Now I feel guilty
about fleeing Chamonix as I am re-reading the Alpine scenes in Mary’s first (extant) draft of Frankenstein and they sound like the travelogue of an excited tourist on Trip Advisor. I know this because I have been reading Trip Advisor on Chamonix to try to make up for the fact that I skipped out of town. Mary, unlike her biographer (me), had a great time hiking up and down the mountains; she climbed onto the Mer de Glace, the glacier that juts off the north side of Mont Blanc, an experience she found so thrilling that this is where she sets the confrontation between Dr. Frankenstein and his monster. She has Frankenstein tell us he inspired by the mountains, the avalanches, and the river that crashes through the middle of town; when he sees the glacier, his heart “swells with joy” and his “soul is winged with ecstasy.” To me, these sentences sound like they were lifted straight from Mary’s journal, which gives me the eerie feeling of being very close to Mary. Granted, I was horrified by all the things she loved. I even refused to take the flimsy looking cable car up Mont Blanc, but I like how clearly I can hear her voice, how her sadness disappears when she contemplates “the awful majesty” of the mountains.
Unfortunately, I do not have many pictures of Chamonix as my photographer did not like it there, either. When I tried to get him to go hiking with me, which, by the way, is what every other person besides us does there — even the Asian tourists have backpacks on and hiking boots and caps and water bottles — he promptly got a stomach ache and said he was definitely on the verge of being very sick. Very sick. I felt ashamed of him and myself as his un-hearty mother and pictured my hearty healthy friends who had visited Chamonix last year and told me about the great hiking trails they found there. But later that afternoon, after we fled to Lyon and his stomach ache was miracuolously better and we wandered up and down the streets of the old city, I watched him snap picture after picture and felt proud of him. Maybe it is as simple as not enough oxygen in Chamonix. Maybe he really did feel sick. And maybe the weird loathing I felt was physiological.