Books read in January
I’m still taking it easy. Rather than force myself to read, and stress myself into apathy again, I’m taking small steps. Don’t worry though, I’m getting better. Just careful not to overdo it.
Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has entered popular culture like few other stories of its time. There have been so many parodies, adaptations, rewrites and analyses. Personally, I am very into the story, but I have to admit to never reading it. I’ve only seen adaptations and analyses.
Frankenstein is the story of the young genius Victor Frankenstein who discovers the secret to resurrecting the dead. And so he cobbles together, from different sources, the body of a man. Then he brings that body to life, which horrifies him so much that he cannot even face his own creation. When he sees the Creature, a grotesque imitation of humanity, he flees and abandons it.
And so the Creature, confused and innocent, is all alone in the world. It is so physically repulsive that all who have eyes to see runs before it.
All of this mostly agrees with what I expected from the story. However, it does also take an unexpected turn that I was not expecting as I haven’t seen this in any of the works referencing it. The Creature becomes educated. It learns to speak and read. It is not the brainless monster that it is so often made out to be. Frankenstein has endless chapters of the Creature recounting its experiences in great detail, in first person.
He is not a metaphor for those who have been made voiceless by society, whatever else you might read him as. Marginalised on account of appearance… yeah sure, all of those things. But not voiceless. Trust me, you might wish him to be voiceless when you’re reading the middle of the book… or at least wish him to talk a little faster.
That being said, Frankenstein is not a book that could likely have been written today. It is firmly based on the Romantic ideal that humans are born innocent but corrupted by the world, while we do tend to believe the opposite of each other these days, don’t we?
Victor Frankenstein’s rejection of and lack of compassion for his creation is his own undoing. His fall from grace. It is here where the subtitle the Modern Prometheus becomes important. In Greek Mythology, Prometheus stole fire from the gods themselves and gave it to humankind. His punishment, given by Zeus, for forever changing humankind in this way, was to be chained hand and foot to a rock in the Underworld and to have an eagle peck away at his liver all day long. At night the eagle would fly away and Prometheus’s liver would regenerate itself. Then, in the morning, the eagle would come again and the whole cycle repeats. This endless torture is akin to Frankenstein’s life after angering the Creature. His brilliant, life-changing creation turns on him and he becomes a hunted man with a Monster hell-bent upon revenge, destroying Frankenstein’s heart and soul, over and over.
This passage refers to the fallen Frankenstein:
Even broken in spirit as he is, no one can feel more deeply than he does the beauties of nature. The starry sky, the sea, and every sight afforded by these wonderful regions seem still to have the power of elevating his soul from earth. Such a man has a double existence: he may suffer misery and be overwhelmed by disappointments, yet when he has retired into himself, he will be like a celestial spirit that has a halo around him, within whose circle no grief or folly ventures.
Yep, this is clearly not a modern novel, but it is sure an enduring one.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Hope you enjoyed this. I tried to go a bit more in-depth with reviewing than usual. Well, I had the space, with only one book for the whole month.
Have a great day!