Contents Index

my wanderings

Another important theme of the novel and of the age here resonates in Victor's seemingly innocuous phrase. As the Ancient Mariner of Coleridge has been invoked on several occasions in the novel, the reader may here wish to see Victor, in his passive surrender to his obsession, as willingly assuming that character's fate. But the idea goes considerably beyond Coleridge's prototype. The notion of the Wandering Jew, cursed to be an eternal vagabond for having taunted Christ on his way to the cross, stands behind both Coleridge's and Mary Shelley's conceptions; and, indeed, that myth may be being evoked here on a particularly subtle level, as Victor's turning his back on his own will to live assumes a psychological counterpart to that taunting of the figure of redemption. The poet figure of Percy Shelley's "Alastor" (1815), who wanders over some of the same terrain as Victor in search of his visionary love, suggests yet another context. Behind that figure is probably another conceptual avatar, the peddler in Wordsworth's Excursion (1814) who is explicitly named the Wanderer, and who in that poet's conception is able through his internal poise and just relationship with his natural environment to maintain his balance amid the turbulence of life. Neither of the Shelleys had much respect for that poem, but, needless to say, Victor's balance in contrast to that of Wordsworth's peddler is seriously awry.