Clash of Minds  [This Week Archive]

Essential to William Godwin's process of human perfectibility
is something he called "the clash of minds," by which truth
is separated  from falsehood. This part of the process would
overturn the established method of preserving what good there
is, which relies upon superstition and falsehood as providers of
motivation for the credulous. The use of falsehood to generate
fear, which in turn is supposed to produce desirable behavior,
itself bespeaks an irrational fear in those who are its proponents.
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus
provides many opportunities for the clash of minds, including
situations in which neither side will be able to produce proof
of the absolute correctness of its position. Yet the exercise
may lead us to a greater appreciation of how much knowledge
may be brought to bear. Here is an example. The night that
Victor leaves the Orkney island in the small boat, the moon
rises between two and three in the morning. This is consistent
with the account given by the Nugent party later, in which it is
said that the moon had not yet risen when the party, which
had headed (on account of the strong wind) for shore about
ten that night, encountered the body on the shore. This is
important to those who engage in the vital question of whether
Victor arrived on the coast of Ireland during daylight or while
it was still night.
The question is vital  because, if it is day, then the murder,
which took place "last night" was committed while Victor
was at sea. In that case, the witness to his having been on
the Orkney island at the time of the discovery of the body
is incorrect and probably another flaw in Victor's story.
Yet, with the wind as described by the Nugent party fitting
Victor's description of the wind, at least in part, those
who argue that Victor arrived in Ireland at night have help.
But the question of the moon's rising is important when
Victor describes what he sees of land after sunset. The
motions of the moon are predictable. As it seems unlikely
that Victor would be able to see the detail he describes
without the benefit of moonlight, it could be argued that
it must have been daylight when he arrived. The moon
would not have arisen until between three and four in the
morning. Considering that the wind had fallen off, his progress
toward shore would have taken more time. Of course,
if the wind picked up again about ten that night . . . .

Warning to those who use Leonard Wolf''s table of                  [top of Clash of Minds]
events in the second footnote to chapter IV of volume III of
his The Essential Frankenstein (page 237): The
number of days, beginning with dismemberment of
the female creature and ending with his arrival on
the shore of Ireland, cannot be four. Wolf ignores
the machinery of the story that Mary Shelley was
so careful to include, evidently thinking that the
purposes of Victor Frankenstein are more important
than those of Mary Shelley. Despite the appearance of
thoroughness, Wolf has failed to see that the real horror
that develops in Frankenstein is apprehended from the
Saville point of view and consists of seeing a loved one
being manipulated, which is especially upsetting when
the evidence of deception and misdirection is of the kind
that Walton is far more familiar with than most of us.
The consequences of disregarding the Saville point of view
are at times quite measurable. Wolf would have us believe
that the novel, as Shelley wrote it, makes the monster "the
world's speediest murderer," killing Clerval just two days
after Victor's destruction of the female creature on the
Orkney island. To arrive at this conclusion, however,
Wolf disregards the information included by Victor that
indicates substantial periods of time have been left out
of his account, which Shelley accomplishes with her usual
remarkable economy. Underestimation of Mary Shelley's
ability to achieve the purposes stated in the preface to
Frankenstein results in serious consequences. Wolf's
calculation of the time elapsed from the destruction of
the female creature and the discovery of Henry Clerval's
body is off by a factor of ten. Adding to this error is the
fact that the information Wolf ignores is given prominence
by Shelley.

For the robust reader we offer here links that will prove to be
useful clues and tools.

 Stones of Wonder - tips on watching the sun and moon at the solstices, equinoxes, standstills

 Sun or Moon Rise/Set Table for One Year   (Use 59 degrees north & 3 degrees west
                                                         in using tables for moon and sun rise and set
                                                         at this site. We have used tables for years
                                                         1793, 1794, 1795, and 1797 with the same
                                                         results. That is, Victor's chronology does
                                                         not fit with the motions of the moon
                                                         and sun at the latitude of the Orkneys, which
                                                         he includes in his account. Having seen this
                                                         "internal evidence" that calls into question
                                                         Victor's credibility, check out Thomas Paine's
                                                         "True Religion" at The Age of Reason link below.
                                                         Note that Paine writes that faith  does not consist
                                                         in professing to believe that which one does not
                                                         believe. Shelley's story's machinery presents us
                                                         with the example of Walton, who professes to
                                                         believe Victor's tale, while ignoring the evidence
                                                         the tale contains, which indicates that it is a
                                                         fabrication in whole or in part.)

 The Age Of Reason - Part I (in particular Chapter XI)

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