With Halloween coming, I figured today was a good day to talk about the book Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
I’m sure everyone is familiar with the story of Frankenstein. I’d like to think that even the younger generations have seen Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster. But I highly doubt many of you have read the book. I hadn’t either, until recently, I suppose I just always assumed I had read it. Frankenstein the book is much different than Frankenstein the movie (any of them).
This lengthy tale is told second-hand by Captain Walton through creepily intimate letters to his sister. After some extensive backstory on Captain Walton, when you’re beginning to think perhaps there was a misprint and you’re not actually reading Frankenstein, we meet Dr Victor Frankenstein. After pages and pages of nursing him back to health and encouragement to tell his story, he begins his tale of woe.
And no tale of using science to bring life to dead matter can be told without lengthy backstory. So we hear of his wonderful childhood where all was perfect and his parents even adopted a young girl to raise alongside him that he could one day marry. Wait! What? Was that normal back then?
So after the lengthy backstory we get into the tale of his quest for knowledge through science, which he excels at, so naturally it’s time to play god. Which he does differently than in the movies. No assistant and no body parts… more like pieces. Victor animates him, completing his work. No sooner does his creation twitch than he is horrified by it’s grotesque appearance – running from his lab and sinking into despair. And his despair knows no equal… I thought I was dramatic, sheesh! It takes his childhood friend days, weeks, months to coax and nurture him back to life.
So after he creates and abandons life and is nurtured by his friend, he decides to go home to marry his sister. (Yeah, I know.) Keep in mind, none can fathom the depths of his suffering.
Meanwhile, the creature is making his way through life, abandoned and alone, learning how to live and learning how despised and feared he is. Understandably so, he builds a deep hatred for the one who created and abandoned him, and feels that he should have an equally hideous mate created by Frankenstein for him.
He finds the doctor and pleads with him to make him a wife or he will destroy all he loves. First Frankenstein says yes and gets to work on the mate and then part way through his work he decides against it… and the doctor is filled with even more suffering and despair as the monster makes good on his vow, destroying all the doctor loves. After losing the last of everyone he loved, Victor vows to chase his creation to the ends of the earth and kill him while the creature happily and maliciously leads him through desolate lands to torment him further.
Like father like son, neither Dr Victor Frankenstein nor the creature could fathom their own blame in the situation until way beyond too late. And the sheer amount of despair and wretchedness suffered by those two… Frankenstein is an excellent book, but I think I’ll stick to the movie.