generous and self-devoted beingIn a novel in which oxymorons have increasingly come to represent implacable ambivalences, this summary of Victor Frankenstein stands out as an epitome. If readers should wonder whether it is really possible so to overlay what appear to be opposite constructions, a scrupulous respect for earlier connotations of the terms will sharpen the meaning if not wholly dispel its ambiguities. Dr. Johnson's Dictionary (1755) lists these meanings for "generous":
- Not of mean birth; of good extraction.
- Noble of mind; magnanimous; open of heart.
- Liberal; munificent.
- Strong; vigorous.
With "self-devoted," the range of possibility is even greater and likewise is further from a modern, loose conception of the term as meaning "devoted to one's self." The three definitions of "to devote" in Johnson's Dictionary are:
- to dedicate; to consecrate; to appropriate
- to addict; to give up to ill
- to curse; to execrate; to doom to destruction