“You are my creator, but I am your master; Obey!”
A monster, assembled by a scientist from parts of dead bodies, develops a mind of his own as he learns to loathe himself and hate his creator.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is one of those novels I’ve had on my bookshelf for ages, but I never really picked up. I bought it in a ‘second book half price’ deal at Waterstones because I felt that as an English Lit. student I should have read it, or because I simply thought the new penguin cover was pretty. I honestly can’t remember which one. This summer I was looking for another book to read on the train, and because Frankenstein seemed fairly lightweight for the many hours of reading it promised, I packed it. Overall, it turned out to be quite a nice read. I really should explore my bookshelves more often.
Frankenstein starts as an epistolary novel. Captain Robert Walton is going on an expedition to the north and relates his adventures to his sister who is still in England. By the time I started wondering whether I was actually reading the right book, Captain Walton saves Victor Frankenstein from a floating piece of ice and hears his story about how he came to be in this rather unpleasant situation. Frankenstein first gives a long description of his family and education, and it is not until about one third into the novel that he actually creates his famous monster. This is when things really start taking off -.
One of the reasons why this story is admired so greatly is that its author, Mary Shelley, was only eighteen years old when she started writing it. While travelling to Geneva, Mary Shelley and her companions, her lover and future husband, Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and John Polidori, decided to have a competition to see who could write the best horror story. Mary wrote this story about a scientist who created a living creature and was horrified by what he had made. This story later evolved into the novel we know today.
Hateful day when I received life!’ I exclaimed in agony. ‘Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemlance. Satan had his companions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him; but I am solitary and abhorred.
But the novel is admirable for more reasons than its author’s age. Shelley writes beautiful English that makes the slower paced chapters an enjoyable read and portrays human rage and suffering in a very realistic and touching manner. Though the idea of a living man-made monster is present in many old folk-tales in various forms, the novel gives it an interesting twist by using this half-epistolary and framed narrative form. I especially enjoyed the parts where the monster explains himself. Though both his eloquence and his morals are somewhat questionable, he does put forward some interesting reflections on society. Additionally, he shows us our own corrupted views of beauty and raises some interesting points about happiness and responsibility.