Friday, November 24, 2006

Frankenstein Revealed

Being in Japan, my reading of books has somewhat declined, due to the general lack of availability of books I can read. I have greatly increased my reading of newspapers, but sometimes I just want to read a book.

About a week ago, after being told of its existence by some students, I visited a bookstore near my school. It's one whole floor in a rather large building, and has two whole shelves of English books. After discounting the children's books, romance novels, and books I'd already read, the main category of books that appealed to me were classics. Basically the 19th century stuff everyone knows the name of but few people ever read except when made to in high school.

The volume I picked up is actually three books. Frankenstein, Dracula and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. I hadn't realised that Robert Louis Stevenson had written Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde until reading the introduction.

Last night I finished Frankenstein, and was really amazed at the difference between the vague ideas I'd picked up from popular culture about Frankenstein and the actual novel. I already knew that Frankenstein was the name of the professor, not the monster, but that's not the big difference.

The main misconception I had was that the creation of the monster was the main ambition of Frankenstein, and the main plot of the story. There's also the matter of the harnessing of lightning, grave robbing for parts, Igor the assistant, but these are details that flow from the main misconception.

The story actually glosses over the creation of the monster, and looks at the consequences of the creation for both the creator and created. Both are locked into a bitter cycle of reprisal, and each lets their pride cause them to be unwilling to see the others point of view. Frankenstein refuses to see the monsters humanity, and shows it in his cruelty towards it. The monster on it's part is all too ready to harm others so as to hurt Frankenstein, and kills a number of innocents while seeking its revenge against Frankenstein.

I'm still trying to decide if there's a greater moral to the story, something about being wary about one's creations, or if it's just meant to be a story to scare the reader, as is suggested in the introduction by Mary Shelley.

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1 comment:

Imani said...

I had the same experience earlier this summer. One of the things I picked up from it, whether Shelley intended it or not, was to not dehumanise and dismiss people who do reprehensible acts as "evil". Or to accept what on the surface appears to be wholly good. Humans and situations are usually more complex.

For me the novel was more of a gothic tragedy, with such a heartbreaking end. Not at all like the campy horror/sci fi I had thought it was from all the references to it in pop culture.