Book Thoughts: Frankenstein

Frankenstein was an 1818 horror novel by Mary Shelley. There are countless editions of this book. The version I have was published in 2001 by Barnes & Noble Books. I originally got this book for a school class. I have long since given away most of my literature books, but I kept a few of the more interesting ones. Frankenstein had a frame narrative. Captain Walton stumbled upon Victor Frankenstein in the frozen northern seas. Upon reviving the fragile man, Walton got to talking with him. Finding him to be very intelligent and knowledgeable, he enjoyed their conversations. Inevitably, Walton’s questions turned to how Frankenstein ended up in such a remote and dangerous place. From there, probably 90% of the text, Frankenstein told his story. The rest of the story was from Walton’s point of view, in the form of letters to his sister in England.

Frankenstein was one of my favorite books in school because it was pretty easy reading. Even though it was written in the 1800s, Mary Shelley seemed to use English words generally the same as they are used today. At times the language became a little too poetic, but for the most part I found it easy to follow. The story of Victor Frankenstein’s life was one of great tragedy. Even worse, was the tragedies in his life were created pretty much by his own hands. In his youth, he was eager to make a name for himself. He wanted to discover some new scientific breakthrough that would elevate mankind beyond its current limits, and in the process he would be praised by all the world. Frankenstein succeeded in finding a new discovery, but it turned out to be a true horror.

Frankenstein had discovered the secret to life. Over many months he collected body parts from the dead and stitched them together using anatomy books and autopsies to figure out how the human body worked. Then he used some special technique (which he refused to elaborate on) to infuse life to the body he had created. However, the man he made greatly scared him, and he abandoned the creature. This abandonment over time created great misery in the creature, which led him to make Frankenstein miserable as well. The monster found the way to do this was to kill everyone that was dear to Frankenstein. Frankenstein tried to avoid the monster and protect his loved ones, but he failed. Then, all he had left was a rage to destroy the creature he had made. He failed in this task also, but the creature on seeing Frankenstein’s death saw no purpose left for his own life and committed suicide.

I put this book down as a horror story, but after reading it again, it felt more like a tragedy story. Frankenstein made a big mistake in creating a monster, but after he did, there was no escaping it. He was doomed from that point on to nothing but bad things. He had temporary moments of happiness, but very quickly another loved one died, and he fell back into misery. Unlike Frankenstein, I actually sympathized with the monster.

I have read studies about “feral” children. They show that children when not nurtured in a loving environment end up being really aggressive. They are more selfish, angry, and likely to do bad things later in life. I saw Frankenstein’s monster as a child. He had the fully-formed body of a man, but he was mentally a baby. Due to his supreme health, he was able to raise himself in the wilderness, but not without a cost. As the creature realized he would never be loved, he became angry at his creator and sought to make him feel just as bad. The creature actually gave Frankenstein a chance to love him.

I do think it would be very hard to love an ugly creature like this, but I’m sure Frankenstein could have found a use for the creature. He had shown in the past the ability to help people indirectly after dark. If Frankenstein allowed him to help his family in this way, with Frankenstein personally thanking or rewarding the creature for its actions, the creature may have been satisfied. I didn’t feel Frankenstein was doomed from the start. Eventually, that became true as he made too many bad decisions, but early on, I think a happy ending would have been possible.

Changing the story sounds appealing right now, but I’m not a good enough writer to do something like that. If I was, I would find it fun to take the story and modify it. Frankenstein could actually be made into a happy story. This could be done with other stories I’ve read about too. It’s likely no one does this because there’s no money in it. An author can’t take so much of another author’s original story, change a few things, and sell it as their own. This exercise could only be done for fun, with the text released for free, if at all.

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