“You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings.”
In what is probably my 20th reading of the novel, I am beginning to wonder what more ideas and meaning I can squeeze from it. One of the nice things about teaching this novel is that students end up liking it in spite of themselves. There’s still some somewhat antiquated language and idiom, and there’s a set of references we need to chase down as a class to work our way through it. For example, when I first read it, or when I maybe read it for the first time as a teacher looking to teach it, I was struck specifically by the Monster’s reading of Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther and how important that seems to be for his upbringing. And it still is. It’s a good reminder that while Frankenstein is not entirely a bildungsroman, the Monster’s story very much is, and he’s modeled his self on Young Werther, who is a deeply sad young man, but also kind of a whiny shit. The Monster of course is also a bit of a whiny shit. This time I noticed a lot more contemporary references as well to “Tintern Abbey” by Wordsworth and several references to “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” which feels a like a classic reference in a way, but is only 20 years old to Shelley, and that doesn’t include a revised edition that came out right before she wrote the first draft of the novel.
That’s the other place I’ve gotten to with the novel, is trying to make sense of exactly where the novel lands on the sympathy for the Monster. Because while the obvious tragedy for the book is Victor’s transgressions, I don’t generally have too much sympathy for the Monster’s quick turn toward murder in defense of selfhood.
Also, I am struck this time by the speech that Walton gives on the boat (alongside Victor) trying to convince his crew (paid mariners) to give up life to chase after a monster, who has only killed a few people. Seems like I would not consider it my business.