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"dated my creation" and "otherwise" in Frankenstein Options
raymondaliasapollyon
Posted: Monday, January 11, 2021 8:42:56 PM
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Hi,

In Chapter Seven of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, I saw the following sentence:

I remembered also the nervous fever with which I had been seized just at the time that I dated my creation, and which would give an air of delirium to a tale otherwise so utterly improbable.


I'd like to know what "date" means in the above sentence, and whether "otherwise" is used properly.


I'd appreciate your help.
FounDit
Posted: Tuesday, January 12, 2021 1:43:52 AM

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raymondaliasapollyon wrote:
Hi,

In Chapter Seven of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, I saw the following sentence:

I remembered also the nervous fever with which I had been seized just at the time that I dated my creation, and which would give an air of delirium to a tale otherwise so utterly improbable.


I'd like to know what "date" means in the above sentence, and whether "otherwise" is used properly.


I'd appreciate your help.


"dated" would refer to the time when he created, or brought to life, his creature. You might think of it as the day, the specific date when this occurred.

"otherwise" means "under different circumstances. He was seized with a nervous excitement (he calls it a fever), and that nervous excitement was such that it would be seen as delirium under different circumstances. Delirium is defined as wild excitement. Two ways of describing the same thing.
raymondaliasapollyon
Posted: Tuesday, January 12, 2021 3:45:11 AM
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What's the precise meaning of "date" as a verb in that sentence?

Also, it seems "nervous fever" refers to an illness:

"My dear Victor," cried he, "what, for God's sake, is the matter? Do not laugh in that manner. How ill you are! What is the cause of all this?" "Do not ask me," cried I, putting my hands before my eyes, for I thought I saw the dreaded spectre glide into the room; "he can tell.—Oh, save me! save me!" I imagined that the monster seized me; I struggled furiously, and fell down in a fit. Poor Clerval! what must have been his feelings? A meeting, which he anticipated with such joy, so strangely turned to bitterness. But I was not the witness of his grief; for I was lifeless, and did not recover my senses for a long, long time. This was the commencement of a nervous fever, which confined me for several months. During all that time Henry was my only nurse.


I suspect "otherwise" isn't used properly. "Otherwise" is used to show contrast between one situation and one thing that seems to be an exception to that situation:

The photo gives a degree of truth to a tale otherwise so utterly improbable.

Here, the tale is utterly improbable, except for the photo.

But in Shelley's sentence, "otherwise" isn't used that way. It'd make more sense to say the nervous fever gives an air of delirium to an already utterly improbable tale. The former strengthens the improbability of the latter.



Romany
Posted: Wednesday, January 13, 2021 3:02:56 PM
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What she's conveying is that Frankenstein is perfectly aware his experiment seems like an impossible tale.

When, recovered, he looks back, he realises that he had his breakdown at about the time he'd been working on the monster. (He dated it back to that time in his life). His story already sounds crazy: if he tells people he had a complete nervous breakdown at the same time, not a single person would fail to think he'd just been raving mad with his talk of his creature.

The term "Nervous breakdown" didn't come about until more than a 100 years after this - but any term with the word 'nervous' in it referred to a person's mental health at that time: a "nervous affliction" is chronic mental health problems - a condition: such as BPS, schizophrenia. 'A nervous collapse/fever/attack/sickness are all terms for a nervous breakdown. Mental illness and madness have been part of the human condition throughout human history; it was just called different things. 'Delerium' means any kind of wild talk/gabbling/ fast, excited explanations; it wasn't considered merely as a symptom of a medical condition.

And yes, 'otherwise' was, at that time, used closer to it's original meaning of "other ways". She's perfectly correct for her time.

What she meant in Georgian English was:

A tale which, in all other ways is utterly improbable, is not going to have any plausibility brought to it if word gets out that his mental health was deserting him at the same time that he says he had his great success.

