Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1831), p. 25

Two days passed in this manner before he was able to speak; and I often feared that his suffering had deprived him of understanding. When he had in some measure recovered, I removed him to my own cabin, and attended on him as much as my duty would permit. I never saw a more interesting creature: his eyes have generally an expression of wildness, and even madness; but there are moments when, if anyone performs an act of kindness towards him, or does him any the most trifling service, his whole countenance is lighted up, as it were, with a beam of benevolence and sweetness that I never saw equalled. But he is generally melancholy and despairing; and sometimes he gnashes his teeth, as if impatient of the weight of woes that oppresses him.

Walton's description of Victor Frankenstein figures him occupying a liminal space, one either between extremes or fully within both halves of a binary that pairs sensibility with its other. He is man/beast, sensible/mad, fluent/silent, benevolent/despairing. Not even his body is a legible text-- his is an angelic countenance with the scowl of Cerberus. Has he made himself into this divided thing by turning his back on the community of men, by looking to distinguish himself? When was it already too late for him to be single and whole?

Related terms:

a dictionary of sensibility
term list
source bibliography
critical bibliography