Editor's Note: A couple weeks ago I asked Steve Klepetar to write an article for me to publish in V-V. A day later he sent me "Two Encounters with Frankenstein." By way of explanation to his relatively ignorant editor (me), here is what he said in his submission email:
"This probably isn’t what you’re looking for, but I thought you might enjoy it for a laugh. I would talk to my 19th Century Brit Lit class about the very different worlds Jane Austen and Mary Shelley created in Pride and Prejudice and Frankenstein, two novels written and published within a few years of each other. Austen began revising the first version of the novel, called First Impressions in 1811; the retitled book (Pride and Prejudice) was published in 1813. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein in 1816 – 17; it was published in 1818. The little piece attached places Frankenstein’s monster in the world of Pride and Prejudice; and for good measure, in the world of Jane Eyre (which strikes me as somewhat more plausible). Bronte’s novel was written and published in 1847."
As it turned out, this is exactly what I was looking for.
Two Encounters with Frankenstein
by Steve Klepetar
by Steve Klepetar
I. Lizzy Bennet Meets Frankenstein (well, ok, Victor’s nameless creature)
Elizabeth’s astonishment was beyond expression. She stared, colored, doubted and was silent. The enormous creature – he could hardly be worthy of the designation “man” – had the most hideous countenance she had ever seen. It was all she could do to recall her breeding upon being thrust into the society of such a one as this; an athletic form eight feet in height, with long, stringy hair the color of ebony or onyx, and a face in which the ropes of muscle could be seen plainly beneath the skin. How she hated looking at him, and how she longed to turn from him to the agreeable, if somewhat vacuous visage of Mr. Wickham.
But when these involuntary feelings of disgust gave way to calmer reflection, when she read with somewhat clearer attention how the creature had expressed himself with respect to his past history, including his remarkable education, the case presented itself to her mind in an altogether altered manner. His true benevolence toward the ungrateful DeLacey’s, his many sufferings at the hands of ignorant and prejudiced peasants and cottagers, his deep reading into Plutarch, Milton and Goethe impressed her greatly, and softened her feelings concerning his ungainly appearance. Indeed, she shuddered upon thinking what rude remarks her mother and younger sisters would make about him, how reluctant they would be to include someone with so little beauty to recommend him in their dinners and balls, and she sighed with melancholy. However, Elizabeth was certain that her father would take great pleasure in an acquaintance capable of believing Paradise Lost a true history, and Jane, who could never be critical of anybody, would doubtless say that the gentleman did no look so very ill, and that she was sure Mr. Bingley would invite him to dine at Netherfield. Indeed, upon further reflection, Elizabeth laughed aloud and said, to nobody in particular, “Why, I believe Mr. Frankenstein’s monster would make Lydia a far better husband than Wickham. Perhaps I shall introduce him to my sister Kitty.”
II. Here’s how it might have played out in Jane Eyre
In the deep shade, far in the shelter of the nearby wood, a tall and agile figure, more muscular even than that of my own, my dear and blessed, my lost Mr. Rochester (oh how my heart throbs in my breast even now when I think of him and the gulf that opens between us, far more final even than some imaginary exile with the redoubtable Mrs. Dionysus O’Gall of Bitternut Lodge, Connaught) ran backward and forward with such terrific speed and dexterity that I almost called out in amazement! When he saw me, he came forward and held his huge arm over his face, but even that was insufficient to hide his bloated and deformed features, his black, stringy hair hanging like dead serpents upon the head of some foul Medusa. I thought instantly of the shrieking Banshee from one of Bessie’s tales. One of her plaintive ballads, about a creature hunted and scorned, began to float through my mind, but then I felt my head swim and I thought of Helen Burns, her calm, serene acceptance of mortality, her firm belief in the home the Almighty had prepared for her. I knew that in seconds I too would find out the answer to the Great Mystery! But before I could faint quite dead away and lie at the mercy of this most horrid creature, so like the foul German fiend, the Vampyre, but much, much larger, I heard his gentle voice speaking like one much accustomed to solitude and longing. Like me, he was homeless, orphaned, unwanted. His soul spoke directly to mine; I saw his horrible face as in a dream, bathed in moonlight.
“Oh lady!” he cried, “Turn not your face from mine, hideous as I am. You may not be as ugly as I, but you must allow that you have little share of beauty; you are quite plain. Still, no one flees at the sight of you. I may be foul to look upon, but am I not worthy of love, or at least friendship?”
I confess his words stung me not a little; it is true that I am no statuesque beauty like Blanch Ingram or even my feather-brained cousin Georgiana, but no woman likes to hear herself styled as plain. Yet my heart recognized the justness of his claim, and I looked at him more closely. And in truth, he was not so very much uglier than my own, my true, my love, my Rochester! We shared a frugal meal of bread and cheese and acorns, far better fare than I had been forced to eat at Lowood, and when our hunger was satiated I asked the poor creature if he had ever been to India. My cousin, Mr. St. John Rivers, was looking for a companion to aid him in his missionary work there, and since he had asked me to come as his wife, he obviously did not care so much about outward appearances.
©2016 Steve Klepetar