Elsie Venner : a romance of destiny / by Oliver Wendell Holmes Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 1809-1894

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Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 1809-1894
Predestination - Fiction.; Didactic fiction.; American fiction.
At the heart of his 1861 novel Elsie Venner: A Romance of Destiny (a novel Oliver Wendell Holmes later called his "medicated novel"), lies an analogy between original sin and genetic inheritance. Poisoned in utero by rattlesnake venom, the novel's eponymous heroine comes into the world a hybrid of snake and human. She coils, slithers, and strikes; her skin is cold, her eyes glittering diamonds, and her only friends are rattlesnakes. When she is given a basket of White Ash leaves, a tree long believed to be an antidote to rattlesnake venom, Elsie shrinks into herself "in a curdling terror." Unable to love (or even cry), Elsie passes through the novel as the object of everyone's repulsed and fascinated gaze (snakes are known, after all, for their ability to charm with horror). She falls in love with a young doctor named Bernard Langdon, who proves incapable of loving a serpent. A wealthy heiress, she attracts the fortune-hunting designs of her cousin, Richard (Dick) Venner, who ...
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