I finally got to read Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein the other day. I say the word “finally” because I bought this book years ago, during one of my high school book-buying binges. And even though it’s a relatively short book, I never gave it a shot, mainly because I felt I knew everything there is to know about Frankenstein:
Let’s see …
Tall, inherently evil, athletically-built SGM seeks SGW, having a penchant for slow walks with arms fixed straight ahead, who enjoys bellowing out incoherent grunts and monosyllabic words. [let your own preconceptions fill in the rest]
Well, after reading the book, I see now that I had a few things completely wrong. First of all, I always just assumed “Frankenstein” to be the name of the monster, I didn’t realize that the monster doesn’t really have a name, other than his possessive association with his creator: Dr Frankenstein’s monster.
Then another one of my preconceptions went sour, and in fact, became the exact opposite of what I expected. I imagined the monster to be very inarticulate, and if he had any written dialogue, I figured it would be as unreadable as Jim from Huckleberry Finn. But I was quite mistaken. He was extremely intelligible and even eloquent. Not to mention well-read, there is a mention of him reading Paradise Lost, and Plutarch’s Tales (the former being a book I struggled a bit with in my British Lit. class). The monster is plaintive and rational, with tender emotions that are quite hurt by the repeated responses he gets by humans, who do nothing but snap-judge him by his hideous looks and reach for arms. During one instance, the monster risks his life to save a little girl drowning in a nearby river, and is rewarded only by a shot gun shell to the chest. A gift of firewood to a starving indigent family is met by fear and hate, with yet another attempt at the monster’s life. And there were many more similar episodes. Largess rewarded by scorn, appeals to reason, retorted by violence; It felt like the label of monster was placed on the wrong group of people.
There also seems to be a splash of The Merchant of Venice influence. During one long sorrowful speech by the monster, I was almost expecting him to break down on his knees with: “Hath not a monster eyes? … if you prick us do we not bleed.”
Overall, the book is very well written and really an excellent story, I’d recommend it to anyone. It has such relevant themes, particularly on the grossness of ignorance, prejudice and preconceptions, and how in this regard the ostensibly intelligent, like the learned Dr. Frankenstein, can be ruefully stupid. I initially avoided reading this book due to my own assumption of what I would find–which inturn made the book’s message, that much more effective.