By Mary Shelley; Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.; @ 1818; my edition is 2004; 284 pages.
Believe it or not, Frankenstein shows up on many of the “to read” book lists.
I picked up Frankenstein because I’m tired of love stories. The story begins in Russia as our first narrator tells of his ambition to explore the North Pole. While in Archangel, he has a bit of boat and ice trouble and runs into Victor Frankenstein, a man who has a tragic story to tell. The rest of the story takes place in Switzerland.
Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was only 21.
And it appears she was quite scandalous for her time. She and Percy Shelley had an affair while he was still married. His wife, Harriet, not too long afterwards, committed suicide by drowning herself in a lake. Mary and Percy Shelley married soon thereafter. A few years later Percy Shelley also drowned in a boating accident. Quite a lot going on for a young female author of the early 1800s.
Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein as the result of a bet to see who out of Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and she could write the scariest story. Byron and Shelley never finished a book-length story, and Percy urged Mary to complete what she had started.
At its core, Frankenstein is a story about unchecked ambition and the consequences of disturbing the order of nature. In explanation of the subtitle, in Greek mythology, Prometheus stole fire from the gods to enable human progress and civilization. He is credited with the creation of man from clay. He was punished for his theft by Zeus, who sentenced Prometheus to eternal torment. Prometheus was bound to a rock, where every day an eagle was sent to feed on his liver. His liver would grow back every day, and every day the ordeal would be repeated. Nice, eh?
And while I didn’t want to think about love, the story shows the consequences of the deprivation of love. The monster turns evil because there is no one on Earth who can love his hideous form, not even his creator.
I found the structure of the story interesting. We have the first narrator, who has his goal of visiting the North Pole. He meets Victor Frankenstein, who then begins telling his tale in the first person. Then the monster Frankenstein’s story is told through Victor and also is portrayed in the first person. Then we come back out as Victor begins speaking again, and finally the first narrator takes over. The monster Frankenstein was very well spoken. That didn’t seem to ring true to me, even though it is explained in the story.
I have not seen the Frankenstein movies, so I have nothing to compare this to other than Young Frankenstein with Gene Wilder. So this book is nothing like that. It’s a pretty good read. I wasn’t scared, but I was intrigued.