"A Kind of Insanity in My Spirits": Frankenstein, Childhood, and Criminal Intent

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2022


Johns Hopkins University Press

Source Publication

Eighteenth-Century Studies

Source ISSN


Original Item ID

DOI: 10.1353/ecs.2022.0058


“That is also my victim!” the creature exclaims upon viewing Victor Frankenstein’s dead body at the end of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818). “[I]n his murder my crimes are consummated; the miserable series of my being is wound to its close! Oh, Frankenstein! generous and self-devoted being!” the creature cries, “what does it avail that I now ask thee to pardon me?”1 In his anguished confession, the creature assumes full responsibility for Victor’s death, magnifying his parent’s virtues and villifying his own character. The creature likewise accepts responsibility for killing Victor’s brother, friend, and wife. “[I]t is true that I am a wretch,” he declares. “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” (190). Overcome with guilt, the impulsive and remorseful creature vows to “seek the most northern extremity of the globe” and to “consume to ashes” his “miserable frame” (190). In the creature’s tortured words, as in his determination to end his life, Shelley depicts the despair of a young, repentant offender.


Eighteenth-Century Studies, Vol. 56, No. 1 (Fall 2022): 53-74. DOI.