And since the weather has been cooperating nicely, meaning cloudy and drizzly, it seems like the time to reread some of the old school monster books, or classics as my teachers used to call them. ;)
Full-disclosure, you should know I’m a little bit of a scaredy-cat, so in general, I don’t read a lot of scary things. And maybe Frankenstein was scary a couple hundred years ago, when it was written… But, honestly? Not so scary. I think most of the scary stuff is actually what the characters envision, and what the movies portray.
As a kid, I was a lot more R.L. Stine than Frankenstein, so I didn’t actually read Mary Shelley’s masterpiece until it was assigned in my gothic lit class.
And the scariest thing, by far, was the paper I had looming. And just for future reference, it’s not the best idea to try and combine your gothic lit paper with your soc. paper. I know it may seem like a good idea, because they’re due at the same time, and how could that just be a coincidence????—But trust me; it doesn’t save you any time—You probably end up spending more time than if you’d have just written the two papers separately. But by the time you realize that, you’ll have wasted too much time trying to make the two papers fit together, that you’re kind of stuck and just have to go with it, and both of your teachers will be confused. And, while yes, you did, do the paper—two papers in one—and technically you passed, you really just ended up making a lot of extra work for yourself. I’m just saying…
Eh hmm (cough, cough).
I think most of us know the idea of Frankenstein, the mad scientist who creates a monster, which then goes on to wreak havoc on the nearest village. Before my gothic lit class, I’d only seen the Mel Brooks movie, Young Frankenstein. Other than that, I knew Frankenstein as the giant green-skinned, flat-topped, bolts-in-neck, inarticulate, stiff-walking, grunting monster.
Yeah, um, not so much. Just in case you didn’t know, Frankenstein doesn’t actually refer to the monster everybody envisions—Victor Frankenstein is actually the creator that is usually portrayed as a mad scientist in the movies. And the creature is never even given a proper name; he’s just referred to as “the creature.”
The actual story is more in your head, making you think, making you wonder who real monster is. Although, the lack of actual scariness is not to say that this isn’t a good time of year for reviving the story—Don’t worry; there are plenty of dark and stormy nights going on.
Victor actually is a little bit of a mad scientist—He starts out as an ambitious young boy who gets inspired by the magic of science and wants to learn everything he can. He’s kind of the example of good and bad for being self-taught. The “science” books Victor absorbs as a child are actually long-forgotten alchemists. Yeah, can you imagine getting to college, and then learning that basically all of your heroes are out of date and you have to relearn everything????
Victor starts studying chemistry, and quickly catches and surpasses the rest of his class. Soon, Victor starts reimagining his old studies, combined with his new, and forges on a quest to create life out of death, to be able to bring the dead back to life, to conquer disease, and, you know, um harness immortality. No big.
Victor is completely self-absorbed and bent on glory—secluding himself in his laboratory, working himself sick, neglecting his friends, his sleep, and his health. And while we all know that Victor does meet his goal—He cheats. He’s impatient. He wonders if he should attempt some smaller trials, but Victor’s whole attitude is go big, or go home. And he ends up cheating his creation. As talented as Victor is, he doesn’t have the skill necessary to work on the intricate veins and arteries of a normal human body—They’re too small. So, Victor does what any mad scientist would do—Gets bigger body parts. Problem solved.
But once Victor achieves his goal of creating life, he’s horrified at what he’s created.
Victor is sick and wasted away from his endeavors. At the beginning, Victor saw everything as beautiful and proportionate. He saw only the wonders of the human body, and the wonders of creation. And glory. He envisions an entirely new race that is indebted to him. He sees himself as God. But the truth is Victor didn’t create anything. He assembled dead body parts and brought them to life.
Ok, that in itself is a great accomplishment. But as Victor grew sicker, he also lost the luster of his work. He worked in a fever, and the more secluded from real life he became, the more he resented his work; his creation. Until he hated it. Was repulsed by it.
And the moment Victor gives life to his creation, he also abandons it, and condemns it. At that point, I have to wonder if Shelley is making a parallel to God, asking if God was so repulsed by us, that he abandoned us.
But that could be a WHOLE OTHER topic…
I think what really gets me, is what a wuss/coward/ass/jerk Victor is. He’s completely repulsed and horrified by what he’s created, but does he try to clean up his mess? I’m sorry, but I think, if someone thinks they’re unleashing a monster on the world, they kind of have a duty to protect people. Whether he was right or not, Victor THOUGHT that he had created a monster.
And what does he do? He RUNS AWAY. SERIOUSLY!!!! And if Victor ever was the hero of this book, I think that’s the point where there is no doubt that he is NOT a hero. I really think if Victor was any kind of MAN, he would have destroyed his creation as soon as he realized what a mistake he’d made. He’d have at least TRIED to stop it.
But Victor doesn’t just walk away, he RUNS, FLEES. And while he has a little trouble falling asleep, his intended recourse is to just FORGET it ever happened. Oh, yeah, I CREATED A MONSTER; but if I just FORGET it happened, it’ll be cool. No worries. SERIOUSLY!?!?!?!?!? SERIOUSLY???????
So, while Victor was brought up loved and adored, by doting parents who felt it was their responsibility to ensure the happiness and success and fulfillment of their offspring—Victor, ABANDONS his.
So who created the REAL monster???? The loving, doting parents? Or the mad scientist who abandons his creation???
No doubt, the creature is indeed better off. If Victor would have been a better man, the creature would have been destroyed. But being a lesser man, the creature is left to fend for itself.
The creature definitely has some mishaps on his own. But even though he’s been abandoned, he perseveres. Much like his creator, the creature is self-taught. On his own, the creature seeks out food, shelter, companionship, and knowledge. The creature realizes he scares people, so he hides. In hiding, he learns to speak, to read and write. He becomes both very educated and articulate.
Because unlike the creator of man, whether we are loved, or have been abandoned, we at least have each other.
But Victor left his creature alone, no mate or companion, with none like him.
I had forgotten the amazing language and description that Shelley uses. Frankenstein is actually a fairly quick read, and a truly fantastic story, and why it is still a classic today. Rereading it left me no doubt that it is a true monster story. And I have no doubt who is the true monster.
I would definitely recommend this as some required Halloween reading!!!!