Monday, October 21, 2013

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein!  Monster or Just Misunderstood? (Creepy Week)

I always knew Frankenstein as a monster created by some crazed scientist and his creepy little sidekick, Igor. He’s a big bumbling oaf with stiff joints and a couple bolts in his neck who goes on a vicious killing spree. Fact or fiction?  There was only one way to find out.

I finally read the classic novel, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and today I’m here to set the record straight.  Here is the full synopsis. A lot happens in this book, and I tried to keep it brief but as you can see it didn’t work out that way. Spoiler alert! Do not read this if you don’t want to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth…..all the way to the bitter end.

The story begins with a giant man on a dog sled speeding across the ice at the North Pole.  Later, a crew on a ship rescues a half dead man, who we find out is Victor Frankenstein, the man who was pursuing the giant.  Victor then reveals the long sordid truth to the captain.

The nameless giant is the invention of Victor Frankenstein who took two years piecing this man together from human body parts, sort of like a living quilt.  Like any proud parent, Victor is ecstatic at the life he has produced.  But when he looks at his big, bouncing bundle of skin, bones, and cadaverous by-products, he doesn’t shout out “It’s alive!” as we’ve been conditioned to understand. It was more like “Holy mother of God!  It’s hideous!”—well something along those lines.  Anyway, Victor takes a much-needed parental pause usually reserved for the teenage years and leaves to clear his head. Poor monster, rejected and abandoned by his papa, decides to find greener pastures.

First stop is a village where the eight-foot oddity is immediately pelted with big rocks and run out of town.  Not a welcoming beginning. Shunned and stoned (and not the snack-craving kind of stoned), the monster realizes that he will never be accepted in society.  So, he runs away into mountains, where he lives a clandestine existence in a shack attached to a run-down cottage.  For a year, he watches the family in the cottage through some holes in the wall. The monster takes this opportunity to learn their language.  Unknowingly, they teach him to speak and he feels a real connection to the strangers who don’t know he exists.  And in his longing to belong, to be part of a real family, he decides to take a chance and reveal himself.  Unfortunately, our monster does not get the reception he was hoping for.  The open arms he was expecting to embrace him were replaced with wildly flinging arms of fury that beat the crap out of him. Then they put their legs to work and ran in fear. Needless to say, this disheartens the monster and he realizes no human will ever accept him.  Ever!  He’s infuriated, and in his rage he burns down their house.  Now he is just an angry monster.

Back in Ingolstadt, Victor is recovering from an illness when he learns of the death of his 5-year-old brother, William. Little William was found strangled.  The public accuses Justine, the nanny, because William’s necklace was found in her pocket, and they probably had no butler to blame.  She is found guilty by the court, and executed by hanging. Victor has an inkling that it wasn’t Justine, but his own monster who killed William—and he was right. 

Monster finally finds Victor and explains how he had actually not killed William intentionally.  He just wanted a friend, but little William wanted nothing to do with him.  He screamed and screamed, which made the sensitive monster kind of nervous and he grabbed his throat to silence him.  He was silent, alright.  The monster accidentally had strangled William’s little neck. Monster then confesses to setting Justine up for the crime. 

Finally, the monster tells Victor in no uncertain terms that Victor needs to make him a woman so that he can have some kind of companionship. Victor gave him his miserable life but no one will have anything to do with him.  Monster is lonely on this big planet.  Victor has to make it up to him.  The way the monster sees it, a woman would be just the ticket, and in exchange, the monster promises to leave to a remote place and stop killing.

Victor knows this guy is serious, so he travels with his friend, Henry Clerval, to create the female monster and stop the madness.  Victor toils away and makes great strides, but then his conscience flares up like an itchy rash and he realizes he can’t go through with it.  Two wrongs don’t make a right type of thing.  He destroys the woman. 

What bad timing, because that’s when the monster pays him a visit to see his progress. When he sees that Victor destroyed his bride, his future, his only chance for happiness, I don’t have to tell you that he was really pissed off. Monster vows revenge. He promises he will turn up on Victor’s wedding night—and we all know, that won’t be good. To prove he’s not kidding around, the bitter monster strangles, Henry Clerval.  Now three people are dead, directly or indirectly because of the monster:  William, Justine, and Henry.

