Friday, October 28, 2011

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley


by Mary Shelley
published 1818
completed October 2011

The Classics Circuit is back this month with a Gothic Literature theme. I knew I wanted to participate, but I knew I would have limited time. Thank heavens for short books! I wish I could say there was a meaningful reason why I selected Frankenstein, but aside from it being on my TBR list, it was a great length.

So, on to my thoughts. I've never seen a Frankenstein movie or even read any kind of children's version of it. I didn't really know what to expect, but I was still surprised by what I found. First, I thought that Frankenstein was the giant monster that was created (tell me I'm not the only one who didn't know this), but that is actually the name of the creator. I also assumed that it was an old decrepit mad scientist creating this being and not a handsome young gentleman with a loving family back home. My last false assumption was that this strange creation's main method of communication was grunting. Not so! He's actually a quite intelligent and eloquent speaker.

My strange assumptions aside, I was really surprised that this wasn't only a horror story. There are frightening things that happen, yes, but to me it was really a moral story. I still am torn as to what is really the truth in the story. The book is not a first-hand account, and at times it's even a re-telling of a re-telling. Interestingly, I also found the creator, Viktor Frankenstein unsympathetic. Yes, he was terrorized by this fiend, or daemon, as he called the monster, but it was a consequence of his own actions. Didn't he have a responsibility to this being that he created? I certainly think so, and he abdicated it and left the wretch alone to navigate a strange new world. It isn't surprising what happens when the monster attempts to introduce himself into society.

I know this isn't what Mary Shelley meant, but it made me think about myself as a parent and my responsibility to my children. I have a friend that is a social worker and we've discussed how horrifying it is to see the consequences in the lives of children when a loving caretaker is absent either physically or emotionally. Viktor was unwilling to take responsibility and he ultimately put those he loved in danger by his embarrassment over the mess he created.

I found it interesting that the wretch wanted a companion. Don't we all? This brought on the moral dilemma of Frankenstein  to grant his creation's desires, or to protect the well-being of human society. I wouldn't have wanted to be him. He couldn't win in either situation. I do kind of feel bad for Frankenstein because I've made hasty decisions in my life and not thought through the consequences. It totally sucks and you feel like an idiot because you really screwed up. Frankenstein's was a doozy, and boy did he pay for it!

Enough of my rambling thoughts. I did enjoy Frankenstein, despite my misconceptions prior to reading it. Just beware that it takes a good quarter of the book for anything to really happen. It was a bit of a yawn until then. The last quarter of the book was very fast paced and even warranted a few gasps. Frankenstein didn't blow me away, but it is a book that left me satisfied and appreciative of its place in history.

Fun kind of aside. I happened to read it while in Milan last week and it's near enough to Switzerland to be able to view the beautiful Alps in the distance while I was traveling in the car and reading my copy of Frankenstein. I love when that happens!

Have you read Frankenstein? What did you think?

For more stops on the Classics Circuit Tour, click here.


  1. Wonderful to see you back after a long time, Kristi :)

    Wonderful review! Glad to know that you liked 'Frankenstein'. I read it last year and liked it very much. Interesting to know that the book surprised you in many ways. I liked the monster, who I think, in some ways, is the main character of the story. His story is sad. Your comment on Victor's unwillingness to take responsibility for his actions, was very thought-provoking.

    Thanks for this review! If you want to read my review, you can find it here.

  2. Your assumptions about the book aren't strange at all. The movies have convinced people that the monster's name is Frankenstein and that he grants and lurks arounds. I was surprised by how different the book was. It's really a fascinating look at how society treats outcasts. Wonderful review! I love that you got to see the alps in the distance while reading it.

  3. You can also add me to the list of people who thought Fankenstien was the monster... Just yesterday a non-reading co-worker told me that he was reading this book with his son.  He was asking how long it would take to get to the guy with outstretched arms ravaging the countryside.  He was beginning to rethink his book choice after we talked.

    Personally I liked Frankenstein for a Lot of the points you highlighted.  Very thought provoking!  Great review!

  4. Vishy--Thanks! It's nice to be back. I did take pity on the monster too. Thanks for leaving a link to your review. I'll definitely check it out.

    Melissa--I thought the books comments about society were pretty interesting as well.

    Two Bibliomaniacs--That's interesting about your co-worker. After reading this, I don't think it would be a good fit for my kids, but I guess each parent can decide for themselves. I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought Frankenstein was the monster!

  5. How cool that you read it while in Europe! I loved the message in this book. It wasn't so much a story about a monster but more one of ethics and responsibility.

  6. Trish--I agree that it's much less focused on the horror than I thought, and more so on the ethics of creating and the responsibility once you do. It was kind of a fun experience to be near where some of the book took place.