In 1816, nineteen-year-old Mary Wollestonecraft, her fiancŽ
Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, and his doctor were
assembled in a fine villa in Geneva. The stormy weather kept
them inside, so they each decided to make up a ghost story.
Mary could not come up with one until one late night after a
discussion about modern science and the nature of life. She
dreamt up the story of Frankenstein and his monster.
This story is entirely in the form of a very long letter from an
Englishman named Walton who is on a boat headed for his own
country, to his sister. He tells her of the arrival on board of a
shipwrecked man, Mr. Frankenstein. Frankenstein tells the long
story of the past few years of his life to Walton, who writes them
to his sister.
Frankenstein, a Genevan, upon arriving at college, becomes
fascinated with chemistry and biology. He is especially interested
in life. After months of study, he figures out the secret of giving
life to dead beings. Frankenstein creates a handsome manlike
creature and gives it life. As soon as it rises from its bed, it
ceases to be a good-looking human and distorts into an ugly
beast. The monster escapes. Frankenstein fears this, but does
not tell anybody until it has killed his brother and his good friend
Justine has been charged for murder and executed.
Frankenstein vows to have his revenge, but when he finds the
monster, he learns to what extent he is to be blamed.
This novel is a tragic look at the way we judge people.
FrankensteinÕs monster learns everything about society from
spying on a poor village family. The blind man welcomes him
inside and speaks kindly to him. When the others see the
monster, they attack him. The monster is a Caliban figure. He is
not evil; he is repressed and despised. Like Shakespeare,
Shelley puts in his mouth some of the most beautiful speeches of
the work. He talks about his disgust with mankind and his own
shame. He hates the one who has given him life and wishes he
had never come into being. The monster tries to befriend
FrankensteinÕs little brother, hoping that he is not yet prejudiced
against deformity. But when the lad runs away, the monster kills
him out of desperation. The monster is condemned by his
creator to live through life entirely alone. He has the sympathy of
This book, much like the film Jurassic Park, also raises moral
questions about "Playing God" and creating life. FrankensteinÕs
creation of a monster is a vain attempt at playing the Great
Creator. He cannot imagine that God knows more about his Art
than he does.
This bookÕs viewpoint is similar to that of Wuthering Heights.
There are three levels of removement from the action: Walton,
Frankenstein, and the Monster. This approach can be confusing
at times, but leaves the writing open to interpretation based on
who the speaker is and how many times the story has been
handed down. The writing is in Victorian style, and reads like
Dracula, though it is more continuous.
The annoying thing about reading this novel, which I also
experienced reading Dracula, is that movies and spoofs have
taken away all the surprise from the experience and these tragic
figures seem almost comical. Also, for some reason everyone
calls the Monster Frankenstein, even though thatÕs really only
the name of his creator. Despite this itÕs worth while returning to
the original story to see what spurned all those tacky halloween
frankenstein masks.
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