Monday, 17 September 2001

Frankenstein

Listening to:

Elgar, Falstaff—symphonic study.

Just read:

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein. (Complete text (~450KB))

This is one of those books that you expect you know all about just because it’s been the basis for so many films, stories and whatever else. Of course, you know that Frankenstein is the name of the mad scientist that created the monster, not the monster itself. You also probably know that the monster's attitude to life is initially not a hostile one, and you know he suffers from being misunderstood by the world around him.

Well, I knew all that anyway, but it was good to sit down and actually read it. Now that I have, I’m trying to articulate my reaction to it. It’s not a very long book, and the plot is not at all complicated. A fair bit of it was also quite predictable, particularly given the prior knowledge I had of it. The characters are also quite flat, and unbelievable, with the honourable exception of the monster himself. But then, these things don't really matter if you're willing to read the book for its message. I’d say that there are two major themes in Frankenstein. The first is anti-science, the idea that there are some things which should be left well alone, no matter the intellectual curiosity which leads to investigating them. The second, more significant, and to me, more acceptable theme is comment about the hostility and willed ignorance with which the world greets people who are superficially different from the norm.

I enjoyed reading Frankenstein. It has its share of tedious prose and could be a deal shorter than it is, but the basic plot is a good one, the story is told well, the monster is sympathetic, and there are interesting questions raised about the relationship between creators (parents) and offspring.

To read next:

James Joyce, Ulysses. This will take me a good long while to read, I’m sure.

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