I read Frankenstein in three sections – chapters one through ten, chapters eleven through twenty, and chapters twenty-one to the end. (Actually, in the version I own, I read volume one to chapter two of volume two, chapter three of volume two to chapter four of volume three, and the remainder of the novel.) Therefore, my review will be divided into three sections.
Overall, I wasn’t expecting to like Frankenstein as I haven’t had the best track record with school books this year. My teacher cautioned us that the novel is nothing like the movies we’ve seen. I saw Frankenstein performed as a play many years ago – although, I remember being scared out of my wits when the monster jumped off the stage into the audience – but I too expected the play to be nothing like the actual novel. Victor becomes so obsessed with bringing a creature to life that he fails to think of the possible consequences. In the end, this “scientific advancement” leads to his own misery and destruction, which could easily be found in today’s scientific advancements. Frankenstein tried to play God, just like many doctors today.
“I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body. For this I deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardor that far exceeded moderation; but now hat I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled by heart.” (pg. 81)
I struggled to get into the first part of Frankenstein. The story is introduced through letters written by Captain Walton, which are sent to his sister, Margaret. Stuck in the ice, he and his crew come across a man, Victor Frankenstein. Frankenstein, who is on the edge of death, begins to regale Walton with the tale of his unnamed creation. It’s a very slow introduction with monologue after monologue and switches narration in a confusing manner at that.
The second part, on the other hand, sucked me in from the moment I picked it up. I decided to read the two hundred or so pages out loud, which killed my voice but kept the story straight and broke up the monologues in my mind. My favorite part of the novel, the second section details how Frankenstein’s monster managed to survive without his creator. At over eight feet tall, with translucent skin, black lips and yellow watery eyes, the creature is rejected by everyone he meets, even the small boy he expected to be without man’s prejudices.
“My person was hideous, and mt stature gigantic. What did this mean? Who was I? What was I? Whence did I come? What was my destination? These questions continually recurred, but I was unable to answer them.” (pg. 231)
The reader feels for the monster and understands how the creator’s rejection of both him and his request for someone to love him fuels the creature’s dark motives, despite disagreeing with the murders and actions he winds up committing. Meanwhile, the “scientist,” Victor expands his morals as misery and regret threaten to overwhelm him. He cannot control what he has created, yet he cannot give in either. It’s this character development that had me in raptures with the story.
” I expected this reception,” said the daemon. “All man hate wretched; how then must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things! Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, they 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 blood of your remaining friends.” (pg. 169)
The conclusion of the book fits it perfectly, although I didn’t enjoy it as much as the second section. Of course, this type of novel could never have a happy ending, so I don’t know why I hoped for one. And, honestly, it’s the beginning that really knocked this book down for me, not the end.
On a side note, I pity Shelley. Frankenstein really got the short end of the stick in the adaptations. Hollywood seems to like portraying as a “monster” – that is, as a big, groaning monster with bolts in his green neck and a jagged cut across the forehead. They take delight in calling the monster Frankenstein, but it is the man who made the monster who is the real Frankenstein – both figuratively and literally.
- Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus. New York: Kaplan, 2004. Originally published 1818. Print. 429 pgs. ISBN: 074325578X. Source: Purchased.