What images come to your mind when you read or hear the word “Frankenstein”? A scary monster, crazy experiments, a lab with fuzzy light, a mad scientist, horror slow-motion scenes?
Well, let me tell you this is NOT the image you get when reading the book written by Mary Shelley. “Frankenstein” was one of the most surprising books I’ve read lately! When I started reading it I had low expectations and certain pre-defined beliefs about it … and all were proven to be wrong. What convinced me to give it a try was the online course How to Read a Novel, where “Frankenstein” was given example for the framed narratives concept.
In a nutshell, the book tells the story of Frankenstein, a young and ambitious scientist of the 18th century who manages to give life to a creature, what is called “a monster”. Quite quickly the creature escapes, and this leads to a series of tragic events, as you might imagine.
What I found interesting was that Shelley and her close friends were interested in mystic ideas, and at some point (in 1814) they decided to have a competition to see who could write the best horror story. It is said that Shelley had a dream (or nightmare!?) about a scientist who managed to create life and was terrified by his results. This is how the idea of writing “Frankenstein” was born.
I found “Frankenstein” a very readable book for my taste – clear language, enough action to keep you engaged, and not as many science-fiction elements as I expected 🙂 There are two main aspects that fascinated me while reading the book: the narration structure and the creation metaphor. Let me explain each one of them.
“Frankenstein” has a very interesting narration structure, as it uses the concept called “narrative frames“. On the outer frame, we have the story of Captain Walton, who writes letters to his sister from the voyage he embarked on. When Captain Walton meets Frankenstein, the middle frame appears and we find out his story. Then at some point the inner frame starts, when we get the Creature’s point of view! These frames do not only bring complexity to the story but also create a sense of doubt for the reader, as they contradict each other at times.
From my point of view, the story of Frankenstein can be seen a metaphor for any creator and the complicated feelings (s)he might have towards his/her creation. When we think about the creators of different inventions that were maybe used for a different and more dangerous purpose than the one intended – should they be considered accountable for the undesired consequences, even if they were not aware of the “potential” of their creations? How do inventors cope with feelings of guilt and responsibility, and what they feel towards their creations?
To conclude, I think “Frankenstein” was one of the classics I enjoyed reading the most. Even though it was published 200 years ago, in 1818, it can still be interpreted as a very up-to-date story. No wonder it has so many movies, plays, and TV series adaptations!
Did you read “Frankenstein”? What did you like the most about it?
‘Till next time … happy reading!