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A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy
Inside A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy

Frankenstein

As I explained last month, I’m doing a chapter by chapter reading of Frankenstein. So, this will be reactions, some quotes. Rest assured, I enjoyed this book, even if I get a little snarky at times! It’s snark with love.

frankenstein 184x300 FrankensteinVolume I.

Letters.

 Dec 11. 17__

Wait, this begins with a letter written in Russia to someone in England? Who are these people? Where is Victor?

So, R. Walton is pursing his childhood dream to explore the North, after a one-year detour as a poet before claiming his inheritance. “And now, dear Margaret, do I not deserve to accomplish some great purpose.” Oh, so he deserves it? Quite full of himself.

March 28.

“…appears to be men on whom I can depend, and are certainly possessed of dauntless courage.”

I’m sure they are. I’m sure when the going gets tough and it’s eat-the-dogs time, they will be dependable.

But all Watson really wants is a friend! He wants a bromance and a BFF!

Will that bestie be…. Victor?

Huh. A whole paragraph on the ship master’s past romance.

Remember me with affection, should you never hear from me again.”

Oh, Robert. Margaret had to put up with a lot being your sister, didn’t she?

July 7.

Robert is killing me. Is he supposed to be this funny, or am I just in an odd mood? “No incidents have hitherto befallen us — ” if you don’t count BREAKING THE MAST.

August 5.

Finally! On the ice, “a being which had the shape of a man, but apparently of gigantic stature.” Now, who could that be? Wait, wait, don’t tell me.

And now, the strange European (not the gigantor they saw, someone else) comes on board.

FINALLY. Victor. But we don’t know that quite yet.

Meanwhile, yeah, as guessed, Robert is sure he’s found his BFF. Sorry, dude, but “his constant and deep grief fills me with sympathy and compassion” is NOT a basis for a friendship.

Oh! The stranger is about to share his tale with Robert!

Chapter I.

European guy is from Geneva, a distinguished family, mom is Caroline Beaufort, cousin is Elizabeth Lavenza because his father’s sister married an Italian. 

When Elizabeth’s mother dies, she, an infant, gets shipped to Geneva and Mom sees this orphaned girl and thinks the only logical thing: a future wife for my toddler son! Call me a cynic, but Caroline’s own poverty pre-marriage and the mention of Elizabeth’s fortune makes me think it’s more than a baby’s beauty and “gentle and affectionate disposition.”

Victor’s bestie is introduced, Henry Clerval. (Nope, we don’t know what Robert thinks of this, or any of this, because from now on it’s Victor’s story, even if it’s within a letter being sent to Margaret.)

Victor on his childhood: “No youth could have passed more happily than mine.”

Victor gets a bit obsessed with certain people like Agrippa. Father calls it “sad trash”. Victor pursues it anyway. Snort. See, dissing someone’s reading choices NEVER ends well.

Basically, Victor is reading those who studied alchemy and the occult. Agrippa, Paracelsus, Albertus Magnus.

My dreams were therefor undisturbed by reality.” So, is Shelley condemning the limited schooling of both Walton (who also complained about his early education) and Victor? For being incomplete? It goes quickly from “I had the bestest childhood ever” to “hey, gang, let’s raise some ghosts and devils.” I can see why Oppel was inspired to write This Dark Endeavor.

Victor is about 17. He has a brother Ernest. Here’s a funny story about Ernest. My story, not Victor’s. My familiarity with Frankenstein was comics and film; and I didn’t remember an Ernest, so thought Oppel had invented him, so expected Ernest to die at any moment while reading This Dark Endeavor.

By my calculations, Elizabeth is about 13 or 14; Ernest 11; and William an infant.

Chapter II.

17 year old Victor is to head off for the University of Ingolstadt. Except Elizabeth and then Mother get scarlet fever, and Mother dies. “Why should I describe a sorrow which all have felt, and must feel? The time at length arrives, when grief is rather an indulgence than a necessity; and the smile that plays upon the lips, although it may be deemed a sacrilege, is not banished.” Sentences like that: love.

Victor meets two professors, M. Krempe, professor of natural philosophy, and M. Waldman, chemistry.

And Victor promptly dismisses a professor because he “was a little squat man, with a gruff voice and repulsive countenance.” Also, “I had a contempt for the use of modern natural philosophy.”Wait, is Victor the Holden Caulfield of the 18th century? Seriously, I love the arrogance of Victor, reacting to the man based on his appearance (oh, when will that happen again?) and believing that he, in his teenage glory, knows enough to hold all of natural philosophy in contempt.

Chapter III.

Victor decides that Kempe may know something after all: he has some “sound sense and real information.” Sadly, in these pre-plastic surgery days, he still has “a repulsive physiognomy and manners.”

Two years at Ingolstadt, and no return to Geneva. When these people travel, they travel!

“One of the phenomena which has peculiarly attracted my attention was the structure of the human frame, and, indeed, any animal endued with life. Whence, I often asked myself, did the principle of life proceed?”

“…I became myself capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter.” Alas, Victor does not share the details. No trying this one at home, boys and girls!

“It was with these feelings that I began the creation of a human being.”

The dissecting room and the slaughter-house furnished many of my materials.”

Ew, ew, ew. And also, at this point I’m going to assume that the unshared details include what Victor did so that his rooms (and himself) didn’t smell like rotten corpses. Otherwise, the neighbors hated him! And you thought the people next door smoking was bad!

Basically, Victor becomes totally obsessive, ignores everything else, and does this for a year or two.

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About Elizabeth Burns

Looking for a place to talk about young adult books? Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and let's chat. I am a New Jersey librarian. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer, SLJ, YALSA, or anyone else. On Twitter I'm @LizB; my email is lizzy.burns@gmail.com.

Comments

  1. Sondy says:

    So, time for me to pick up the copy I checked out and start reading along…. Yeah, I never got any of this from comics or movies or parodies or chapter books.

  2. J. L. Bell says:

    The opening chapters of Frankenstein pull us in deeper, deeper through a series of narrative voices: Percy Shelley’s intro, then the ship’s captain, then Victor. Each is a man who some call mad. And where does this line lead?

  3. Angela Carstensen Liz B says:

    Sondy, I’m looking forward to your reactions as another new-to-the-book-but-not-the-story reader

    J.L. Bell, I hadn’t thought to look at Percy Shelley’s intro as part of the book itself and was holding off commenting until the end, when I’ll look at some of the additional materials in the Norton edition (both the first and second critical editions). As for mad…. oh yeah. As the story goes on, I’ll be commenting more on that for both Victor and his creation.

  4. Kelly says:

    I’m so glad you’re sharing this (amusing) classic reading experience with us all.

  5. Angela Carstensen Liz B says:

    Kelly, I’m having fun with it, and I’m glad other people are enjoying it as well.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] at A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy, Liz shares her reactions reading on Frankenstein. I just read this classic novel last November and shared a lot of Liz’s thoughts. (Just not [...]

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