My thoughts on Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’

frankenstein

Several things because I’m not sure where to begin:

First, I can’t believe a story has been so destroyed by pop culture since it was first written in 1818. Most people today think Frankenstein was the monster, or they associate the monster with Herman Munster or, even worse, Frankenberry cereal (which I’ve never tried but must say looks awful).

The monster wasn’t some flat-headed green man with spikes in his neck.

Shelley’s description of him is something quite different. From the novel, the monster is, “an 8-foot-tall, hideously ugly creation, with translucent yellowish skin pulled so taut over the body that it ‘barely disguised the workings of the arteries and muscles underneath’; watery, glowing eyes, flowing black hair, black lips, and prominent white teeth.”

Without any research other than iMDb as a quick reference, I’m left to guess the 1931 Boris Karloff movie portrayal must have molded the green monster who walks in the slow, stiff, and stilted way to which audiences have become accustomed.

Second, I saw many parallels to addiction and “addict behavior” in this story. The torture, the shame, the physical illnesses Victor Frankenstein suffers, over his creation and the havoc it wreaks upon those closest to him at times resembles a lost soul who can’t help but create self-destructive chaos around him (and his creation isn’t much different than he is in this regard). To me, this is how the book portrays him, rather than the mad scientist he’s been turned into by Hollywood and other media over the years.

I read this, the 1831 version, so I plan to go back at some point and reread the 1818 original. I am quite interested to see what contrast there is between the two. There were times I felt the novel dragged out a bit too much (hence the four stars out of five), and it could have easily been a shorter work. It began as a short story and was expanded to a novel, so I suppose that accounts for some of it. Having three narrators (Walton and Frankenstein, and later, the monster himself) easily made it a longer tale. But as unnecessary as Walton felt at the beginning, I guess you could draw another parallel to his relationship with Frankenstein versus Frankenstein’s with the monster (or “daemon”, as he calls it in the story).

Third, some of Mary Shelley’s passages are simply breathtaking and beautiful, for lack of a better phrase. Between highlighting and taking notes, I went to Google images more than a few times to look up the places she describes, to see if the reality matches what I envisioned through her prose. I’ve never been to any of the locations in the novel, so I found it to be a bit of a travelogue as well.

Fourth, man feeling betrayed by God or his Creator. When Frankenstein finally catches up to the “daemon” and vows to destroy him, he reluctantly decides to hear the monster’s side of things. What we get here is a tale of a man who feels forsaken by a Higher Power and then is made to feel like more of an outcast later on (I’ll spare the spoilers and let others discover what happens for themselves).

One of the reasons it took me two weeks to read this book was because of the time I spent highlighting, making notations, and using the dictionary. Again, it was written in 1818, so there is quite a list of archaic words and phrases you don’t hear anymore within the pages.

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