Wow. Frankenstein! I finished this book a few days ago, but it left me with such a wave of amazement and sadness that I needed to sit with a little to process. Frankenstein’s monster is … oh gosh. The ultimate outsider? Milton’s Adam? (You gotta read Paradise Lost. It’s so incredibly evocative and talk about the ultimate rebel Satan! Talk about ambiguity! but I digress.) Thoughts about what we have created (personally, as a society) – have we overstepped our bounds (Ah, hello global warming, it seems we have)? Are we like Victor Frankenstein, hating what we created, instead of taking responsibility for what we did? As curious, striving humans, can we even help ourselves from trying? My heart hurts.
Did you know Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was a teenager? Can you imagine: a rainy summer spent on a lake in Geneva with Percy Shelley and Lord Byron reading ghost stories and talking late into the night? Frankenstein is said to have been the result of Byron asking each of them to write their own spooky story. Mary had run away with the married Shelley when she was 16, and the next few years were ones of not only personal transformation, but ostracism, very little money, and moving from place to place. She also faced rough emotional waters in the time she wrote Frankenstein: her first child died soon after birth, and Shelley’s wife committed suicide. Was Mary Shelley feeling like Frankenstein and Frankenstein’s monster in these years?
A few notes about the writing: I loved the way the structure of the book mirrors the monster. The letters, stories tacked on to stories, narrator within a narrator within a narrator, poetic digressions, etc. are like a stitched together agglomeration of disparate elements much like how Victor made his creation. It was funny how it felt sort of… Udolpho-like… in tone and language, only it was good. I had a little chuckle when she included the “modern” poet Coleridge in her book (Coleridge read Rime of the Ancient Mariner in her home when she was eight years old. Mary Shelley’s upbringing is another fascinating part of her story. Her mother was Mary Wollstonecraft and father William Godwin. Side note: why can’t there be 289349274 hours in a day so that I can learn about everything that interests me? Rhetorical question). Also, no neck bolts, no lightning, no hunchbacked assistant. Sheesh.
Artistic, transgressive, brave, in over her head, loyal to her beliefs, paid the price. In short, Mary Shelley might be my new patron saint. I am so glad to have read Frankenstein. Thank you Classics Spin – you sure got my number!