The following is a passage in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. I am wondering what the boldfaced "This" refers to.

Before, dark and opaque bodies had surrounded me, impervious to my touch or sight; but I now found that I could wander on at liberty, with no obstacles which I could not either surmount or avoid. The light became more and more oppressive to me, and the heat wearying me as I walked, I sought a place where I could receive shade. This was the forest near Ingolstadt; and here I lay by the side of a brook resting from my fatigue, until I felt tormented by hunger and thirst. This roused me from my nearly dormant state, and I ate some berries which I found hanging on the trees or lying on the ground. I slaked my thirst at the brook, and then lying down, was overcome by sleep.

  • The "place where I could receive shade".
    – tgdavies
    Apr 10, 2023 at 1:51
  • @tgdavies Thank you. That was my first thought too. However, is this use of "this" acceptable in contemporary English? Consider the following passage, modeled on Shelley's:
    – Apollyon
    Apr 10, 2023 at 1:55
  • At that time, I was in a strange place. As I was hungry, I was looking for an eatery. This was near an interstate highway and here I ate a jumbo burger and an order of French fries. I stayed there until I was refreshed and energized.
    – Apollyon
    Apr 10, 2023 at 1:55
  • It will be interesting to see what people with a more formal understanding of the English language have to say, but to me this usage is absolutely acceptable in contemporary English -- written English at any rate. But I think the subject of "this" should be a bit more abstract. "I looked for a way to satisfy my hunger. This was an eatery just off the interstate". When Shelley uses it, it doesn't seem flowery, in fact it's very economical, but in "modern" writing I suppose it fits less well. I'd be tempted to say "This took the form of an eatery..." which I think is bad writing.
    – tgdavies
    Apr 10, 2023 at 2:26
  • On reflection, I prefer "...satisfy my hunger. In an eatery just off the interstate, I..." Simpler.
    – tgdavies
    Apr 10, 2023 at 3:07

1 Answer 1


The "This" in the quotation refers to the "place where I could receive shade".

Think of it as "I wanted a place where I could receive shade" and "The place where I could receive shade was the forest near Ingolstadt."

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.