Mary Shelley
Frankenstein Cover



I won't describe the plot here. Suffice it to say that if you've seen the Boris Karloff movie, you have no idea. It's astonishing how much the popular films diverge from the book. Aside from Frankenstein's animation of the creature he had assembled from human parts, little of Shelley's novel is portrayed in the movies.

The prose is the formalistic writing of two centuries ago, and yet I found it quite compelling. I recently read Pride and Prejudice, which was written in the same decade. To me, Mary Shelley's use of language is far superior to Jane Austen's.

One element of the novel I found puzzling was the strange behavior of Victor Frankenstein. He was not a sympathetic character at all. His motivations were arrogant and self-serving. When the creature first came to life, Frankenstein instantly spurned it and then fell into a feverish delirium, a sickly near-coma that went on for months. Later, in Ireland, upon seeing the murdered corpse of his friend Henry Clerval, he again lapsed into a semi-comatose fever for two months. Odd, indeed.

Upon seeing the creature upon his return to Geneva, after two years of not even knowing if it still lived, Frankenstein instantly knew that it was the creature who had murdered his brother William, although there was absolutely no evidence to this fact. We, the readers, had no reason to blame the death on the creature, and neither did Frankenstein.

It was Mary Shelley's intent, supposedly, to reprove scientists of the day for delving into matters that are not the province of man. Victor Frankenstein's horror at the awakening of the creature is due to the realization of the unacceptable thing he has done, of the line he has crossed. Two hundred years later, this point of view is lost on me. I see Frankenstein's reaction to his creation, his washing his hands of the life he has brought into this world, as reprehensible.

It was Frankenstein's thoughtless and callous treatment of the creature upon his 'birth' that sent it on the path to becoming a monstrous character. The creature was completely naive, truly an innocent. He obviously was quite intelligent, teaching himself to speak and to read in the most adverse of conditions. The instant revulsion of all people upon seeing him and their mean and vicious treatment of him, taught him to fear and hate humans. This was a direct consequence of Frankenstein's rejection and banishment of him. His rage against Victor Frankenstein was because Frankenstein broke his pledge to create a companion with whom the creature could seek exile from the prejudices of civilized men.

The creature was able to surreptitiously stalk Frankenstein wherever he went, even across seas. I could only ascribe this feat to his high intelligence and super-human physical abilities. But it did seem a little far-fetched. I decided to take these sorts of things with a grain of salt. They didn't diminish my enjoyment. I quite liked the novel.

After Frankenstein reneged on his promise, the creature, justifiably enraged, threatened Frankenstein saying "I'll be with you on your wedding night." To me his meaning was clear however Frankenstein obtusely failed to see that it was his bride and not himself who was endangered until after it was too late.

If you read Frankenstein, I urge you to carefully read the creature's final eloquent soliloquy. It is the summation of the novel and presumably Shelley's condemnation of the injustices of humanity. We see still today the behaviors in people which so drove the creature to vengeance for the injustices done to him.