Finally. We’ve finished the book in class, so I feel now as though I can write about. For those who don’t know, I used Frankenstein during the Romantic Period for British Literature class. I read it over Christmas and January in preparation and once again, it’s nice to say, I’ve read a classic.
And I liked it.
I don’t have much knowledge of Frankenstein, really. I’ve never gone out of my way to see a film version of it. I just know what the creature looks like because you can’t survive in this world without seeing some version of the monster. It never interested me because I’m not a horror fan, but I supposed after falling in love with Dracula, I should have known I’d get to Frankenstein and fall as well.
It doesn’t hurt that it was written by a young woman, and is considered the birth of science fiction. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s of my favorite literary period either.
It’s not the movies (anyone can easily see that from the first letter in the book). It’s much like Dracula in the sense that no film version really fits it. It’s quieter, more thoughtful. More psychological than spectacle. It’s more descriptions of feelings, nature, and thoughts than bludgeoned bodies and gushing blood. It’s eerie, not make you jump in shock.
It’s beautifully written. There are moments, some that I can’t really identify concretely where I knew this was a teen girl writing. It far surpasses anything I have or ever will write, but there are choices she makes that speak to a young writer, inexperienced. The passive women, the choosing to have the creature and Frankenstein just talk it all out, and other moments that show a different time and place in what makes a good story.
I feel for the creature. I can’t imagine that many don’t. Abandoned by his creator, left to his own devices in a body that is not appealing or small. A baby in ways, but adult in others; how can you not feel for him? He’s more child than man, not knowing his own strength when he kills his first human. Not that that will ever be the right decision and to continue, but he’s a child who hasn’t been taught all the morays we teach our children.
Frankenstein himself is a selfish, obsessive young man, who really needs to get over himself and fix the problems he created. Stop getting overexcited and sick and then just lamenting your choices, man! But I don’t know. I felt for him when he loses all he loses.
The ending doesn’t have the punch of a modern story. One expects a battle, and fight to the death, intensity in all things. Instead, it’s sad, quiet and lonely. Failure on the parts of all involved (Walton, Frankenstein, and the creature) and in a way, that’s more fitting. It’s not an action-filled story of murder and mayhem. It’s a balancing act between revenge and love. Lost love creates revenge, abandonment creates revenge and revenge brings no love or peace.
It’s relevant today because any child you label with a negative (or positive) noun/adjective constantly eventually turns into that very thing. The monster becomes a monster purely from being named and treated as a monster. Frankenstein, the man, is more monster for playing God, and then abandoning his creation (which God would never do), and letting the events play out without more than just ravenous guilt. Is science and the pursuit of higher knowledge always the best choice in our world so desperate to make things better, easier, and more self-sufficient? Can justice be done in a world so full of broken and fallible creatures?
Not bad for a young woman in her first novella.
Seriously, Mary Shelley, you rock. Thanks for this one.
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