Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thoughts: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

First of all, I just have to wonder how pop culture completely got this book wrong. Not what I expected at all.

A) Frankenstein isn’t the monster. He’s actually the human protagonist of this novel who CREATED the monster, and is described as a very handsome and intelligent young man. Not once in the novel does he cackle and say, “It’s alive!” Nope, didn’t happen. He doesn’t have wild mad scientist hair either.

B) The monster who Mary Shelley called Adam wasn’t stupid or clumsy. He was graceful, able to jump from rock to rock without stumbling, and he learned how to speak French in a couple of months. I now feel like a dunce and a total klutz next to this so-called monster.

Here’s the long and short of it: Frankenstein becomes obsessed with creating a living, breathing creature. When he finally succeeds, however, he is disgusted by his own creation, and lets it loose on the world. The monster, shunned and attacked everywhere he goes, blames his creator for his miserable existence and VOWS REVENGE. *Insert evil cackle here.*

First of all, Victor Frankenstein is one of the whiniest fictional characters I’ve ever encountered. He’s whinier than most of the teen protagonists of YA novels about *ahem* vampires, and that’s saying a lot. He whines and whines and whines, and never does anything to resolve his problems. Dude, I know not all people create evil monsters who VOW TO *INSERT CREEPIEST THREAT EVER UTTERED IN THE HISTORY OF LITERATURE HERE*, but, seriously, we all have problems ya know.

I haz a heart!

On a more serious note, this novel is told from the three points-of-view. Let’s forget the first narrator, because I’m really more interested in the voices of Frankenstein and the monster himself. Since Frankenstein has no backbone, the monster’s point-of-view is actually more interesting. He convinces you that he’s not inherently evil. He was just made that way by the people who mistreated him, and that, I believe, is the whole point of the novel. Are people born with evil inclinations or are they shaped by their environment?

I started to sympathize with the monster, but, then, Frankenstein points out in a later chapter that the monster is cunning and knows how to manipulate people with his words. Of course, I’m like, “WHAT?! I’ve been had by a bunch of body parts sewn together?!?!” If I allowed myself to be manipulated by the words of a monster, what kind of person does that make me? The book plays with your mind like that, and, in the end, I decided I did believe the monster wasn’t completely evil. No one is.

This book was beyond atmospheric, and took me to beautiful locations all over Europe—Switzerland, Ireland, Scotland, England, and even Germany. Each place has a different flavor, and Mary Shelley captured those flavors perfectly. While reading about Switzerland, I felt like I was really reading about Switzerland, not just some other version of England. Does that make sense?

Rating: 4/5

Note: There are a lot of things I want to discuss like Galvanism, and how this book probably represented Mary Shelley’s personal opinions on the effect of science on mankind. All thoughts about this book are welcome in the comments.

This post is part of The Classic Circuit's Gothic Lit Tour. For more exciting stops about Gothic literature, click here.


Mel said...

I have not read this. And your review completely makes me feel like I have missed out. I read Dracula last year, and overall that was a disappointment, especially the ending. Frankenstein sounds alot more involving, and I totally had the story wrong, as you suggest we all do. Thanks for review.

Trish said...

I was totally blown away with all the elements of this story. It's not so much a monster story but a sad story about ethics and responsibility. Once again, great review!

Chrisbookarama said...

I read this a long time ago. I remember liking it a lot. I also read about the background of the story and Mary's sad life. No wonder she thought up such a thing. I wish I could remember more.

Jillian said...

Yeah, this book is awesome, and NOTHING like the movies. In my lit class we discussed Mary Shelley as a Romantic, using the novel to do exactly as you say: play with the reader's mind. The creature is representative of the lower classes screaming: "We're tired of this!" The creature is their anger -- which won't always be repressed.

Kailana said...

I really want to actually read this at some point. I am proud of myself for finally reading Dracula to get the 'real' story, so this one should be in my future.

Audra said... You make me jealous, it's so hilarious and spot on and brills!

I enjoyed this book, too, and was shocked at how the book differed from what I thought it was -- altho I have to say the monster animation scene was so discreet I had to read the page twice to make sure I understood.

Zibilee said...

Gosh, I always feel so under-read when I see all the wonderful classics that you have been reading! First off, I would love to read this book, and must go off and procure it straightaway, and secondly, though Frankenstein himself was whiny, the conundrum with the monster sounds exquisitely interesting. I also believe that nobody is created inherently evil, and society plays a big part. Fan-frickin-tastic review, Darlyn!

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

I HATE this book!
I had to study it for my English Literature A-Level and we analysed it to death, all the philosophy and nature vs. nuture issues. It totally destroyed any pleasure I took from the story.

You're spot on about how much popular culture has got it wrong though.

Brenna said...

I really liked this book and, like you, sympathized with the monster. I found the book less scary and more sad than I expected it to be.

Aarti said...

Do you listen to the Stuff You Missed in History podcast? The most recent one is about the influence of Galvanism on Mary Shelley's novel! I bet you'd love it.

I just finished this book today and I COMPLETELY agree about how whiny (and self-absorbed) Frankenstein is. Ugh, he was so much worse than his monster.

Eclectic Indulgence said...

Thanks for the post - I'm glad I read it, because I forgot all about the background locations. For some reason, it didn't stick out in my mind at all. Perhaps, something I should read again. My review from a long time ago, with a couple of great quotes:

simplerpastimes said...

Oh, is Victor ever whiny! I really can't quite forgive him for that--and therefore I continue to sympathize with the monster, despite his misdeeds. Perhaps I'm just a very bad reader...


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