I thought I might know what to expect from this book because like most people, I already had a preconceived notion of the story from popular culture. The picture of the monster that most often comes to mind is an image from an early 1930s movie that is ingrained in my memory. It’s nothing like the description in the book of an articulate yet foreboding creature who has no problem expressing his feelings and innermost desires. The village people run at the sight of him, which is an exhausting recurrence in popular culture, but makes more sense in the book because of how Mary Shelley describes the grotesque nature of his existence. I couldn’t help make these comparisons, but for the most part, the plot and actions of the monster were not what I expected.
The story wasn’t about the monster as much as it was about the monster’s creator, Victor Frankenstein. Frankenstein struggles with the idea of having created the monster and the destruction the monster has caused in his life and to the well-being of his family. The monster seeks out Frankenstein on a mountain and tells him a story about what transpired from the time he left the operating table after he was created. This is where the story gets all sorts of crazy because the monster makes demands of his creator, Frankenstein, to make another monster, a woman, who can share in his sorrows and the painful struggle of being cast out from society.
Prior to this, the monster tries to get Frankenstein to empathize with him by telling him a story about the village people who didn’t accept him, and how the sadness of being an outcast overwhelmed him. It made me sad, but it didn’t have much affect on Frankenstein’s ability to sympathize with him. He comes across as callous and cold toward the monster’s feelings, which makes complete sense after the monster reveals that he murdered a member of Frankenstein’s family.
The murders had to be the most unexpected part of the story. I don’t recall pop-culture-Frankenstein ever murdering people. Maybe trying to attack people while moving slow with his arms outstretched, but never actually hurting anyone. I was appalled. I tried to root for him. I wanted to root for him, but once you murder someone, you can’t really come back from that. The book monster wasn’t the slow laboring figure either and was fast. When he gets done telling his story and making demands to Frankenstein in chapter 17, Frankenstein remarks at the speed of the monster, “I saw him descend the mountain with greater speed than the flight of an eagle, and quickly lost among the undulations of the sea of ice.” Not at all slow from this description, but super fast. Forrest Gump fast.
Overall, I was satisfied with how the plot unfolds and how the monster wants his creator to suffer as he has suffered. The monster is truly a unique villain with a sinister plot, but I’m not sure if I would classify the genre of this book as horror. It comes across more as science-fiction. The story can be interpreted, among many interpretations, as a warning about using science to create something that is out of our control or can’t be undone.
The main character is fallible, obsessed with chemistry, and brings to life a human being that is beyond his control. The monster is not always bad but becomes vengeful when he finds that even though he shares the human experience, he is not wanted because of his formidable appearance, not even by his creator.
We had listened to a podcast on a recent road trip about the author, Mary Shelley, and the unique circumstances that led her to write Frankenstein, which ultimately spurred my interest in reading the book. (You’re Dead To Me – Mary Shelley). Worth the listen if you have an interest in Frankenstein or Mary Shelley and her gothic lifestyle and excentric choice of friends.