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Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Frankenstein 17
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Chapter 17

The being finished speaking and fixed his looks upon me in the
expectation of a reply. But I was bewildered, perplexed, and
unable to arrange my ideas sufficiently to understand the full
extent of his proposition. He continued,

"You must create a female for me with whom I can live in the
interchange of those sympathies necessary for my being. This you alone
can do, and I demand it of you as a right which you must not refuse to
concede."

The latter part of his tale had kindled anew in me the anger that had
died away while he narrated his peaceful life among the cottagers, and
as he said this I could no longer suppress the rage that burned within
me.

"I do refuse it," I replied; "and no torture shall ever extort a
consent from me. You may render me the most miserable of men, but you
shall never make me base in my own eyes. Shall I create another like
yourself, whose joint wickedness might desolate the world. Begone! I
have answered you; you may torture me, but I will never consent."

"You are in the wrong," replied the fiend; "and instead of threatening,
I am content to reason with you. I am malicious because I am
miserable. Am I not shunned and hated by all mankind? You, my
creator, would tear me to pieces and triumph; remember that, and tell
me why I should pity man more than he pities me? 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. Shall I respect man when
he condemns me? Let him live with me in the interchange of kindness,
and instead of injury I would bestow every benefit upon him with tears
of gratitude at his acceptance. But that cannot be; the human senses
are insurmountable barriers to our union. Yet mine shall not be the
submission of abject slavery. I will revenge my injuries; if I cannot
inspire love, I will cause fear, and chiefly towards you my arch-enemy,
because my creator, do I swear inextinguishable hatred. Have a care; I
will work at your destruction, nor finish until I desolate your heart,
so that you shall curse the hour of your birth."

A fiendish rage animated him as he said this; his face was wrinkled
into contortions too horrible for human eyes to behold; but presently
he calmed himself and proceeded--

"I intended to reason. This passion is detrimental to me, for you do
not reflect that YOU are the cause of its excess. If any being felt
emotions of benevolence towards me, I should return them a hundred and
a hundredfold; for that one creature's sake I would make peace with the
whole kind! But I now indulge in dreams of bliss that cannot be
realized. What I ask of you is reasonable and moderate; I demand a
creature of another sex, but as hideous as myself; the gratification is
small, but it is all that I can receive, and it shall content me. It
is true, we shall be monsters, cut off from all the world; but on that
account we shall be more attached to one another. Our lives will not
be happy, but they will be harmless and free from the misery I now
feel. Oh! My creator, make me happy; let me feel gratitude towards
you for one benefit! Let me see that I excite the sympathy of some
existing thing; do not deny me my request!"

I was moved. I shuddered when I thought of the possible consequences
of my consent, but I felt that there was some justice in his argument.
His tale and the feelings he now expressed proved him to be a creature
of fine sensations, and did I not as his maker owe him all the portion
of happiness that it was in my power to bestow? He saw my change of
feeling and continued,

"If you consent, neither you nor any other human being shall ever see
us again; I will go to the vast wilds of South America. My food is not
that of man; I do not destroy the lamb and the kid to glut my appetite;
acorns and berries afford me sufficient nourishment. My companion will
be of the same nature as myself and will be content with the same
fare. We shall make our bed of dried leaves; the sun will shine on us
as on man and will ripen our food. The picture I present to you is
peaceful and human, and you must feel that you could deny it only in
the wantonness of power and cruelty. Pitiless as you have been towards
me, I now see compassion in your eyes; let me seize the favourable
moment and persuade you to promise what I so ardently desire."

"You propose," replied I, "to fly from the habitations of man, to dwell
in those wilds where the beasts of the field will be your only
companions. How can you, who long for the love and sympathy of man,
persevere in this exile? You will return and again seek their
kindness, and you will meet with their detestation; your evil passions
will be renewed, and you will then have a companion to aid you in the
task of destruction. This may not be; cease to argue the point, for I
cannot consent."

"How inconstant are your feelings! But a moment ago you were moved by
my representations, and why do you again harden yourself to my
complaints? I swear to you, by the earth which I inhabit, and by you
that made me, that with the companion you bestow I will quit the
neighbourhood of man and dwell, as it may chance, in the most savage of
places. My evil passions will have fled, for I shall meet with
sympathy! My life will flow quietly away, and in my dying moments I
shall not curse my maker."

