Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (Review)

It seemed appropriate to (finally!) read this classic work during the season of Halloween. Everyone knows the basics of the story of Frankenstein and the monster has become ubiquitous in horror and culture. Most people even know that little tidbit of trivia, that Frankenstein is actually the name of the scientist who creates the monster and not the monster itself. Knowing this, I did not actually know the story. It was much more thought-provoking than I expected, though I am not sure what I expected.

The story of Victor Frankenstein is a warning to those who push the bounds of science. His words remind me of Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park, saying those who brought back dinosaurs were so excited to see if they could that they never stopped to see if they should:
“None but those who have experienced them can conceive of the enticements of science. In other studies you go as far as others have gone before you, and there is nothing more to know; but in a scientific pursuit there is continual food for discovery and wonder” (34).

Frankenstein creates this monster who is not actually a monster. At least not at first. He is a lonely, sad figure who just desires companionship. It was heartbreaking to hear his story, when he shares it with Dr. Frankenstein, of caring for a family and then being rejected once he reveals himself. Really, like any of us, he just wants to be loved:

““I expected this reception,” said the daemon. “All men hate the wretched; how then must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things! Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature, to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us. You purpose to kill me. How dare you sport thus with life? Do your duty towards me, and I will do mine towards you and the rest of mankind. If you will comply with my conditions, I will leave them and you at peace; but if you refuse, I will glut the maw of death, until it be satiated with the blood of your remaining friends” (79).

I will share one more quote, from near the end of the book where the monster speaks with a friend of Dr. Frankenstein. Our culture seems continually interested in how a good person can become bad. This is the story of Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars and Walter White in Breaking Bad. Before them all was Frankenstein’s monster who tried to do good but slowly gave in to his baser nature. Of course, the point I see here is that this does not make him less human but just shows how human he is:

“Once I falsely hoped to meet with beings, who, pardoning my outward form, would love me for the excellent qualities which I was capable of bringing forth. I was nourished with high thoughts of honour and devotion. But now vice has degraded me beneath the meanest animal. No crime, no mischief, no malignity, no misery, can be found comparable to mine. When I call over the frightful catalogue of my deeds, I cannot believe that I am he whose thoughts were once filled with sublime and transcendant visions of the beauty and the majesty of goodness. But it is even so; the fallen angel becomes a malignant devil. Yet even that enemy of God and man had friends and associates in his desolation; I am quite alone” (192).

Overall, a fantastic classic work of fiction and horror!

2 thoughts on “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (Review)

  1. Thanks Dave for that review. I liked your warning about science.It is why Shelly’s sub-titles the book The Modern Prometheus. Two points of thought: 1. Victor is the monster (not his creation) because he leaves his creation alone and abandoned (good sermon stuff there), 2. Perhaps the entire story is a concoction of ship’s captain’s mind. The ship is stuck in ice, the men are starving, and it looks hopeless. The captain, in a fit of anxiety due to his stressful environment, creates someone who is worse than himself to protect his own ego.

    Just some thoughts

    ken ogden

    1. Right. Victor is definitely the real monster. I wasn’t sure what to call his creation then, so I just called him “the monster”.

      And wow, I never thought of your second point. That’s wild.

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