Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Review: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

When I first finished Frankenstein I was glad it was over, primarily because of Victor Frankenstein, the selfish brat that he is. I just couldn't stand how nothing was ever his fault or responsibility, how self-absorbed he was, how uncaring and unkind. I also felt sorry for the monster, who is a victim of circumstance if there ever was one. And then I thought about it some more, after all there has to be more to it than it simply being one of the first novels that are considered modern science fiction for it to have stood the test of time.
The first thing that popped into my mind was "Ok, I can see the moral lesson: don't be like that guy, he's awful". Then the layer of "faults of obsession" registered. Then the cliche "don't judge the book by its cover" surfaced, along with examples from the text and ruminations about what this kind of judging does to the book, as it were. Then the new thought came to mind that although Victor Frankenstein refers to his creature as the monster it is he who is truly monstrous. Not a new idea, but it was new to me. And so I found depth in the novel and looked past the fact that a creature who barely learned to speak was reading the works of prominent philosophers and had no trouble processing and applying it all, or that the scientist is an abhorrent creature. I appreciated the lesson of applying moderation to the pursuit of passions, as well as the lesson of not forgetting those who love you while chasing after a dream. I fully understood why it's still around after almost two centuries.
It's still too slow-paced for the modern reader and the heart-rending terror Mary Shelley was going for is not anywhere as effective as it might have been in the 1800s (I imagine too many episodes of Law & Order, CSI, Criminal Minds and local news broadcasts are to blame for that) but although I didn't love it I still recommend it as an excellent examination of certain sides of the human character and nature, as well as for the value of taking a closer look at the forerunner of an entire literary genre. Just don't expect a mute green creature with bolts sticking out if its neck, that's all Hollywood's doing.

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