This month Allie and I are featuring Harrowing Historicals, books with a scary bent that were set before 1960. Frankenstein fit perfectly within that vein, and is also the subject of an upcoming podcast that I am recording with Jen from Devourer of Books.
I have read Frankenstein twice now within as many years. I first read it last year when Heather and Jill did their Dueling Monsters Readalong of Dracula vs Frankenstein. I wasn’t a big fan of it then, and I have to admit that a second reading has not made me love it that much more. Maybe at some point in the future, a third reading will be the charm.
Frankenstein begins when Walton, a lonely sea captain, finds Victor Frankenstein in the middle of the Arctic giving chase, quite unsuccessfully I might add, to a monster he has created. His efforts have left him dispirited, in poor health, and on the verge of death. Walton doesn’t yet know his story, but he feels that the man is a kindred spirit and that under different circumstances, they would be good friends. Frankenstein recognizes something of his reckless passion in Walton and as a warning, relates his extraordinary story to Walton not to follow in his footsteps. The novels continues as Frankenstein, explains the origins of his monster and how it wreaks havoc on his life in face of his betrayal, abandonment, and lack of love and companionship.
In my second reading Frankenstein, I was a little bit more taken with the exploration of loneliness, and the lack ofconnectedness that is experienced by Walton and Frankenstein. In many ways these men stack up comparatively, and though Frankenstein appears to be somewhat humbled by his experiences, he recognizes the excitable passions which led him down his path are ready to be ignited in Walton. Shelly seems to be hinting that others will attempt what Frankenstein has done, and that playing god, and seeking to remedy personal longings and inadequacies, is a quality intrinsically ingrained in human beings.
Frankenstein may have been innovative for its time – Shelly wrote it when she was nineteen and it is an exploration of emerging class themes, man’s monstrous nature and the monsters it creates out of misguided principles – but when I read it from my contemporary perspective, it is really difficult for me to feel that this is either an enduring or compelling work of fiction. Frankenstein as a man and character is outrageously hard to appreciate and the plot and its circumstances are not well-defined. Character motivations and the means by which accomplish them require more suspension of disbelief than I had to give.
I can definitely understand wanting to explore the origins of life and even a slight god complexes, but the desire and motivation in creating a seven foot tall, supernaturally strong, creature out of corpse materials escaped me completely. I was just mystified as to how to accept that this made enven the slightest sense to Frankenstein. This is definitely a story of obsessive behavior, and you have to wonder who is truly the mad man. When Frankenstein, abandons the monster, it first educates itself, spouts philosophy, struggles with its nature, and then gets mad and goes on a murderous rampage and genrally makes Frankensten’s life, hell. I felt not a drop of sympathy for him, but was very amused by the monsters SAT vocab.
I can appreciate that Frankenstein went on to inspire further exploration of the themes it tackles, and monster stories in general, but I find more enjoyment from fiction whose ideas are supported in a less haphazard and slightly less nonsensical fashion. The novel is based on an interesting premise, but it was hard for me to read it without be distracted by the enormous holes in the plot.
Make sure you check out Allie’s favorite scene from Wicked, the Broadway show based on the book of the same name by author Gregory Maguire, yesterday’s Harrowing Historical. I was always terrified of the Wicked WItch of The West when I first started watching The Wizard of Oz. Harrowing Historical giveaway prize packs will be awarded on Halloween night at midnight. Leaving a comment on any Harrowing Historical post automatically enters you for one of the many prize packs.