Contents Index

I could not collect the courage

When one examines the chronology of this novel, Victor's inaction or procrastination or incapacity, however one denominates it, almost seems more its impetus than his earlier obsessiveness. After a six months' illness at Ingolstadt, Victor spends an entire year doing almost nothing there (1.5.8). Urgently recalled to Geneva by William's death, he is stopped for two days when he reaches Lausanne by a sense of undefined dread (1.6.5). Although he is certain of Justine's innocence, he is incapable of doing anything to support it and watches her trial and execution in helpless frustration. There ensues, as the first sentence of the second volume indicates, a "dead calmness of inaction and certainty" (2.1.1) from which Victor is roused by the expedition to Mont Blanc. In all, this trip takes just four days, and he returns from it to his family "passive to all their arrangements" (1818: 2.9.7). The way in which a sort of psychotic trauma wholly blocks the ability to act is likewise a major theme of Byron's Manfred (1817), which also grew out of the Geneva summer of 1816.