Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus (1818) – Mary Shelley

 

So having spent some time with the cinematic incarnations of Frankenstein and his creature, I thought, as it was mentioned in the Sci-Fi Chronicles book, that I would revisit the original tale, on which all of them found their inspiration.

I hadn’t read the original tale since 1984, when it was on a list of books that I was sent by my new school. I was required to pick one of the books to read, and at that point, I was only familiar with the film version of the story, despite not having seen it at that point. The words and the way it was written truly weighed me down as I picked up my copy of it at the age of 12, about to be 13, and I seem to remember the book taking quite awhile to get through, as the language was almost a muddle to me.

Now, decades later, revisiting it, some of the language seems a little superfluous and extensive, but it was definitely an easier read this time around, finishing it in a small space of days, as opposed to the better part of a week and a half.

The tale is all there, Walton, the ship’s captain, obsessed with reaching the North Pole, relates, through letters to his sister, his encounter and rescue of a man on the ice, one Victor Frankenstein. Victor in turn, relates his tale to Walton, who transcribes the tale for his sister and posterity, unsure if anyone will ever receive his letters, as they are currently icebound, and the crew want nothing more than to return home.

Frankenstein cautions Walton about obsession, and his tale reveals the length and destruction he encountered. We are regaled with the tale of his love for the family’s ward, Elizabeth, his friendship with Henry Clerval, and his travels to Ingostoldt, where his obsession with science, philosophy, life and death come to fruition with the creation of his Creature.

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So offended by the Creature’s appearance not to mention the assembling of it seemed to not sit well with him either, simply a means to an end, Frankenstein falls into a funk and the Creature flees.

When Victor’s young brother is murdered, a family friend is implicated, he learns that the Creature is still around and demands one last act from him, or he will exert his vengeance on Frankenstein’s family, driving Victor to misery.

So begins a journey from Geneva, to England, to Scotland, to Ireland to the bitter ice floes of the North Pole, as obsession leads to hatred, and a fire for revenge.

The Creature, like so many of us, simply wants to understand his place in the world, to be loved, to understand why, and to have companionship. All of which are denied by his creator. I found the Creature to be more sympathetic this time, more so than I ever had before. Perhaps I simply needed to come at the tale with eyes tinted a little with age.

It’s still a fascinating read, and the Creature speaks with far greater eloquence than any monster since created.

This one was great to revisit.

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