Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus
by Mary Shelley
Penguin Books Ltd.: UK
Created as a scientific experiment by an overly ambitious man, Dr, Frankenstein’s monster comes into a frightening and hostile world that rejects him on sight. Even the man who made him, who begins his assembly with the arrogance and hubris of God himself, cannot look upon his creation without feeling horror. He realizes too late that his creation is like a child and he must show it compassion and even love, which it so desperately craves. The monster tries to please his creator, but after rejection and terror consume him, he flees to the farthest corner of the earth where he will not be faced with the rejection of humanity around him.
This being, created from different parts of corpses, seeks love and finds hatred, so he instead decides to embrace it. Fuelled by his own rage at the unfairness of the world, he gradually turns towards evil. The monster is created out of fear and hate for life that is different on the outside by people too selfish and egocentric to see that he is beautiful and innocent on the inside.
I have read this book so many times – and every time I do it reveals something new. The first time I met Dr. F and his monster, I was in a high school English class so you can imagine the purposeful, methodical and academic lens through which I first saw the story. Tragic themes: Man as God, good vs. evil, human image, self-awareness, humanity and the need for affection and love, man’s struggle to find his creator, meaning of life, definitions of beauty, historical context of Victorian society, exotic locations and a journey the ends of the Earth, the emotional struggles of characters who are outcast from society, hypocrisy, religious struggle, natural selection vs. human design, morbid and gothic writing of the period, Mary Shelley as an unlikely author and the context for the story itself, and on and on and on.
The biblical themes of this story and the turn of events that bring the creator and his creation full circle are powerful and relevant in many stories throughout time. Man’s struggle to understand himself and the role he plays in the universe as both the creator and the creation is fascinating. Though it is born from monstrous origins, it begins as innocent as a newborn, with all the potential and of a baby, he is transformed into the vengeful “monster” through the lack of humanity and affection afforded by his creator. The story speaks to anyone who has ever felt like an outcast or an alien among the masses.
Who is the real monster – Dr. Frankenstein who has taken pieces from dead corpses and assembled them into a being to be brought to life, or the being himself born of death and dismemberment but with a heart as innocent as a newborn baby’s?
Information about the Author
Mary Shelley was born on August 30, 1797, in London, England. She married poet Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1816. Two years later, she published her most famous novel, Frankenstein. She wrote several other books, includingValperga (1823), The Last Man (1826), the autobiographical Lodore (1835) and the posthumously published Mathilde. Shelley died of brain cancer on February 1, 1851, in London, England. – from the author’s bio.com website.
Genre: Fiction; Gothic Fiction; Horror; Science Fiction;
Using the quote from the Monster: “I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other,” is a powerful way to look at the story of Dr. Frankenstein and ask the question: who is more humane?
Text Measures/Reading Level:
Quantitative: Lexile Level: 1170 ATOS 12.4
Interest Level: Upper Grades (9-12)
Content Area: Recommended Classic Literature; English, Religion, British Literature, Gothic studies
Always check the American Library Association website for strategies and tips in handling challenges to library materials at http://www.ala.org/bbooks/challengedmaterials/support/strategies
Author Website: http://www.biography.com/people/mary-shelley-9481497
Why This Book?
This is one of my all-time favorites and I read it at least once a year. It was that time again.