These were wild and miserable thoughts, but I cannot describe to you how the eternal twinkling of the stars weighed upon me and how I listened to every blast of wind as if it were a dull ugly siroc on its way to consume me.
Morning dawned before I arrived at the village of Chamounix; I took no rest, but returned immediately to Geneva. Even in my own heart I could give no expression to my sensations--they weighed on me with a mountain's weight and their excess destroyed my agony beneath them. Thus I returned home, and entering the house, presented myself to the family. My haggard and wild appearance awoke intense alarm, but I answered no question, scarcely did I speak. I felt as if I were placed under a ban--as if I had no right to claim their sympathies--as if never more might I enjoy companionship with them. Yet even thus I loved them to adoration; and to save them, I resolved to dedicate myself to my most abhorred task. The prospect of such an occupation made every other circumstance of existence pass before me like a dream, and that thought only had to me the reality of life.
Day after day, week after week, passed away on my return to Geneva; and I could not collect the courage to recommence my work. I feared the vengeance of the disappointed fiend, yet I was unable to overcome my repugnance to the task which was enjoined me. I found that I could not compose a female without again devoting several months to profound study and laborious disquisition. I had heard of some discoveries having been made by an English philosopher, the knowledge of which was material to my success, and I sometimes thought of obtaining my father's consent to visit England for this purpose; but I clung to every pretence of delay and shrank from taking the first step in an undertaking whose immediate necessity began to appear less absolute to me. A change indeed had taken place in me; my health, which had hitherto declined, was now much restored; and my spirits, when unchecked by the memory of my unhappy promise, rose proportionably. My father saw this change with pleasure, and he turned his thoughts towards the best method of eradicating the remains of my melancholy, which every now and then would return by fits, and with a devouring blackness overcast the approaching sunshine. At these moments I took refuge in the most perfect solitude. I passed whole days on the lake alone in a little boat, watching the clouds and listening to the rippling of the waves, silent and listless. But the fresh air and bright sun seldom failed to restore me to some degree of composure, and on my return I met the salutations of my friends with a readier smile and a more cheerful heart.
(The book is available for free online)
I haven’t read Frankenstein since eighth grade, if memory serves me right. But this page certainly suggests that I’ve been remiss in letting it sit so long unrevisited. That first paragraph stabs an immediate hunger into you, a yearning to know who the heck the narrator was just talking to, and what on Earth was said, that could provoke such a shattering emotional response. Would you even need to know that the passage came from Frankenstein, to make you want to turn back to the prior pages and discover what had been said before?
As luck has it, when we read further we come to understand what it is that has been asked of our narrator to so disrupt his composure. This is the scene just after the monster has insisted that Victor construct for him a mate. At least, we understand that if we’re familiar with the Frankenstein mythos. If not, we’re treated to an even more unnerving experience: the revelation that the narrator has been required to “compose a female” by some “fiend.” In either case, it’s a striking moment.
Throughout this page, the language used and the passion expressed and the penetrating presence of the natural world enfold the reader in beauty and woe, in the cathartic experience of a horror so great that it sets our narrator apart from all the rest of humanity.
The page seems to echo with every terror and triumph that existence has to offer, making it little wonder that the book helped set the foundations for both modern horror and the entire genre of science fiction.