If we were to choose one word to describe modern life, busy would be a top contender. We are a busy people—busy making a living, busy making a name for ourselves, busy being busy. This is why productivity hacks are all the rage. We need better ways to make the most of every moment. But is this the point of it all? Does all of our ambition produce a life worth living? This is one of the questions being explored in Persuasion‘s fall series, What We Make of Ourselves. Week by week we will work through Mary Shelley’s classic story Frankenstein, identifying what the themes of this 19th-century classic has to say about life in the 21st century.
In this episode of Persuasion, Erin Straza and Hannah Anderson discuss themes from the first reading, covering the preface through Volume I, Chapter 3. Shelley’s story unfolds in a nested format, with a man named Walton relaying via letters to his sister accounts of his North Pole expedition. Walton then begins to relay an account from a the first-person perspective of a new acquaintance, a troubled and weary scientist named Victor Frankenstein. Throughout these first pages, Shelley presents each man’s desire for glory through their respective pursuits—Walton’s expedition to the North Pole and Frankenstein’s experiments to re-animate the dead. And so we are prompted to consider one of the main questions of Shelley’s novel: What is a proper relationship to ambition, and what pursuits are worthy of the time we have on this earth? The trouble isn’t that we have no answers for tempering ambition’s pull; it’s that we are so easily swayed and fooled into believing that our motives are pure. Frankenstein’s desire for discovery isn’t bad in itself, but he soon became obsessed with achievement. Unbridled ambition consumed him, and while we don’t know yet what troubles Frankenstein, his sorrows serve as a warning to Walton—and to us. Erin and Hannah explore this warning as well as the way ambition is both validated and feared within Christian circles. How are we blinded to ambition’s siren cry? How can we make the most of our time on earth without succumbing to ambition’s dark side? Is it possible to please God as we pursue dreams of success? Listen in for dialogue on questions like these as we take a look at what we make of ourselves. Then continue the conversation on Twitter @PersuasionCAPC or in the CAPC members-only community on Facebook.
If you’d like to read along for this series, check the reading schedule posted online. We recommend B&H Publishing’s Frankenstein: A Guide to Reading and Reflecting (Karen Swallow Prior, Mary Shelley). Whether you read along or not, listen in for conversation weaving the themes of identity, formation, creation, and community.
FRANKENSTEIN READING SCHEDULE
Conversations for our fall series will center on Mary Shelley’s original 1818 edition of Frankenstein. We will be reading from the recent release from B&H Publishing, Frankenstein: A Guide for Reading and Reflecting, edited by Karen Swallow Prior. Here’s the reading schedule (page numbers match the B&H edition) if you want to read along with us:
- 9/28 EP 223 Reading 1: Volume I, Preface–Chapter 3 (pp. 27–78)
- 10/5 EP 224 Reading 2: Volume I, Chapters 4–7 (pp. 78–121)
- 10/12 EP 225 Reading 3: Volume II, Chapters 1–4 (pp. 129–162)
- 10/19 EP 226 Reading 4: Volume II, Chapters 5–9 (pp. 162–206)
- 10/26 EP 227 Reading 5: Volume III, Chapters 1–4 (pp. 211–256)
- 11/2 EP 228 Reading 6: Volume III, Chapters 5–7 (pp. 256–306)
This episode of Persuasion is sponsored in part by B&H Publishing Group, publisher of Frankenstein: A Guide to Reading and Reflecting (Karen Swallow Prior, Mary Shelley). B&H Publishing seeks to provide intentional, biblical content that positively impacts the hearts and minds of people, cultivating lifelong relationships with Jesus Christ. Learn more at bhpublishinggroup.com.
Erin Straza: Web / Twitter
Hannah Anderson: Web / Twitter
PERSUASION 223 RESOURCES & LINKS
Frankenstein: A Guide to Reading and Reflecting, Karen Swallow Prior, Mary Shelley
Four Thousand Weeks, Oliver Burkeman
“COVID-19 Killed Our Sense of Personal Progress,” Hannah Anderson at Christianity Today
Did you enjoy this episode of Persuasion? Give the series a listen:
Persuasion 221 | Imposter Syndrome (but with books)
Persuasion 222 | What We Make of Ourselves: A Read-Along Series
Theme music by Maiden Name. Produced by Jonathan Clauson.
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This transcript has been edited to enhance readability.