To Build a Better Monster #1

To Build a Better Monster #1

[Fixing Frankenstein chapters]

[This section starts in the latter half of the original’s seventeenth chapter. The monster murdered William, and by placing William’s locket in the dress of the sleeping Justine, framed that young woman — dependent and friend of the family Frankenstein. He demanded an interview with Frankenstein high in the icy mountains and has just finished outlining his sufferings and his crimes to and making his demands of (he wants a female monster) his creator. The italicized parts are lifted word-for-word from the original section. The regular font parts are the interventions.]

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.”

. . . . . .

“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,

“She will be built to match you as a woman to a man, but she’ll have no legs, she will be barren, and I shall require a year of study to construct a mind and spirit sufficiently gentle, loving, and kind.”

“I demand no progeny, though my companion must be shaped to answer the passions you endued whilst denying any means for their gratification. A good and gentle creature

who would nonetheless desire my affections is precisely what I request of you. With her I could perhaps, though otherwise friendless and driven into a savage and brutish existence, find the happiness whose absence has maimed my heart and marred my life. But legs she must have. What when I — as indeed must befall all mortals — perish or become myself disabled? How then should she protect and nourish herself?

“Europe you won’t quit, nor will you leave my side. We shall each accept our portion of your guilt and live out our lives beneath its intolerable weight. Every day from 6AM to 6PM we shall seek insights into the principles of human vitality and for cures to human ailments. Though I loathe chemical and anatomical studies, I shall nonetheless devote my waking hours to them. I cannot wish to forgive you your unpardonable evils. Working with you as my assistant will render my life a never ending misery. But better a life of constant anguish than shirk my duty a second time. Together you and I shall perform our penitence.”

For the space of five interminable minutes my monster stared at me, yellow eyes wild within twisted brow and black broken lips struggling against one another, twitching for speech but finding none. At length, he turned away from me, stooped low to the ground, rifled quickly through a coat lying by his feet, and, locating revolver, powder, and ball, made ready the weapon.

“Here, Frankenstein,” he said slowly and calmly, reaching me the pistol’s butt, “Free yourself. For as long as I live your existence remains naught but toil and fear. What guarantees that I won’t in time grow weary of our penitence and rip off your head, or that of your dearest friend? Shoot me now. I have killed twice, deserve to die, and cannot be trusted. Kill me now to save what remains of yourself and all you love.”

I took the pistol and, thinking of Elizabeth, my father, and Ernest, aimed between his eyes. From the tip of the gun to the beast’s braincage were not more than two feet. I fired and he fell backwards with a great thud. The broad matter that I’d quickened with heart, thought, and soul lay again inert and empty. The cave walls trembled. The sound of sliding rock and snow rustled behind me. I knelt and checked his pulse. Finding none, I placed the gun near his hand. I did not imagine the death of a monster would be construed as a murder, but still it seemed wisest to arrange the impression of a suicide. I searched through his possessions until I’d recovered every note written by either of us, and headed toward the cave entrance. But after a half-dozen paces, shame and sorrow took me by the hand and led me back to the monster. I knelt again beside him, closed his eyes with my two fingers, said a prayer for his soul and mine, and rose to turn again towards the mound of ice, snow and rubble now partly obscuring the cave entrance.

That night, my mind and body reduced to a raw kernel of exhausted passion, I burned every scrap of his story in my hearthfire. My slumber continued unabated

through the next day and night, and early on the following morning I began my homeward journey.

Since that night I’m as a shattered glass fitted back together again; every moment is equal portions heartbreak and joy. I cannot restore William’s happy carefree childish chatter, nor can I amend the tragedy and unjust infamy of Justine’s last days. Nor may I return to the monster’s birth and grant him the care his creator owed him. I cower and break beneath my dreadful secret and inexpiable guilt. And yet, the tender love of Elizabeth and the calm friendship of my other attachments buoys me up until I overflow with gratitude. Every morning I pray that God guide and inform me, that God teach me how I may become useful. “Bend me into a shape pleasing to you, Lord! Make of this failure a tool that serves you fully. And forgive me, please forgive me.”

[To Build a Better Monster #2 explores an alternative to this ending.]

Copyright: AM Watson

[Fixing Frankenstein chapters]

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