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.