- The Good: A masterpiece that’s inspired many of the books you love today
- The Bad: Slow pacing, but if you love classic horror, it adds to the suspense
- The Literary: Classic with beautiful prose
Victor Frankenstein is a smart and dedicated science student obsessed with discovering the spark of life. He studies, steals body parts, and eventually assembles a complete human body. He brings it back to life, only to find he is so horrified at his own work that he runs away. The innocent creation is tormented by isolation and perceived to be a demon.
Frankenstein and his monster are still famous today, thanks to multiple Hollywood films that deviate significantly from the primary material. I could write an entire essay on the portrayal of Frankenstein in the media and I’m sure it’s already been done many times over. Needless to say, the book is unlike any screen adaptations I’ve seen. Frankenstein is also an important predecessor to the science fiction and horror genres today, having been first published in 1818. The instant bestseller is many things at once, including a Gothic thriller, a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, and a quest to find the Northwest Passage (a long-sought route across the ocean at the top of the world that leads directly to Asia).
I’ve read this book before, but two new aspects of the novel made me fall in love with it all over again. First, the language. I think as a slightly older and more well-read reader, I appreciate the prose of formal English more and more. Maybe it’s the growing appreciation I have for Jane Austen, but a prose that is more beautiful when read aloud than silent, a prose that is almost poetry, can really make a novel.
The second aspect that really stands out to me this read is Frankenstein’s cowardice and his creature’s inevitable tragedy. The monster isn’t born a monster. He capably survives in the wilderness on his own. He learns to speak and write by studying the interactions of a family in France, secretly helping them with chores in the night. He desperately wants to be accepted as an individual, but is spurned at every turn, especially by the man who gave him life. The real monster is the creator all along. Frankenstein fulfills his wondrous vision, then immediately leaves his newly conscious creation to fend for himself in a world he doesn’t understand and that doesn’t accept him. Victor’s creation is forced to gain the attention of his maker by murdering his family and friends.
Is a combination of nature and nurture to blame? Certainly the creature’s nurture and upbringing is nonexistent. Should we also blame the murders on his abhorrent self? Created from the body parts of dead men and brought back to life, should the creature be held to the same standard of human morality? If so, should he be given the same rights as a human, or even a child, as he is only a few years old?
Highly recommended for fans of classic horror and science fiction, as well as fans of classic British novels of the Romance era!