Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Suicide Reviews: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley


Synopsis: No one in the grip of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, with its mythic-minded hero and its man-made monster who reads Goethe and longs to be at peace with himself, can fail to notice how superior the original is to all the adaptations, imitations, and outright plagiarisms that have followed in its ample wake. Controversial for addressing the topic of artificially creating life in the nineteenth century, the most sympathetic character in the novel is the monster himself. But when Dr. Frankenstein, the 'father' of the creature, refuses to bring life to a companion for his creation, the plot takes an even darker turn. Mary Shelley's first novel, written at the instigation of Lord Byron and published in 1818, Frankenstein is one of English Romanticism's finest prose fiction works and a novel that has continued to inspire and terrify its readers. 

Date Published: March 11, 1818
Number of Pages: 231
Rating: 5/5

Most people are familiar with Frankenstein and his monster in some shape or form. Since Frankenstein's publication there have been numerous interpretations of the story in the form of plays, books, and films. And of course there are the Halloween decorations. 

What is so incredible to me is how much these adaptations differ from the original text. There is no sign of the hunchback assistant, Igor. The bride of the monster is never fully realized. And far from being the stiff, groaning creature we know from pop culture, Frankenstein's monster is actually articulate and learned, making lofty speeches about love and humanity. 

This story is often described as a work of horror. This is definitely true (what could be more horrifying than a man creating a living thing from dead body parts) but the work is also very philosophical. It raises some deep questions: are people born evil or does a prejudiced society make them that way? Who is the real monster: Frankenstein or the creature he created? Where is the line between ambition and obsession? Should we advance science as far as it can go - no matter the consequences? 

Don't be scared off by the philosophical aspect of the novel - Frankenstein is still highly entertaining. The most fascinating aspect of the book is when the monster tells his own tragic story - how he fled from Victor's lab, was chased by villagers, and how he came to educate himself and learn about the world. The tragic ending is fitting - how could a story like this possible have a happy ending?

Frankenstein has been around for almost 200 years and with good reason. It should be read by everyone in general and horror fans in particular. 

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