I suppose I approached this one with popular culture’s image of Frankenstein’s monster – a monster with an angular, boxy physique, greyish in complexion and bearing a countenance of idiocy and vacant maliciousness in equal measures while he terrorizes the people of some unsuspecting town. I also had in my mind the image of Frankenstein himself being a crazed mad-man, clad in a white lab coat while laughing manically as his horrific creation gets more and more out of control. In reality, it was almost nothing like this.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein had been on my reading list for quite some time, and as I had some reading time to kill over the weekend, I decided to give it a go. I really enjoyed this read; I’ve always been a fan of the classics, but apart from reading R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps series when I was younger, horror has never really been a genre I’ve approached. I’ll admit I was a little disappointed to discover that the infamous Frankenstein’s monster wasn’t as terrifying as my mind had imagined him to be. I suppose what was considered horror in the early 19th century was very different to today’s idea of it, but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been expecting something a bit more dramatic.
Still, it is a really enjoyable read. It’s fast-paced, interesting and easy to get into and stick with. If I hadn’t been working all weekend I could have easily finished it in a day, a novelty that hasn’t been afforded to me in quite some time, what with me reading The Wheel of Time series and all. I think a lot of people are put off reading the classics because of the writing style – it can seem aloof and strange if you’re not used to it, but I would say that Shelley’s novel is a good place to start. The language isn’t excessively flowery, and the shorter chapters make it easier to read through. As a reader it can bother me at times if the chapters in a book are overly long. I normally find that I will read less of a novel in one sitting if its chapters are excessively long. I lose focus quicker, whereas if they’re shorter I would be more inclined to read on. I am the type of reader that is driven on by chapter endings, even if they don’t end on a cliff hanger, and I believe many people would feel this way.
I grew to dislike the character of Frankenstein pretty quickly. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a well written protagonist, but I just didn’t like him. I doubt that was Shelley’s intentions; I imagine she wanted the reader to feel pity and a grudging, fearful respect for the genius of the creator, but I didn’t feel this at all really. He comes across as weak – I’ve never known a character to faint so much in all my life, and there’s a sort of cruelty to him that I was expecting from his creation alone. He’s irresponsible, neglectful and selfish. He flies into situations without considering the consequences, and he’s blind to what’s right there in front of him.
On the flipside of the coin, I found myself rooting for the monster from the get-go. I immediately felt sympathy for the creature. He has life forced upon him, and he’s then forced to figure out how to cope with such a gift all by himself. And yet for having such a primitive and lonely upbringing, he’s is far more relatable to me than Frankenstein ever was. I thought he was a very likeable character; yes, he does some less than savoury things throughout the novel, but his actions are spurned on by desperation and misunderstanding. There is a gentleness to him, and an aching loneliness that I think all people could relate to, or at least fear relating to. He’s scared, unwanted and has his affections spurned at every turn.
Frankenstein was a great novel to read. It has that balance of being an enjoyable, relatively light story, while making the reader question who the real antagonist is. It’s philosophical and emotional, and in today’s world especially, makes you question just how far we should go with science.