Thursday, August 21, 2008

Frankenstein

Frankenstein was written in 1818 by British author, Mary Shelley.

Those who know Frankenstein only from movies and television, may well be surprised to read the original book by Mary Shelley. Indeed, one may well look back to the cover to see if the book is in fact Frankenstein because the first pages consist of messages from an R. Walton to his sister concerning his expedition to the northern polar regions.

Victor Frankenstein appears as a wretched creature stranded in icey waters and rescued by a passing ship. After he is rescued, he tells his incredible story to Walton, who in turn preserves the story in writing.

Frankenstein reminisces about his happy childhood, particularly the close relationship between himself and his "cousin" Elizabeth, and then explains how his interest in discredited natural philosophy led him to create a living man of his own design. The creature is a hideous, misshapen, giant of a man who so disgusted Frankenstein upon his awakening that he fled his laboratory and residence.

The creation process - it should be noted - in no way involves an elaborate machine powered by lightning such as is portrayed in the movies. In fact, beyond naming the chemicals involved, we are told nothing of the process. For two years, Frankenstein goes about life with a clinging sense of guilt and nervousness, hoping the creature has perished. When his little brother is murdered, though, he returns home and soon discovers that it was the monster who committed the deed. In an isolated mountainous area, the monster appears before him and explains his actions. Although the creature does nothing more than grunt in the movies, the original Frankenstein was possessed of great eloquence and intelligence, and he tells a moving story about his attempts to make a connection with a society that is revolted at the sight of him.

Both creator and created seem to be mirror images of each other in important ways, their fates clearly tied to one another, each soul deserving both blame and pity. There is much about human nature, both good and bad, revealed in the monster's life as well as Frankenstein's. It is unfortunate that modern media have turned Frankenstein's creature into a simple, heartless, mentally deficient monster for the sake of scares and laughs.

This book is a definite "Must Read" for anyone who loves classic literature. Without being graphic and gross, this novel is a complex story full of human pathology and influences.

3 comments:

Kat said...

I read this book for the first time last year and just loved it. Absolutley loved it. In fact, when I was first reading it, I was wondering if the "monster" was just a figment of his imagination. But then it became apparent that it was "real." But can you imagine how different the book would have been if you really weren't sure it existed at all?

Carl V. said...

I was really shocked by the differences between the book and the various film incarnations the first time I read it. Pleasantly shocked, as the book told a much deeper story. I have heard others complain about the book but frankly I liked it. Dracula, Phantom of the Opera, and Frankenstein are all books that I feel are worlds better than any film version of the stories.

C. B. James said...

Good review. I'm also a fan of this book. It's much better than its reputation leads us to believe. Much deeper, too.