22 July 2013

Frankenstein - Mary Shelley

This classic horror-story begins with letters from Captain Walton to his sister about his voyage. In them, he writes about his trip and then about saving a man from an icy death. The man is Victor Frankenstein. We then read his narrative to the Captain; a story that has embedded its-self in our imaginations ever since it was first published. It is the story of a clever young man who acted as God and created a monster.

What is perhaps the most interesting part of the story is not actually in the reading of it, but in the concept. This is actually a dark take on the story of creation in the Bible, where God created humans in his own image. In Frankenstein,  we see a man creating life, and this comes in the form of a hideous, mis-formed creature- an abomination in every sense. And although it is not said obviously, we can imagine that God plays a large part in how the events of this story turn out; the man who plays God is punished, he becomes a shadow of who he once was, and everything he ever had is taken away from him by the creature he made. It seems like God has let out his wrath for the presumption that a man should be allowed to create a living creature unnaturally.

Another aspect that is particularly interesting about this book is the way that the story has fixed its-self in popular culture. Many aspects of our commonly known Frankenstein story are wrong. For example, many people are under the impression that Frankenstein is the name of the monster. This could be because of the film title The Bride of Frankenstein which implies that the bride belongs to Frankenstein and not the monster, who she is really created for, therefore the two get combined in our thoughts.

Most of us are also familiar with the fact that the monster was made up of the body parts of several corpses and animated with lightening to get the heart to beat again. However, the book says nothing of digging up bodies or harnessing electricity. We can assume, by the fact that Frankenstein alludes to organs and the like, that he does work with dead bodies and does put them together, but we never know exactly how he goes about getting it to live again. He only says that he discovers the secret of life, but not what it is. This was disappointing, in a way, as it was almost expected, but it also added an element to the plot in that Frankenstein does not wish anyone to attempt what he has done, so he deliberately keeps back any information likely to help them succeed.

As for the reading of the actual book; it is a very difficult undertaking. The narrative is long with several offshoots and slightly arduous descriptions. Victor's narrative begins in his childhood and travels right through the years to the point where he is found in the ice, having chased his tormentor from Switzerland.

The character of Victor was also unappealing in places. It was mainly to do with the fact that he was quite weak in mind compared to the characters that we are accustomed to. The sight of his creation filled him with so much horror that he was bed-ridden for months, and then he kept lapsing back to this state of a regular basis. He felt sorry for himself through most of his story and did not seem to have much compassion for the creature that he had forced into being. We are so used to strong-willed characters with much more backbone that this eponymous protagonist that he seems a little bit boring to the modern reader.

This is definitely a book for an avid reader who picks things up and is determined to continue. It is not for the faint-hearted, although the horror aspect will do little to chill us now. It is for someone who is quite used to reading classic books; they all seem to have a quite laboured writing style which makes them fairly difficult to read. Even I came close to putting this down, but I persevered and I am very glad I did. It gets a 5 out of 10 though, as it was a good concept, but was gruelling in execution.

This was a Kindle edition, bought at no cost.