Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus

Victor Frankenstein was a precocious child, inspired by and obsessed with the scientists of the past. In university, he continues his obsession, which culminates in the creation of a man made of corpses. As the creature awakens, Victor is horrified and disgusted and runs away. He becomes stricken with illness shortly afterwards and his childhood friend, Henry Clerval, helps nurse him back to health. After four months, Victor finally recovers, only to find that his little brother, William, has been murdered. Sure that the fiend he created is responsible, Victor returns to his home. The tormented creature eventually reveals himself to his furious creator and relays the events leading to William’s murder. After his heart-rending story, he begs his creator to make a woman for him who will accept him and become his mate. Victor agrees, but has second thoughts. Should he create another monster like the one already in existence? If he decides against this second blasphemy, what repercussions will he and his family have to endure?

Mary Shelley’s classic novel Frankenstein is an iconic work that has spawned countless spin-offs, sequels, remakes, copies, and re-imaginings. It’s hardly surprising considering the eloquence and skill that she exhibits. With all the allusions and references to literature and works of science, she shows her vast education, which is even surprising today for an eighteen year old. I absolutely love this book, but I used to hate it. I remember reading it as a child and finding it boring and hard to understand. As an adult, I see the different philosophies being illustrated and the significance of its place in the romantic era. It explores themes such as the nature of man, the effect of isolation verses society on man, science vs. nature, and the ethics of science, supported by imagery, allusions, language, and even pace. These are themes that science fiction authors are still writing about today, as seen in the film Splice, Scott Sigler’s novel Ancestor, and countless others. This is really the epitome of the gothic novel, which conveys its messages with a dose of horror and suspense.

The characters and their development is really what make Frankenstein special. I can see the suffering and anger on both Victor’s and the creature’s side. Victor is a good person who got swept up in his fervor for science without thinking about the consequences. After making the creature, he tries to move forward with his life, but his past follows him. The creature, on the other hand, is actually a sympathetic character. Far from the shuffling, silent monster seen in film, he exhibits great intelligence and is shown to be inherently good. After being consistently rejected and abused by man, he turns to violence and really only to mimic how people have always treated him. He only ever desired to be loved and accepted. I tend to side more with the monster because he was created and then immediately abandoned with no instruction on how to act or survive in the human world. I find the fact that Victor finds this acceptable and proceeds to further antagonize his creation reprehensible.

I could probably go on and on about how Frankenstein is one of the best books ever written, so I’ll stop here. This work is still relevant today and can both horrify and interest modern audiences. I think everyone should read this book at least once.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

** You can read the entire book online for free here. **

** This post is for Velvet's September Zombies.**


Lisa R/alterlisa said...

I'm almost ashamed to say this as it doesn't reflect to well on my deductive reasoning but WTF, I just realized Frankenstein was a ZOMBIE!
I mean duh, I just never associated that character trait to him. I know, what did I think he was? well Frankenstein of course.

Audra said...

Fabulous review -- I appreciate your reminder of why this is such a great, classic novel! (Although I really hate Victor. Always have. He's such a milquetoast.)

Kulsuma said...

I love that cover. I've actually never read Frankenstein so it was nice to read this. This book seems to go more into the psychological turmoil of the characters. Awesome review!