This post is part of a series on reading women 2019 hosted by Lonely Cryptid Media’s Narrative Designer, Dan Michael Fielding.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein blew me away. It was such a shock to go back and read the original text that has inspired so many aspects of Western horror and science fiction. It made me realize how different Shelley’s concept of Frankenstein’s monster is from the monster depicted in most media today.
You might have an image in your mind of Frankenstein’s monster. If you’re like me the image is of a shambling beast towering over frightened townsfolk. The monster grunts and groans and tries to find love despite his horrifying features.
Shelley’s monster is quite different. For one thing, her monster can talk.
In the films and other media I’ve seen of Frankenstein’s monster I can’t remember a time I’ve seen him talk–and not just talk, but express himself in a lovely, almost poetic fashion.
Shelley’s monster talks for about a quarter of the book, relaying his experiences living in the wall of a poor family’s house. For the monster this is as close as he comes to acceptance and, as a result, the hardest he falls when he is rejected.
The monster’s conversation allows the reader to see how deeply he is hurt by Frankenstein’s repeated rejection, and the rejection of all humans around him. It makes him relatable, understandable. I found myself siding more with the monster than with Frankenstein himself.
The monster actually has quite a lot to say, and it was fascinating to be able to hear his inner thoughts and know his motivations. I felt I knew Frankenstein’s monster more than I ever had before.
I also found myself knowing Frankenstein himself, and he was annoying. Like, seriously annoying. Every decision Frankenstein makes in the book is selfish and wrong-headed, and he seems to be doing his best to exacerbate every problem.
I believe this was intentional on Shelley’s part. The book is very contemplative and expertly crafted, and she seems to peer directly into the heart of the wealthy, privileged Frankenstein and his terrible choices.
I said in my introduction to this leg of the challenge that I often find classical books to be disappointing. Especially in the Victorian era they are written in a style I’m not accustomed to reading. Shelley’s Frankenstein did suffer from that a bit, but over all the book was enjoyable. It was a fast read (although Frankenstein’s inner whining did become tiresome at points) and I can see why it’s earned its position as a true classic.
Overall I enjoyed this little foray into the classics. I think Shelley’s initial conceptualization of Frankenstein’s monster is far more interesting than most modern interpretations, and I enjoyed her style.
What did you read for the classic novel challenge?