Posts Tagged ‘science’

Book #77: Elective Affinities

All problems with Social Darwinism aside, I kind of like it when people apply scientific thinking to people. People obviously don’t behave like molecules or ions or anything, but it’s an interesting way of looking at things to pretend that they do. That’s why I thought that Goethe’s Elective Affinities was pretty neat.

When I read this book, I had to dig deep into my high school years and draw on things I learned in Mrs. V’s advanced chemistry class. I had to think about balancing chemical equations, molecular bonding, and chemical reactions. Thank goodness “Mama V” taught us so well.

In chemistry, elements react with each other to form molecular compounds. Sometimes, though, even though compounds are already formed, when a new compound is added to the mix, both original compounds split up, as elements in each are attracted to elements in the others.

It’s something like this:
AB + CD –> AD + CB

Ladies and gentleman, here in this book, I give you the first-ever double displacement human reactions.

The story centers around four people: the couple Eduard and Charlotte, on their second marriage, able to be together after their first spouses were finally out of the picture; Ottilie, Charlotte’s teenaged, orphaned niece, and the Captain, Eduard’s childhood friend.

When Eduard and Charlotte invite the Captain, who has fallen on hard times, for an extended stay and then decide to take in Ottilie, who is having trouble at her boarding school. Given what I’ve told you above, you can probably figure out what’s going to happen in the book.

Bonds form, break, and are re-formed. The characters must deal with these changing bonds and the consequences that come with them.

Though generally, applying scientific principles to people doesn’t work out so well, I appreciate Goethe exploring this concept and I had fun tagging along and looking into it myself. Given the fact that you know the general premise of the story pretty quickly, it’s fun to try and guess how things will happen and in what way bonds will form and be broken.

Rating: ****
Up Next: Joseph Andrews

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