How much do you know about The Romantics? Did you know they were, really, the first Hippies? They were the ones who introduced the concept of Free Love which most people date to the 1960's? They took drugs; they were intellectually gifted; they went skinny-dipping, they believed in equality of the sexes; and the reason they are all still read is because of how they used the English language - what they did with it.

More than any of them Mary, as I tried to explain previously, having been brought up in the home of Literature's - and Histories - Giants, would not have littered her published work with mistakes. Even had she done so, her father, husband, friends, being who THEY were, would never have let it go to press in that state. And had any errors slipped through that scrutiny, the millions of people who have parsed, dissected, discussed, researched and lectured upon those works, down the ages, could not have failed to pick up on the fact had she - or any of them - been rotten, careless writers.

So the reason some people advise students - native & ESL - to read them is to learn from them. We don't approach things which sound weird or strange thinking "They're wrong."

We think "WHY did they say that? Where am I going wrong? What's the explanation?"Think And when we find it we've learnt something.

But I, personally, as I've said many times, find reading modern, colloquial books helps most students more: - not all of them are going to go on to study English Literature or History. They want to learn how to speak better English to-day. Not how people centuries ago - or even decades ago - used to speak it.


raymondaliasapollyon
Posted: Wednesday, January 13, 2021 10:07:27 PM
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Mary Shelley might have been correct in her use of "otherwise" in her sentence as far as 19th-century English is concerned, but we can determine if that's true only by examining the work of other writers from that period. If that use was rather common, then she was probably right.
Hope123
Posted: Sunday, January 17, 2021 4:24:01 PM

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'Otherwise' is used correctly in that sentence both then and now.
raymondaliasapollyon
Posted: Sunday, January 17, 2021 11:15:40 PM
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Could you cite contemporary examples of that use, please?
Hope123
Posted: Monday, January 18, 2021 9:54:34 AM

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Yes I could but otherwise you might research online or right here in TFD. I do not understand your problem.
raymondaliasapollyon
Posted: Monday, January 18, 2021 10:50:34 AM
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In current English, "otherwise + adjective" conveys a contrast between an adjective and another elsewhere in the sentence.

One would not say "The beautiful decor makes the otherwise excellent restaurant popular among tourists," because "excellent" and "beautiful" do not stand in contrast; they are both positive description pointing to the same direction, so to speak. In other words, they are not well liked by "otherwise."

In Shelley's sentence, "otherwise" is used without showing a contrast, as may have been common in her time (but not in ours).
Hope123
Posted: Monday, January 18, 2021 10:10:14 PM

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Looking through the delirium makes the improbable tale probable.

raymondaliasapollyon
Posted: Monday, January 18, 2021 11:02:09 PM
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The sentence that follows the disputed word is, "I well knew that if any other had communicated such a relation to me, I should have looked upon it as the ravings of insanity." If the delirium had made the tale probable in any way, Frankenstein would have said something like, ""Perhaps my father and others would believe me, however remote that possibility was."

But Frankenstein himself denied the slightest possibility his story could gain credence. He thought the story would have sounded improbable even to himself.

The way the "otherwise" is used in the text is quite different from how we use it today.

Hope123
Posted: Tuesday, January 19, 2021 12:15:31 AM

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Context is key. It worked for me with only one sentence to go by. Have not read nor inrtend to read this book. It is not my cup of tea.














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Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Wednesday, January 20, 2021 7:48:53 AM

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Hope123 wrote:
Have not read nor intend to read this book. It is not my cup of tea.

The original book is nothing like the "Frankenstein Movies" - except maybe the silent black-and-white one from the early days.
The "monster" is not evil - it looks monstrous, and makes some people afraid, but is really intelligent and empathetic - the victim for much the story.
It's a tale showing the dangers of "judging a book by its cover" and of desires for revenge.
Hope123
Posted: Wednesday, January 20, 2021 10:23:47 AM

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Thanks, Drago.
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