Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Author: Mary Shelley
Genre: Horror, Classics
Publisher: Barnes & Noble [for this edition]
Pages: 207 [leather bound edition]
This is the second time reading this book for me now, and I can happily say that it was just as enjoyable as the first time around. I decided to read this for Halloween this year and semi-succeeded in doing so. It took me a lot longer than I expected it to but I still read it around the spooky season and it was great fun to do.
“You are my creator, but I am your master; Obey!”
The one thing that’s always got me with Frankenstein is how incredibly relevant it is with the prominent morals and messages in the book for a contemporary audience. I also am constantly in awe that Shelley was able, and creative, enough to write this in 1818 . . . just think about that for a moment. If there is anyone in all of time and space that I would meet if I had just one chance, it would be her (sorry David Tennant, you still hold a precious place in my heart).
Despite the reality of her own existence she was capable of successfully bestowing upon the world this book. A book that is not only good, but revered several hundred years later, and a book that has inspired so many entertaining horror-adaptations of the nature of Frankenstein’s monster. I think I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Frankenstein.
Frankenstein a horror story of sorts that tells the tale of two very lonely and miserable creatures. The protagonist is Victor Frankenstein (hence the title) who was a very happy fellow until his curiosity of the sciences led him deep into misfortune – he’s very intelligent and becomes fascinated with the secrets of creating life. The amount of death and destruction never fails to surprise me, this is a gothic novel if ever there was one. So, as I’m sure you all know, he ends up creating the nameless monster who is the cause of his anguish and mishaps from that point onwards. What I so dearly love about this story is Shelley’s way of getting a message across to her readers. Cleverly, this story is actually recounted in the letters of Robert Walton, a seemingly unrelated individual to the events of the story.
Walton is an explorer and as inquisitive as Frankenstein originally was. As we become privy to Frankenstein’s story we begin to share the same thought process as Walton: is life not good enough as is it? Is family not important enough to sacrifice dangerous knowledge? Are we able, as individuals, to let go of our potentially harmful, far-fetched dreams for the sake of happiness?
Frankenstein’s story is a warning; he is heading Walton to cease his perilous exploration into where no man has gone (successfully) before by conveying to him that pushing mankind’s knowledge and limits has only brought himself misery and unhappiness.
So what is Shelley telling us?
She’s heading us, as readers, to similar dangers. I personally find this such a compelling novel when considered from this perspective. I’m not anti-technology or anything like that, but I certainly think there’s something to be said for considering the horrors that mankind is capable of creating/causing. One movie that comes to mind is Transcendence, starring Johnny Depp – if you’ve seen that then you’ll have a taste for the themes of Frankenstein.
In this sense, Frankenstein is, unquestionably, a horror. It’s a startling work of fiction intended to scare the reader and also be somewhat a slap in the face. The importance of family is such a strong theme in this book, especially through the character of Elizabeth. Dear, sweet Elizabeth. Shelley creates an unparalleled level of horror through inciting fears of the what if – what if science created a monstrous, self-aware being who knew that murdering your dear ones would be a great power control? There’s nothing scarier than being powerless to change the devastating fates of those you love. Scary, no? Not to mention the heart-breaking tragedy that is delivered to us from the unswayable friendship of Henry Clerval: my favourite character in this book.
But Enough Analysing
This is such an incredible book and I cannot recommend it enough! Many people turn their noses up at it but I love all of the characters and even on my second time around I’m still unable to decide who the true villain is of the book . . .
I absolutely adore the settings and I feel that this book really paints a beautiful and magical picture of Geneva. Sans monster, of course. I genuinely did research to see if there were any tours around Europe you could do to specifically retrace the steps of Frankenstein. There aren’t. Sad face.
My favourite part of this book is probably when the monster is learning to speak with the French family. Everything about that story is just so sweet. It’s also probably the reason why you question who is actually evil in this book. When you see things from the eyes of the ‘bad’ character it shakes you up in a weird way – you do that weird recoiling from yourself when you realise you’re sympathising with the baddie.
I’ve not actually seen any representations of Frankenstein but from the culture (so to speak) that exists around it I would strongly suggest ignoring the green skinned, bolt headed, zombie representations you see. That’s not even close to the actual story. The monster is well-spoken and capable of loving, he’s just a little evil and tantrum bound, that’s all . . .
In summary, this is a delightfully horrifying novel that I don’t think I could ever truly get bored of. You might be wondering why I’ve given this 4/5 stars instead of 5 (as, you might tell, it seems I rather like this book), the answer is that whilst I do love it, it just feels like a 4. That being said, it’s a fascinating read and I can’t recommend it enough. You’ve got to read Frankenstein as least once in your life. Trust me.