After being accused, imprisoned then acquitted for Henry’s death, Victor goes on with his life.  At first he hems and haws and tries to put off the wedding, but after awhile he finally takes the plunge and marries Elizabeth, whom he has known all his life.  (Victor’s mother, God rest
her soul, and father had adopted her when she was small.) The happy couple plans to honeymoon in a romantic hotel overlooking Lake Como, a beautiful place with beautiful neighbors like George Clooney.

Alas, the wedding night proves to be as tragic as the monster had warned.  Instead of killing Victor, however, he kills Elizabeth. Victor is beside himself.  He races back to Geneva to see if the rest of his remaining family, meaning his dad and younger brother, Ernest, are ok.  He tells his dad what happened to Elizabeth.  Having raised her as his own daughter, poor old dad is heart-broken and dies shortly thereafter.  Monster is turning into a serial killer. The death toll now rings at five:  William, Justine, Henry, Elizabeth, and Father Frankenstein (Alphonse to his friends).

This leaves Victor no choice but to seek out and kill the monster himself. He realizes it doesn’t matter what happens to him, he has to stop the killing machine.  So, he chases him all over the continent until he ends up at the North Pole

That’s where we first came in on the story. The crew on a ship had actually seen a giant man on a sled zipping across the ice like a bat out of hell.  It was hours later that they spotted Victor.  Here was a half-frozen, half-starved man sliding around the desolate ice on a make-shift craft. 

The captain and his crew rescue Victor from a certain icy death. Victor tells his incredible story and the captain resolves to take up the cause and begins his search for the monster. Captain Schettino, uh, I mean Captain Walton puts the entire crew in danger continuing to icebound places they have no business being.  Finally, he decides enough is enough. He has to save his crew, and to Victor’s dismay, the captain turns the ship around.  Victor still has not recovered from his frozen escapade.  In fact, he’s fading fast.  With no more fight left in him, Victor gives up the ghost and passes away, another indirect victim of the monster. Final death count, six.

Suddenly, the captain hears an awful sound coming from Victor’s cabin and runs to find the monster wailing over Victor’s body.  In a long and eloquent speech, the monster tells his side of the story and how he knows he cannot live this life anymore.  With dramatic flare, he vows to find a place in this icy hell hole and burn himself to death on a pyre. Having said that, he jumps out of the window onto his raft and drifts away into the darkness.

The End.

Now you know.  Frankenstein is not the monster’s first name, he was no dummy, and there was no Igor. So, was Frankenstein's creation a true monster or just misunderstood?  The answer, of course, is both.

On a side note, what you may not know is that Mary Shelley, the author, was only 19 years old when she wrote this horror story. She preceded the ranks of young authors like Carson McCullers who wrote The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter at 23 and  S.E. Hinton who wrote The Outsiders  when she was just 16 years old. Interestingly, Mary Shelley fell in love and ran away with the already married Percy Shelley, who completed a novel at the young age of 18.  After the suicide of his wife, Percy and Mary finally married. That same year they spent a summer in Switzerland where Mary first conceived the story of Frankenstein. It is reported that Mary claimed on a June night in 1816 the moon shone through her window and her imagination took her away.  She
Mary Shelley's handwritten edition of Frankenstein (Chapter 16)
furiously scribbled out Frankenstein in a “waking dream.”

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  You don’t have to go far to read classics.  Many are posted free online.  Click on the link to view the free full-version pdf of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley:

Happy reading,  


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  1. Thank you so much for your amazing reviews!!! I believe your reviews might be better then the books at times. In this case I say "YES"! I so love your witty writing. You make me laugh out loud! All the time and effort you put into your reviews are awesome! I have never read Frankenstein but I believe I prefer your version of the story. Thank you for another GREAT review!

  2. I had to reread Frankenstein Mary Shelley for class. Still one of my all time favorite classics

    1. It's a good one! I recently read Dracula, which I thought would be too gory but I loved that one too. :)