generous and self-devoted being
In a novel in which oxymorons have increasingly come to represent
implacable ambivalences, this summary of Victor Frankenstein stands out as
an epitome. If readers should wonder whether it is really possible so to
enjamb what appear to be opposite constructions, a scrupulous respect for
earlier connotations of the terms will sharpen the meaning if not wholly
dispel its ambiguities. Dr.
Johnson's Dictionary (1755) lists these meanings for
It is clear that the third, which is the customary modern sense of the
word, would be generally inappropriate to the figure that Victor
Frankenstein has cut in this novel, but either of the other three meanings
would in one phase or another of his existence adequately characterize
him. The main thrust of the Creature's meaning is probably the second. Even
here, however, some readers might wish to cavil, asking whether, given
Frankenstein's ambitions and good intentions but customary self-enclosure,
it would be possible to retain a nobility of mind without being greatly
magnanimous or open-hearted.
- Not of mean birth; of good extraction.
- Noble of mind; magnanimous; open of heart.
- Liberal; munificent.
- Strong; vigorous.
With "self-devoted," the range of possibility is even greater and likewise
is further from a modern, loose conception of the term as meaning "devoted
to one's self." The three definitions of "to devote" in Johnson's
All of these definitions have a bearing on Victor Frankenstein's
character, even simultaneously so, but in the context of the
Creature's expression of "wildest rage," an attribute mirrored between
him and his creator, the last of the definitions would seem to bear a
- to dedicate; to consecrate; to appropriate
- to addict; to give up to ill
- to curse; to execrate; to doom to destruction