You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings.
***Read as part of the Through the Wardrobe Debut Novels Challenge***
Deep and firmly within the canon of horror, gothic and classic literature lies Mary Shelley’s debut novel Frankenstein. From this small scribbling has sprung one of the stalwart creatures in the horror genre and one of the most recognisable characters in literature – just be sure to refer to it as the Creature, for calling him Frankenstein will annoy literary buffs everywhere*!
*Frankenstein is the surname of his creator, Victor, fyi!
Shelley’s Frankenstein plays with the concept of man the creator, written in a time when science and religion were at odds with each other. A naïve student, Victor Frankenstein, becomes obsessed with the idea of constructing of life but once he realises the secret to creation, he does not like the end result. Quickly rejecting his Creature, Victor buries his head in the sand and returns home; not realising that the thing he built may come looking for his master…
Now I have to be honest, if I’m in need of a classic gothic novel I will always head to Stoker’s Dracula as Frankenstein has never really hit the mark for me. Whilst I appreciate the novel’s richness and poeticism, I find it more satisfying to study as a piece of historical fiction rather than to read it for pleasure. There is so much in this novel that relates to the Victorian struggle with scientific advancements, the debate between God and man, the abuse of power and the position of women that it really is a gift that keeps on giving in terms of literary study but its not a curl-up-in-front-of-the-fire novel for me.
The main issue I have with Shelley’s debut novel lies at the feet of her protagonist, Victor Frankenstein. He is a very unlikeable, simpering character that is completely unaccepting of his responsibilities and lives in denial that he has any part of the actions happening around him. As such, I find it really difficult to assume any kind of connection with him and when his narrative is combined with Shelley’s poetic writing style, it makes for a tough and painfully slow read – even when I have read this book before.
That being said, the romance and poetry to Shelley’s gothic tale is particularly beautiful in the portrayal of the monster, who is an incredibly rich character to explore and the story really picks up once his voice is introduced. He is a tragically portrayed anti-hero, a construction whose abandonment by his creator leaves him floundering in a world he does not understand. One could think of him as an orphaned child or a metaphor for man’s abandonment of God in light of scientific advancement but ultimately he is just searching for his place in the world, first as an innocent child-like being and then as a vengeful knowing ‘adult’.
In Shelley’s novel the clear-cut idea of the hero and the villain is blurred, rebuilt and then knocked down again, changing the narrative perspective and sympathies continually. By reading this book you will challenge preconceived ideas of power and duty as well as the green-skinned, flat-headed, bumbling stereotype of Frankenstein’s monster – he’s much deeper and darker than you’d think!