Don’t like thinking about the consequences of your actions? You will after reading this!
|Mary Shelley in 1818|
Frankenstein is a book about consequences. The consequences of unsupervised, unfettered scientific progress and ambition that overrides rational thought and common sense. It’s also about the basic human desire to be accepted within society and not being judged for things like your appearance. It’s a bit of an allegory for not being racist really.
We begin the story with Captain Walton, in a series of letters to his sister about events during an ambitious and treacherous voyage to explore the Arctic. While trapped in the rapidly evolving ice scape of the Arctic Ocean, he meets one Victor Frankenstein (not the monster, since it doesn’t have a name), the scientific genius who managed to animate the dead. Upon his immediate recovery, Frankenstein recounts the story of his life up until his run in with Walton in a first person framed narrative.
Frankenstein’s story is a warning to unbridled ambition, unchecked by counsel and without any consideration for consequences. He discovers the secret to creating life in the unconventional “raising the dead” manner, to which most of us would ask the question rhetorical: “but isn’t sex just way more fun?” Frankenstein sets about creating his pièce de résistance, a huge, eight-foot tall human out of bits because…well, he can, and because he wanted to create the ultimate human.
Unfortunately, the moment the creature awakens, he realizes he’s made a terrible mistake, mainly because the creation has a grotesque appearance. How he didn’t notice this during the months he spent on its creation, I don’t know. I’m pretty certain I’d notice when something I was building piece by piece turns out to be a pile of manure. Instead of doing what any other rational mad scientist (er…that’s an oxymoron right there) would do, i.e.: riddle it full of holes with a gun/knife/axe etc., he just runs away and hopes it won’t come back. Great plan Vic. That usually works well for most people too!
Of course, the creature does return, contrary to the imagination of Frankenstein, its appearance belies its true nature, that of a gentle soul frustrated by loneliness and inability to make any connections with people apart from those who are blind. Its greatest anger is, unsurprisingly directed at Frankenstein, its creator, who abandoned it due to its unsightly appearance. The being is constantly conflicted between giving way to the dark and vengeful half of itself, to wreak havoc on humanity as a whole, while accepting that course of action would condemn it forever as an unforgivable evil, even to himself.
Frankenstein is written with exquisite language, which is not too hard to understand. Sure, the book is nearly 200 years old, and style of writing is no longer in use in modern English, but the descriptive language used is brilliant. It’s precise without being boring and helps the reader to use their imaginations to see just what Frankenstein has created in his spare time. Where Dracula exhausts its story to the point of banality, Frankenstein is short, sharp and to the point, not bothering with spurious details that matter little to the overall narrative.
Even though Frankenstein is only a very short book, it packs everything important into its pages. It’s a great read and it’s not, I think, a book that should be classified as horror at all. It’s more a science fiction book for the ages, a warning about consequences and the sometimes cruel nature of humanity. It’s definitely a good read. It’s not too long either!
Brilliant, thought provoking and beautifully written book.
Should I read this?
It’s a remarkably easy read, even for today. So yes, go and get a copy.