Monday Night Special #8: Delving in with Diagrams (to Frankenstein)

8 Oct

With what great horror I ascertained the earth had again gone ’round its axis seven more times; and with what great consternation my mind concluded it was again time for the processes with which I penetrated the grammatical world to again exert themselves.

Arbitrarily Picked Work of Fiction:

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Quick Synopsis:

Victor Frankenstein decides to create a man out of spare parts and alchemy, but this blows up in his face as the man he created wants to be recognized as a person.  A lot of drama and chases and philosophy ensue, and the Frankenstein and his creation end up chasing each other around the North Pole for the rest of their (un)natural lives.

Important Quotation:

My dear Victor, do not waste your time upon this; it is sad trash.

Young Victor has just told his father that alchemist Cornelius Agrippa’s work excites him.  Alphonse, the elder Frankenstein, responds to Victor’s excitement with disdain and condescension.  This scene takes place in Victor’s early teen years, the traditional time for puberty and rebellion.  He is rebellious against his father and finds that the best way he knows to emasculate his father is to not follow his advice on books and to become a God-playing scientist.

Further, this shows that Victor flouts both authority and common knowledge:  Even Alphonse–who is not a scientist–knows that alchemy is not worth wasting time on.

The use of the term “sad trash” also foreshadows both what Victor will use to create his man and what the whole situation will eventually turn into.



Thoughts on Structure:

We start off with a condescending noun of direct address (or, if we’re being super fancy, a vocative) in which Alphonse addresses the sentence to his dear Victor.  We know that he probably does see Victor as his dear because Victor tells frame narrator Walton that his parents “possessed the spirit of kindness and indulgence . . . [and] were not the tyrants to rule,” but in this instance, Alphonse uses the endearment to remind Victor that he is the older, wiser one.

Next we have two independent clauses, both of which very direct and simple.  The first is an imperative, and the second is a statement with a predicate noun.  While a lot of this novel is written in frilly, 19th-century language, this sentence  is straightforward.  This shows Alphonse’s wish to be as direct as possible in his admonishment of silly pursuits.

Final Thoughts:

If only Victor would’ve listened to his dad!

Frankenstein is one of my very favorite books, and this is one of my very favorite quotations from it.  Sad trash evokes such a great picture of Victor Frankenstein and his misguided experiments.

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