
not extinguish the spark of existence which you had so wantonly
bestowed? I know not; despair had not yet taken possession of me; my
feelings were those of rage and revenge. I could with pleasure have
destroyed the cottage and its inhabitants and have glutted myself with
their shrieks and misery.

"When night came I quitted my retreat and wandered in the wood; and
now, no longer restrained by the fear of discovery, I gave vent to my
anguish in fearful howlings. I was like a wild beast that had broken
the toils, destroying the objects that obstructed me and ranging
through the wood with a stag-like swiftness. Oh! What a miserable
night I passed! The cold stars shone in mockery, and the bare trees
waved their branches above me; now and then the sweet voice of a bird
burst forth amidst the universal stillness. All, save I, were at rest
or in enjoyment; I, like the arch-fiend, bore a hell within me, and
finding myself unsympathized with, wished to tear up the trees, spread
havoc and destruction around me, and then to have sat down and enjoyed
the ruin.

"But this was a luxury of sensation that could not endure; I became
fatigued with excess of bodily exertion and sank on the damp grass in
the sick impotence of despair. There was none among the myriads of men
that existed who would pity or assist me; and should I feel kindness
towards my enemies? No; from that moment I declared everlasting war
against the species, and more than all, against him who had formed me
and sent me forth to this insupportable misery.

"The sun rose; I heard the voices of men and knew that it was
impossible to return to my retreat during that day. Accordingly I hid
myself in some thick underwood, determining to devote the ensuing hours
to reflection on my situation.

"The pleasant sunshine and the pure air of day restored me to some
degree of tranquillity; and when I considered what had passed at the
cottage, I could not help believing that I had been too hasty in my
conclusions. I had certainly acted imprudently. It was apparent that
my conversation had interested the father in my behalf, and I was a
fool in having exposed my person to the horror of his children. I
ought to have familiarized the old De Lacey to me, and by degrees to
have discovered myself to the rest of his family, when they should have
been prepared for my approach. But I did not believe my errors to be
irretrievable, and after much consideration I resolved to return to the
cottage, seek the old man, and by my representations win him to my

"These thoughts calmed me, and in the afternoon I sank into a profound
sleep; but the fever of my blood did not allow me to be visited by
peaceful dreams. The horrible scene of the preceding day was forever
acting before my eyes; the females were flying and the enraged Felix
tearing me from his father's feet. I awoke exhausted, and finding that
it was already night, I crept forth from my hiding-place, and went in
search of food.

"When my hunger was appeased, I directed my steps towards the well-
known path that conducted to the cottage. All there was at peace. I
crept into my hovel and remained in silent expectation of the
accustomed hour when the family arose. That hour passed, the sun
mounted high in the heavens, but the cottagers did not appear. I
trembled violently, apprehending some dreadful misfortune. The inside
of the cottage was dark, and I heard no motion; I cannot describe the
agony of this suspense.

"Presently two countrymen passed by, but pausing near the cottage, they
entered into conversation, using violent gesticulations; but I did not
understand what they said, as they spoke the language of the country,
which differed from that of my protectors. Soon after, however, Felix
approached with another man; I was surprised, as I knew that he had not
quitted the cottage that morning, and waited anxiously to discover from
his discourse the meaning of these unusual appearances.

"`Do you consider,' said his companion to him, `that you will be
obliged to pay three months' rent and to lose the produce of your
garden? I do not wish to take any unfair advantage, and I beg
therefore that you will take some days to consider of your

"`It is utterly useless,' replied Felix; `we can never again inhabit
your cottage. The life of my father is in the greatest danger, owing
to the dreadful circumstance that I have related. My wife and my
sister will never recover from their horror. I entreat you not to
reason with me any more. Take possession of your tenement and let me
fly from this place.'

"Felix trembled violently as he said this. He and his companion
entered the cottage, in which they remained for a few minutes, and then
departed. I never saw any of the family of De Lacey more.

"I continued for the remainder of the day in my hovel in a state of
utter and stupid despair. My protectors had departed and had broken
the only link that held me to the world. For the first time the
feelings of revenge and hatred filled my bosom, and I did not strive to
control them, but allowing myself to be borne away by the stream, I
bent my mind towards injury and death. When I thought of my friends,
of the mild voice of De Lacey, the gentle eyes of Agatha, and the
exquisite beauty of the Arabian, these thoughts vanished and a gush of
tears somewhat soothed me. But again when I reflected that they had
spurned and deserted me, anger returned, a rage of anger, and unable to
injure anything human, I turned my fury towards inanimate objects. As
night advanced I placed a variety of combustibles around the cottage,
and after having destroyed every vestige of cultivation in the garden, I
waited with forced impatience until the moon had sunk to commence my

"As the night advanced, a fierce wind arose from the woods and quickly
dispersed the clouds that had loitered in the heavens; the blast tore
along like a mighty avalanche and produced a kind of insanity in my
spirits that burst all bounds of reason and reflection. I lighted the
dry branch of a tree and danced with fury around the devoted cottage,
my eyes still fixed on the western horizon, the edge of which the moon
nearly touched. A part of its orb was at length hid, and I waved my
brand; it sank, and with a loud scream I fired the straw, and heath,
and bushes, which I had collected. The wind fanned the fire, and the
cottage was quickly enveloped by the flames, which clung to it and
licked it with their forked and destroying tongues.