His words had a strange effect upon me. I compassionated him and
sometimes felt a wish to console him, but when I looked upon him, when
I saw the filthy mass that moved and talked, my heart sickened and my
feelings were altered to those of horror and hatred. I tried to stifle
these sensations; I thought that as I could not sympathize with him, I
had no right to withhold from him the small portion of happiness which
was yet in my power to bestow.

"You swear," I said, "to be harmless; but have you not already shown a
degree of malice that should reasonably make me distrust you? May not
even this be a feint that will increase your triumph by affording a
wider scope for your revenge?"

"How is this? I must not be trifled with, and I demand an answer. If
I have no ties and no affections, hatred and vice must be my portion;
the love of another will destroy the cause of my crimes, and I shall
become a thing of whose existence everyone will be ignorant. My vices
are the children of a forced solitude that I abhor, and my virtues will
necessarily arise when I live in communion with an equal. I shall feel
the affections of a sensitive being and become linked to the chain of
existence and events from which I am now excluded."

I paused some time to reflect on all he had related and the various
arguments which he had employed. I thought of the promise of virtues
which he had displayed on the opening of his existence and the
subsequent blight of all kindly feeling by the loathing and scorn which
his protectors had manifested towards him. His power and threats were
not omitted in my calculations; a creature who could exist in the ice
caves of the glaciers and hide himself from pursuit among the ridges of
inaccessible precipices was a being possessing faculties it would be
vain to cope with. After a long pause of reflection I concluded that
the justice due both to him and my fellow creatures demanded of me that
I should comply with his request. Turning to him, therefore, I said,

"I consent to your demand, on your solemn oath to quit Europe forever,
and every other place in the neighbourhood of man, as soon as I shall
deliver into your hands a female who will accompany you in your exile."

"I swear," he cried, "by the sun, and by the blue sky of heaven, and by
the fire of love that burns my heart, that if you grant my prayer,
while they exist you shall never behold me again. Depart to your home
and commence your labours; I shall watch their progress with
unutterable anxiety; and fear not but that when you are ready I shall
appear."

Saying this, he suddenly quitted me, fearful, perhaps, of any change in
my sentiments. I saw him descend the mountain with greater speed than
the flight of an eagle, and quickly lost among the undulations of the
sea of ice.

His tale had occupied the whole day, and the sun was upon the verge of
the horizon when he departed. I knew that I ought to hasten my descent
towards the valley, as I should soon be encompassed in darkness; but my
heart was heavy, and my steps slow. The labour of winding among the
little paths of the mountain and fixing my feet firmly as I advanced
perplexed me, occupied as I was by the emotions which the occurrences
of the day had produced. Night was far advanced when I came to the
halfway resting-place and seated myself beside the fountain. The stars
shone at intervals as the clouds passed from over them; the dark pines
rose before me, and every here and there a broken tree lay on the
ground; it was a scene of wonderful solemnity and stirred strange
thoughts within me. I wept bitterly, and clasping my hands in agony, I
exclaimed, "Oh! Stars and clouds and winds, ye are all about to mock
me; if ye really pity me, crush sensation and memory; let me become as
nought; but if not, depart, depart, and leave me in darkness."

These were wild and miserable thoughts, but I cannot describe to you
how the eternal twinkling of the stars weighed upon me and how I
listened to every blast of wind as if it were a dull ugly siroc on its
way to consume me.

Morning dawned before I arrived at the village of Chamounix; I took no
rest, but returned immediately to Geneva. Even in my own heart I could
give no expression to my sensations--they weighed on me with a
mountain's weight and their excess destroyed my agony beneath them.
Thus I returned home, and entering the house, presented myself to the
family. My haggard and wild appearance awoke intense alarm, but I
answered no question, scarcely did I speak. I felt as if I were placed
under a ban--as if I had no right to claim their sympathies--as if
never more might I enjoy companionship with them. Yet even thus I
loved them to adoration; and to save them, I resolved to dedicate
myself to my most abhorred task. The prospect of such an occupation
made every other circumstance of existence pass before me like a dream,
and that thought only had to me the reality of life.


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