Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Ah, Frankenstein. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed reading this. Truly. I'm not much for horror, but this book is so great. I'm not saying that everyone will enjoy it, simply that I did. This book was the final thing I read for my British Lit class last semester and in a way it was a great accumulation of everything I'd studied over the semester. There were so many references to Mary Shelley's contemporary authors and their works in this book, that I'm sure if I'd read it before taking my Lit class I would have been thoroughly confused. Instead, I understood exactly what Mary Shelley meant in the plot when she referenced Percy Shelley's poems, Wordsworth's poems, Byron's life, Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," and Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther.
All that aside, this book has some good universally enjoyable qualities. It's really quite surprising. The plot is not what Hollywood would want you to believe. There's no gory horror. I found that the same thing is true with this book as it was with Robert Louis Stevenson's Jekyll and Hyde: the plot is simple, symbolic, gripping, and open to interpretation. Thus, the many different variations on it by popular media.
This book carries some interesting and unexpected themes, such as how what you read affects you (the monster - who is unnamed, by the way... Frankenstein is the doctor protagonist - reads three books after being shunned by his creator and they each have a profoud effect on what he later becomes), the responsibilities of parenthood, the possibility that society creates its own criminals, the inner workings of outcasts, promethean science (do men go too far into that realm that belongs only to God?), and the fact that the monster is what any human could be if he or she let his or her emotions run wild.
After reading this book I couldn't stop thinking about it. There was so much to learn and digest from it that I still occasionally come back to it in my thoughts during those rare still moments. I characterize books like this as uplifting, a word I would never have thought I'd use to describe Frankenstein before reading it.