"As soon as I was convinced that no assistance could save any part of
the habitation, I quitted the scene and sought for refuge in the woods.

"And now, with the world before me, whither should I bend my steps? I
resolved to fly far from the scene of my misfortunes; but to me, hated
and despised, every country must be equally horrible. At length the
thought of you crossed my mind. I learned from your papers that you
were my father, my creator; and to whom could I apply with more fitness
than to him who had given me life? Among the lessons that Felix had
bestowed upon Safie, geography had not been omitted; I had learned from
these the relative situations of the different countries of the earth.
You had mentioned Geneva as the name of your native town, and towards
this place I resolved to proceed.

"But how was I to direct myself? I knew that I must travel in a
southwesterly direction to reach my destination, but the sun was my
only guide. I did not know the names of the towns that I was to pass
through, nor could I ask information from a single human being; but I
did not despair. From you only could I hope for succour, although
towards you I felt no sentiment but that of hatred. 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.
But on you only had I any claim for pity and redress, and from you I
determined to seek that justice which I vainly attempted to gain from
any other being that wore the human form.

"My travels were long and the sufferings I endured intense. It was
late in autumn when I quitted the district where I had so long resided.
I travelled only at night, fearful of encountering the visage of a
human being. Nature decayed around me, and the sun became heatless;
rain and snow poured around me; mighty rivers were frozen; the surface
of the earth was hard and chill, and bare, and I found no shelter. Oh,
earth! How often did I imprecate curses on the cause of my being! The
mildness of my nature had fled, and all within me was turned to gall
and bitterness. The nearer I approached to your habitation, the more
deeply did I feel the spirit of revenge enkindled in my heart. Snow
fell, and the waters were hardened, but I rested not. A few incidents
now and then directed me, and I possessed a map of the country; but I
often wandered wide from my path. The agony of my feelings allowed me
no respite; no incident occurred from which my rage and misery could
not extract its food; but a circumstance that happened when I arrived
on the confines of Switzerland, when the sun had recovered its warmth
and the earth again began to look green, confirmed in an especial
manner the bitterness and horror of my feelings.

"I generally rested during the day and travelled only when I was
secured by night from the view of man. One morning, however, finding
that my path lay through a deep wood, I ventured to continue my journey
after the sun had risen; the day, which was one of the first of spring,
cheered even me by the loveliness of its sunshine and the balminess of
the air. I felt emotions of gentleness and pleasure, that had long
appeared dead, revive within me. Half surprised by the novelty of
these sensations, I allowed myself to be borne away by them, and
forgetting my solitude and deformity, dared to be happy. Soft tears
again bedewed my cheeks, and I even raised my humid eyes with
thankfulness towards the blessed sun, which bestowed such joy upon me.

"I continued to wind among the paths of the wood, until I came to its
boundary, which was skirted by a deep and rapid river, into which many
of the trees bent their branches, now budding with the fresh spring.
Here I paused, not exactly knowing what path to pursue, when I heard
the sound of voices, that induced me to conceal myself under the shade
of a cypress. I was scarcely hid when a young girl came running
towards the spot where I was concealed, laughing, as if she ran from
someone in sport. She continued her course along the precipitous sides
of the river, when suddenly her foot slipped, and she fell into the
rapid stream. I rushed from my hiding-place and with extreme labour,
from the force of the current, saved her and dragged her to shore. She
was senseless, and I endeavoured by every means in my power to restore
animation, when I was suddenly interrupted by the approach of a rustic,
who was probably the person from whom she had playfully fled. On
seeing me, he darted towards me, and tearing the girl from my arms,
hastened towards the deeper parts of the wood. I followed speedily, I
hardly knew why; but when the man saw me draw near, he aimed a gun,
which he carried, at my body and fired. I sank to the ground, and my
injurer, with increased swiftness, escaped into the wood.

"This was then the reward of my benevolence! I had saved a human being
from destruction, and as a recompense I now writhed under the miserable
pain of a wound which shattered the flesh and bone. The feelings of
kindness and gentleness which I had entertained but a few moments
before gave place to hellish rage and gnashing of teeth. Inflamed by
pain, I vowed eternal hatred and vengeance to all mankind. But the
agony of my wound overcame me; my pulses paused, and I fainted.

