The book Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, is the story of Dr. Victor Frankenstein. Robert Walton, captain of a ship exploring the “Land of mist and snow”, rescues Dr. Frankenstein. As Frankenstein lies ill aboard the ship he tells his story to the captain, who shares the encounter in letters written to his sister. The story takes place in Europe during the 1800’s. Frankenstein is sent to the University of Ingolstadt, where he studies natural philosophy and chemistry.
He becomes obsessed with the idea of “Bestowing animation upon lifeless matter.” When his experiments are successful, rather than feeling proud, as we would expect, he is disgusted by the appearance of the “monster” he has created. The monster flees and Frankenstein believes he is free from his mistake. As the story continues, we find Frankenstein is not free of his creation. Frankenstein is called home to Geneva to find his brother has been murdered. He begins to see glimpses of the “monster“, and suspects him as the murderer. He is unable to tell anyone for fear of disbelief and his own guilt at what he has done.
An innocent woman, Justine, is sentenced to death for the murder. Frankenstein believes he is helpless to stop this. The “monster” seeks out Frankenstein, who treats him badly, but is reminded by the “monster” that he “Is thy creation, I ought to be thy Adam.” The “monster” tells him, “I was benevolent and good; misery made me a friend. Make me happy and I shall again be virtuous.” Frankenstein agrees to listen to the monster’s story. The monster describes his life, living as an animal in the woods.
He found a family, and living hidden outside their cottage, he came to learn customs and speech. As he revealed himself to the family he had come to love, they were terrified by his horrid appearance. The monster found himself alone again and lonely, as he realized he never would be welcomed among men. He says, “All men hate the wretched; how then must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things.” This leads the monster to ask Frankenstein to create a mate for him. Frankenstein, having been persuaded by the monster, agrees to his request.
Frankenstein begins the work, then changes his mind and destroys it. This enrages the monster, which threatens the life of Frankenstein’s soon to be wife. The monster does take revenge, by killing Frankenstein’s friend, and later his wife. Frankenstein sets out, seeking revenge. To track him down he travels across the Russian tundra.
He is caught in an earthquake and trapped on a piece of ice. As he watches the monster flee into the distance, he is rescued by Captain Walton. Frankenstein shares his story with the lonely captain before dying. Frankenstein failed in his quest for revenge, but asks the captain to seek vengeance. The monster does return to the ship to assure himself that Frankenstein is dead. As captain Walton listens to his side of the story, he allows him to go on his way.
This is an excellent story. The plot probably seemed impossible in the time it was written, but as cloning and robotics become a reality, aspects of this story seem more realistic. The main character, Frankenstein, depicts a mind-set we fear today; someone who is driven by knowledge to the point of carelessness and abuse of its power. Rather than an attitude of responsibility, Frankenstein tries to escape the consequences of his actions. In the end, this destroys him. The monster, is the face of nature, distorted by carelessness and poisoned by the cruelty of men. He must live in a world, which could create him, but not accept him. The observer of this story, Walton, is himself a character, frustrated at not having a formal education. He feels restricted and is able to empathize with the monster as well as with the desires of Frankenstein. He describes his feeling that, “There is something at work in my soul I do not understand.”
This novel describes my own daily...
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