Every year I make an effort to dedicate some of my reading to classics. Last year I managed to read three: “20 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea”, “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”. One of the great things about classic books is that because their copyright has usually long since expired, publishers are always competing with each other and coming up with gorgeous, eye-catching editions and sets. I came across this super cool edition of “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley at Harry Hartog’s, and it’s so kitsch and ridiculous with its bright blue page edges and the Monster in a leather jacket on the front, I had to have it.
Mary Shelley is often considered to be the mother of science fiction. First published in 1818, “Frankenstein” is an account of a fervent young scientist of the same name who discovers the secret to creating life. Using the macabre technique of digging up bodies from a graveyard, Frankenstein builds an enormous man from the parts and brings him to life. Showing exactly the lack of foresight, responsibility and common sense that becomes characteristic of Frankenstein throughout the book, he is struck with horror at his actions and abandons his new creation. The Monster is left to fend for himself, and without guidance or love, the results are catastrophic – especially for Frankenstein.
This book is really two stories: the story of Frankenstein, and the story of the Monster. Frankenstein as a character is completely insufferable. When he’s not energetically digging up corpses, he’s extremely fragile and histrionic, and spends a great deal of the book in an absolutely pathetic state be it fainting, spasming or gnashing his teeth. Frankenstein has no character development whatsoever, and even when he’s given an opportunity to make amends, he just reverts back to his own hysterical self and once again completely fails to clean up his own mess. Every time I read the parts of the book from Frankenstein’s point of view, I found myself groaning and rolling my eyes.
The Monster, however, is extremely interesting. Shelley does a fantastic job of getting the reader to sympathise with the brutal yet sensitive Monster. The Monster undergoes an extreme amount of character development, and the chapters from his point of view are both compelling and touching.
I found “Frankenstein” to be a slow read, over all. It’s interesting, and certainly was groundbreaking in terms of exploring life, nature v nurture and identity, but it drags on. I’m glad I read it, but I don’t think I’ll need to read it again.
6 responses to “Frankenstein”
I think you should show a little more empathy for poor old Dr Frankenstein. He is frustrating but I think he is having a really bad time of it.
One I realised that Frankenstein was himself all messed up by the whole affair and not just selfish then I started enjoying the book more.
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Thanks for the comment! I like a bit of dissension! I think my problem with Dr Frankenstein is that he just didn’t learn anything. He could have taken the Monster under his wing. He could have stopped the girl from being hanged. He could have made the Monster a wife and dusted his hands of both of them. He could have saved his own wife from dying. Every catastrophe was foreseeable and preventable, but until his own bitter end he simply refused to learn, or change or grow. Zero character development haha
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I love the book but my biggest problem with it is I’ve never been a fan of epistolary novels. Frankenstein is a little annoying, but I guess it would take a driven, single-minded, arrogant character to want to create a monster in his or her image. Great review.