"For some weeks I led a miserable life in the woods, endeavouring to
cure the wound which I had received. The ball had entered my shoulder,
and I knew not whether it had remained there or passed through; at any
rate I had no means of extracting it. My sufferings were augmented
also by the oppressive sense of the injustice and ingratitude of their
infliction. My daily vows rose for revenge--a deep and deadly
revenge, such as would alone compensate for the outrages and anguish I
had endured.

"After some weeks my wound healed, and I continued my journey. The
labours I endured were no longer to be alleviated by the bright sun or
gentle breezes of spring; all joy was but a mockery which insulted my
desolate state and made me feel more painfully that I was not made for
the enjoyment of pleasure.

"But my toils now drew near a close, and in two months from this time I
reached the environs of Geneva.

"It was evening when I arrived, and I retired to a hiding-place among
the fields that surround it to meditate in what manner I should apply
to you. I was oppressed by fatigue and hunger and far too unhappy to
enjoy the gentle breezes of evening or the prospect of the sun setting
behind the stupendous mountains of Jura.

"At this time a slight sleep relieved me from the pain of reflection,
which was disturbed by the approach of a beautiful child, who came
running into the recess I had chosen, with all the sportiveness of
infancy. Suddenly, as I gazed on him, an idea seized me that this
little creature was unprejudiced and had lived too short a time to have
imbibed a horror of deformity. If, therefore, I could seize him and
educate him as my companion and friend, I should not be so desolate in
this peopled earth.

"Urged by this impulse, I seized on the boy as he passed and drew him
towards me. As soon as he beheld my form, he placed his hands before
his eyes and uttered a shrill scream; I drew his hand forcibly from his
face and said, `Child, what is the meaning of this? I do not intend to
hurt you; listen to me.'

"He struggled violently. `Let me go,' he cried; `monster! Ugly
wretch! You wish to eat me and tear me to pieces. You are an ogre.
Let me go, or I will tell my papa.'

"`Boy, you will never see your father again; you must come with me.'

"`Hideous monster! Let me go. My papa is a syndic--he is M.
Frankenstein--he will punish you. You dare not keep me.'

"`Frankenstein! you belong then to my enemy--to him towards whom I have
sworn eternal revenge; you shall be my first victim.'

"The child still struggled and loaded me with epithets which carried
despair to my heart; I grasped his throat to silence him, and in a
moment he lay dead at my feet.

"I gazed on my victim, and my heart swelled with exultation and hellish
triumph; clapping my hands, I exclaimed, `I too can create desolation;
my enemy is not invulnerable; this death will carry despair to him, and
a thousand other miseries shall torment and destroy him.'

"As I fixed my eyes on the child, I saw something glittering on his
breast. I took it; it was a portrait of a most lovely woman. In spite
of my malignity, it softened and attracted me. For a few moments I
gazed with delight on her dark eyes, fringed by deep lashes, and her
lovely lips; but presently my rage returned; I remembered that I was
forever deprived of the delights that such beautiful creatures could
bestow and that she whose resemblance I contemplated would, in
regarding me, have changed that air of divine benignity to one
expressive of disgust and affright.

"Can you wonder that such thoughts transported me with rage? I only
wonder that at that moment, instead of venting my sensations in
exclamations and agony, I did not rush among mankind and perish in the
attempt to destroy them.

"While I was overcome by these feelings, I left the spot where I had
committed the murder, and seeking a more secluded hiding-place, I
entered a barn which had appeared to me to be empty. A woman was
sleeping on some straw; she was young, not indeed so beautiful as her
whose portrait I held, but of an agreeable aspect and blooming in the
loveliness of youth and health. Here, I thought, is one of those whose
joy-imparting smiles are bestowed on all but me. And then I bent over
her and whispered, `Awake, fairest, thy lover is near--he who would
give his life but to obtain one look of affection from thine eyes; my
beloved, awake!'

"The sleeper stirred; a thrill of terror ran through me. Should she
indeed awake, and see me, and curse me, and denounce the murderer? Thus
would she assuredly act if her darkened eyes opened and she beheld me.
The thought was madness; it stirred the fiend within me--not I, but
she, shall suffer; the murder I have committed because I am forever
robbed of all that she could give me, she shall atone. The crime had
its source in her; be hers the punishment! Thanks to the lessons of
Felix and the sanguinary laws of man, I had learned now to work
mischief. I bent over her and placed the portrait securely in one of
the folds of her dress. She moved again, and I fled.

"For some days I haunted the spot where these scenes had taken place,
sometimes wishing to see you, sometimes resolved to quit the world and
its miseries forever. At length I wandered towards these mountains,
and have ranged through their immense recesses, consumed by a burning
passion which you alone can gratify. We may not part until you have
promised to comply with my requisition. 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."


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