For some years it has been on my reading “to do” list to read several classic books in the horror genre. Horror fiction is not what I usually read, but I do enjoy classic literature, so I wanted to give Frankenstein and Dracula–I have a review coming next Wednesday–a whirl.
Because of the age of the text and the way of writing fiction at the time, the original text version of Frankenstein may be a little overwhelming for modern readers. If you are not used to reading classic literature, I would recommend reading an abridged version. I had to skim through some of the more telling/wordier sections of the book. Below is my review.
Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley – published in 1818
In Arctic seas Captain Robert Walton picks up a weak, half-frozen man, Victor Frankenstein. Victor relays the unbelievable story of his life since the creation of his monster. Walton writes his sister about the tale, and the book takes off through the history of Victor’s education and desire to try to instill life, piecemeal fashion, from the remains of once-living human bodies.
Through alchemy, chemistry, knowledge of anatomy, and the use of electricity, Victor brings life to his monstrous creation. However, Victor becomes so appalled at what he’s made, he essentially runs away to try to forget that he has played with forces he shouldn’t have.
The monster wanders among the living, finding there is no place for him, even among the family he’s secretly adopted and claimed as his own. When his identity becomes know and the De Lacey’s see his hideous features, the monster mourns, runs away from their fright, and plans retribution on the man who created him.
Through a series of horrific events, Victor loses his brother, William, murdered at the hand of the monster, then eventually his dear friend, Henry, who had helped nurse Victor back to life. Victor becomes distraught and again curses the day he made his creation, as he narrowly escapes the hangman’s noose for Henry’s murder.
Victor tries to stitch his life back together again by engaging the young ward of their family in a promise of marriage. The monster, however, won’t free Victor from his figurative hold and demands Victor create a mate for him. Victor agrees but after starting the sordid deed, he destroys what he’s made so far, tossing the remains into the sea.
Outraged, the monster vows to kill Victor’s intended, Elizabeth, on their wedding night. Despite the fear of the monster’s intention, Victor and Elizabeth marry, but will the monster destroy Victor’s future and his new bride? Will the monster come to any semblance of a happy ending?
Captain Walton ends up hearing both sides of the story as the monster finds his way on ship, but who will survive to the end? Or will both Frankenstein and his monster end up meeting a similar fate?
Read this classic book, and find out. Frankenstein surprised me with its deep thoughts about life and how much control we do or don’t have over it, and that our ability to create resembles only a mere shadow, compared to The Creator. I saw Frankenstein as more of a tragedy than horror.
I came away from reading it with sympathy for the monster, who never gets a name, an identity, or to know what the very basic need of human life is: love. This horrific tragedy should be read by anyone who enjoys classic literature. There are many hidden gems of wisdom between the lines of this gothic tale.
What are you reading?
Do you enjoy classic lit? If so, what are your favorite titles? Leave a comment and let me know.