Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I recently read Frankenstein for what is technically the first time. I actually read a young adult version while I was... a young adult... but I decided that I wanted to read the real version. I seem to be going through a classic horror kick recently, in the last few months I've read Dracula, the Invisible Man, and now this. Of these, Frankenstein is superior to my mind. As with all books that are a little older, the language can be hard work sometimes, simply becaus the expressions used those days were far more descriptive- I doubt you would find any horror book these days that would spend pages describing the mountainside Frankenstein is wondering through. However, despite these barriers to entry, I found the book compelling reading, the narrative dragging me in quite easily.

Frankenstein is not really a horror- while some horrific things happen, they usually happen off scene, as part of the monster's revenge against Frankenstein. The interesting thing, reading this book, is wondering about authorial intent. Throughout the book Frankenstein is described as a kind and gentle soul, and while Frankenstein is teling the story, the book is framed in the device of another character writing a letter ABOUT the story Frankenstein is telling, and the author of that certainly thinks highly of Frankenstein.

Yet Frankenstein is not a great person. Obssessed with the notion of creating life, he cuts himself off from friends and family, working on nothing but the moment of creation. The book itself is extremely vague on this. While it is clear Frankenstein has got his parts from cadavers, there is absolutely no mention of the method which Frankenstein uses to animate the body- no strapping it to a table and waiting for lightning for him! As soon as he creates the creature, he is disgusted with himself, and abandons it, leaving it to fend for itself. Frankenstein has created a hideous thing, 8 foot tall and disgusting to look at, it wakes with no understanding of why it exists, and what it is meant to do, and wonders into the wilderness, confused and persecuted by all it meets.

There is a clear ambiguity as to whether the monsters actions are driven by some innate evil, or the circumstances it was created to. The monster certainly thinks it is a product of environment- cursed to be alone, shunned by it's creator, it claims all it wants is a mate, one to share it's life with. Yet it claims this having already committed horrible acts of violence and vengence, leading Frankenstein to believe that even with a mate, it would eventually plague mankind again.

It's not clear who is right, indeed it is not meant to be, but to me it is clear that Frankenstein himself is most definitely a monster. Obsessed with the notion of creating life, but not considering the consequences which that would involve, he hides from responsibility, and is punished for it.

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