Book Review; Frankenstein

MCayou By MCayou, 6th Feb 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Reviews>Books>Horror

A personal review of the attributes and possible surprising enlightenment that a reading of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein can provide.

Book Review

Frankenstein; A Must Read
If you have never read Mary Shelley’s classic Frankenstein, you are in for a treat! All too many of us think we know the story based on the mess Hollywood has made of it, and as yet another Frankenstein film disgraces the intent of the written masterpiece, I feel compelled to offer my insight into the original work. Since 1933, I believe, when the first film incarnation was attempted, more than 60 have followed, with some holding relatively close to the written work while the majority have been nothing more than lame abortions and infuriatingly weak attempts to capitalize on the evocative nature of the name, Frankenstein.

Mary Shelley was 19 years old when she penned the original classic work that she said came to her in a dream after she and her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Lord Byron had suggested a friendly contest to see who could write the scariest story - it would appear that Mary won.

The full title, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, should start us thinking before we even turn to page one. Again, if unfamiliar with the mythology of Prometheus, check it out before you begin reading and keep asking yourself as you progress how Victor, not his creation, is the “Modern Prometheus.” Shelley uses many allusions, especially early on, that require a bit of research that will deeply enhance the reading experience. I would suggest reading Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” as an accompanying work. Not only is this epic poem a classic in its own right, but Shelley teases us just enough with a single allusion that we can then unfold for ourselves. Also, the three individuals Shelley uses to fuel Victor’s imagination of reanimation provide tremendous insight into his burgeoning philosophies. Any work should send the reader searching for the facts and possible purposes of a writer using an allusion, and Shelley makes great use of this literary element. Perhaps my own enjoyment of “classic” literature is due in part to the complex tapestry that is created through the discovery of referenced people, places, and events.

As most people read with a formalist approach – looking for themes, motifs, symbolism, etc.- Frankenstein should, in my opinion, be read with a very acute eye on the psychology that envelops each character and how the mental state of each moves from seemingly innocent, harmless, even sad, to a crescendo of destruction. Much can be learned from Shelley’s characters that ultimately give us a dark psychological thriller and not so much the horror story that has come to be so immediately associated with the title. By the way, Dr. Victor Frankenstein is the only one to which that name applies; his creation never has a name.

I will acquiesce that some of Victor’s narration gets a bit tedious and martyistic at times, but this can be forgiven by the fact that he does what no one other than God has done. And this is the heart of the consideration of the work; who has the right to play God and then deal with the consequences? Keeping in mind that a 19 year-old girl wrote Frankenstein, the tendency toward occasional melodrama is only natural. I challenge anyone who reads Frankenstein for the first time, or even revisits it after many years apart, not to feel perhaps the deepest sympathy and pain of isolation that the creature endures. Unlike many of the iconic images created by Hollywood, Frankenstein’s creation is an incredibly likeable, intelligent, insightful being who is simply following his natural course of needs. It is when these basic needs are denied him that he unleashes his vengeance.

The creature’s appearance is another source of pain, as he is attacked, shunned, and forced into an isolated existence by societal standards beyond his control that refuse to consider his differences. All these years later, all too many of us still feel the sting of being judged by our appearance. Maybe this is one of the draws to the story, not being accepted by others, that has made Frankenstein the unrelenting force that will forever remain prominent in the literary canon. I am also quite inspired by the speech Victor gives near the end in an attempt to spur the ship’s crew onward and not turn for home. The final dialogue between Victor and his creation is a stirring of emotions that will leave you grateful for the opportunity to have experienced an incredible story.


Book Review, Horror Film, Horror Stories, Psychology

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author avatar MCayou
As a retired English teacher, I have much to say on topics from education to psychology to societal influences.

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author avatar Ron Flowers
7th Feb 2014 (#)

I never read Frankenstein and never had any interest in doing so. Just not my kind of book, I always thought. Then I read your review and changed my mind.

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author avatar MCayou
7th Feb 2014 (#)

Great! It is so much more than given credit for. Enjoy.

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