*Warning: This review contains SPOILERS.*
I hated this book in high school and never imagined I’d reread it voluntarily, but here we are. And I actually didn’t hate it this time! Funny how these things work out, huh? I’ve read some articles about this book as well, and they talk about how this book is representative of everything from abandonment and isolation to dysfunctional father-son relationships to queerness, and honestly, if my English teacher had gone into more depth about that kind of stuff, I might have been more interested the first time around.
Anyway, I definitely sympathized with the monster. He was so utterly and completely alone. He spent years literally alone, living in sheds and caves and out in the wilderness, on the outside of humanity looking in. He was abandoned and isolated and treated horribly by everyone. Even his own creator did nothing but insult and shun him. The poor guy didn’t even have a name, and that’s just really sad.
But Victor… even though his actions were awful, I sometimes fell into the trap of wanting to sympathize with him too, even though I knew I shouldn’t, which I think is the sign of a well-written character. He made a mistake—a horrible mistake born of obsessive fervor and arrogance, but a mistake nonetheless. Haven’t you ever done something and then worried that someone would to find out or that something bad would come of it, even if it was just sneaking a cookie before dinner as a kid? Now imagine that feeling x100. And I can understand why he was hesitant to create another—he didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. So I think his feelings of despair and horror and guilt and grief made sense, if nothing else.
The way I see it, neither character is entirely free from blame—the monster murdered innocents, and nothing can excuse that—but Victor never should have created the monster in the first place if he was going to abandon him. It was essentially like someone having a child and then neglecting them. Once the monster was alive, it was Victor’s responsibility to care for him, and he failed entirely at that. He was selfish. I think I could have forgiven the mistake of making the monster in the first place if Victor had just taken responsibility and cared for him. Probably all the bad things could’ve been avoided if he’d done that. The creation wasn’t “born” a monster; it was the way he was treated that made him a monster.
Here’s another thought I had. Victor didn’t want to create a mate because he didn’t know if she’d turn out to be even more dangerous, right? But people have babies every day without knowing what they’ll be like when they grow up. Some people do become murderers. And the monster in the book only became one because he had no love or companionship. So by that logic, Victor probably should have just taken his chances and created a mate.
This book also made me ponder about souls—did the monster have a soul?—and what it really means for a thing to have life, but I won’t get into that.
But, as is the case with most of the classics I’ve read so far, the problem I had with this book was that it had so many words but so little meat. (Kind of like this review, to be honest. I don’t know how it got so long.) Everyone was so long-winded. There would be pages and pages about the despair a single character felt over a single thing that happened even though a couple short sentences could’ve expressed it just as well.
Also, I was surprised to find the depictions I’ve seen of Frankenstein in art/movies/media (bolts in his neck, criss-cross stitches everywhere, usually greenish skin and a flat head, walks in a lurching way) isn’t at all how he was described in the book.
His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion, and straight black lips.
No bolts, no stitches, no flat head. And he doesn’t lurch; he’s larger than the average human, but his limbs are in proportion, and he’s described as being agile and fast. The way I envision it (which is just my interpretation, not right or wrong), the reason he’s so horrifying isn’t because he’s so non-human but rather because he does look human, but… off. I like this artwork best of all the ones I’ve seen. He looks almost beautiful, but he’s just kind of tipped the scales into creepy and unnatural.
So, overall, I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. The writing was long-winded, but the story itself was thought-provoking.
*Note: The edition I read is the Kaplan SAT one. I’m not aware if there are any differences among different editions (other than the fact that mine had a bunch of SAT words with definitions).*
Anyone who likes thought-provoking reads.
Obsessed with the secret of creation, Swiss scientist Dr. Victor Frankenstein cobbles together a body he’s determined to bring to life. And one fateful night, he does. When the creature opens his eyes, the doctor is repulsed: his vision of perfection is, in fact, a hideous monster. Dr. Frankenstein abandons his creation, but the monster won’t be ignored, setting in motion a chain of violence and terror that shadows Victor to his death.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a gripping story about the ethics of creation and the consequences of trauma, is one of the most influential Gothic novels in British literature. It is as relevant today as it is haunting.
Revised edition: Previously published as Frankenstein, this edition of Frankenstein (AmazonClassics Edition) includes editorial revisions.