Frankenstein! The mere word conjures up horrifying images of a hideously gargantuan misshapen figure of a man. Perhaps one thinks of a flat head, electrodes built into the neck, shrunken clothes, stitched limbs and a sickly green pallor to the visage. In the case of Frankenstein, more so than any other piece of classic literature, is such a work of writing sustained in popularity due to its 1931 cinematic adaptation of the same name.
The novel Frankenstein of The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley is a curious work of fiction. Many adults find it difficult to comprehend such horror sprung from the mind of a fourteen-year-old girl. Speaking from a person who works closely with young adults and of course, being a teenager myself at one point, I disagree. Adolescents can be surprisingly dark creatures and entertain shockingly morbid thoughts. However, I must confess, my perception is skewed by my fascination with history. There are moments in research where I am abruptly brought up with the notion of developmental psychology and the human condition. Just because Shelley lived during the early1800s does not make her to be a pretentious little being as we so often think of our ancestors. Likewise, while her prose reflects romantic and gothic tendencies, it is not as bombastic as the other contemporary authors of her time. In typical adolescent fashion she writes in a rather forthright style, while still be undeniable gothic. Critics have likened the haphazard formats of epistolary and story within a story juxtaposed by multiple narrators similar to the mismatched and stitched-up monster she penned. To her credit, as a result of her “blunt” prose and creative formatting, the novel still holds the appeal of modern readers, who are grateful for the “contemporary” aspects of the novel.
Of the gothic classic, I read for this month, Frankenstein is by far my favorite. It had the thought provoking pedantic claims; it was neither anticlimactic as Dracula nor unsurprising like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I was dually uncomfortable, sympathetic, and intrigued with the story or stories, as the case may be. Normally, I do not appreciate an amalgamation of formats and multiple narrations.
The themes were quite evident, there is such a thing as dangerous knowledge. The pursuit of extreme and the tenacity to achieve at all costs causes readers to pause. Dr. Frankenstein was deemed one of the infamous mad scientists of popular culture, despite being factious. There is obviously the argument for ethics in science and the thought of “what is one life if it will save millions?” What is to be done to advance the science without insulting populations moral and ethical sensibilities, this applies to both the present time and the age in which Frankenstein was written. In essence, Dr. Frankenstein was “playing with fire,” hence the alternate title of “The Modern Prometheus” who also severely punished for his arrogance and knowledge.
I happened upon a critique of the novel during the Victorian era. Considering how much the populace adored the creepy tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, one would conclude Frankenstein would be equally popular. The work was originally printed anonamoyusly and the readers assumed it was Percy Byshe Shelley, it later was corrected when he confirmed Mary to be the author of this tale. Some of the reviews there after appear to have a bias for her sex and her age. In 1818, John Wilson Crocker does make an amusing valid point, however incredulous he may seem at the improbability of the story,
Here the monster, by the easy process of listening at the window of a cottage acquires a complete education: he learns to think, to talk to read prose and verse; he becomes acquainted with geography, history, and natural philosophy, in short, “a most delicate monster.” This credible course of study and its very natural success, are brought about by a combination of circumstances almost as natural. In the aforesaid cottage, a young Frenchman employed his time in teaching an Arabian girl all these fine things, utterly unconscious that while he was whispering soft lessons in his fair one’s ear, he was also tutoring Frankenstein’s hopeful son. The monster, however, by due diligence, becomes highly accomplished: he reads Plutarch’s Loves, Paradise Lost, Volney’s Ruin of Empires, an the Sorrows of Werter. Such were the works which constituted the Greco-Anglico-Germanico-Gallico-Arabic library of a Swabian hut, which if not numerous, was at least miscellaneous, and reminds us, in this particular, of Lingo’s famous combination of historic characters—“Mohomet, Heliogablus, Wat Tyler, and Jack the Painter.” He learns also to decypher some writings which he carried off from the laboratory in which he was manufactured; by these papers he becomes acquainted with the name and residence of Frankenstein and his family, and as his education has given him so good taste as to detest himself, he has also the good sense to detest his creator for imposing upon him such a horrible burden as conscious existence, and he therefore commences a series of bloody persecutions against the unhappy Frankenstein . . . . (Bloom’s Classic Critical Views: Mary Shelley, p. 77-78)
Despite the suspension of reality needed to read the text, I highly suggestion this novel for anyone’s perusal at leisure.