The book club title for November at the library where I work was Frankenstein! Having always wanted to reread this classic I was excited. Over the almost 40 years since my first read, and several bad movies later, a residual positive feeling about the book remained but no clear memory of the plot and characters. The book is in reality nothing like any movie ever produced, that I have seen. This is a free novel on many sites so one can read it digitally if need be, which is how I started, knocking off a few pages on my phone in appointment waiting rooms and in traffic jams. Once into the story though, it was necessary to switch to my hardcopy because I like to flip back to scenes as I read and that is easier with a real book.
It was hard to start and it got put aside several times before I got serious and finally sat down one day to make myself pay attention. As soon as I got the idea of the introductory letters from a ship captain who had rescued Victor Frankenstein who was in pursuit of his monster into the frozen north, admittedly I skipped to Frankenstein's narrative and then went back and reread those letters at the end. That worked better for me.
Many people must be disappointed when they read Shelley's piece to find out there is no description of the actual creation of the monster, no body parts sewn together, no Igor, no electrical machine, and no castle. So very little survives of the novel in movies that I am actually shocked! It's like two different stories altogether. The book is actually more of a psychological character analysis. Victor Frankenstein is an eccentric character obsessed with chemistry and biology in his youth. In his laboratory, he creates and animates a humanoid being. However, the reader is not privy to exactly how he has done so. While resembling a man, it is huge with a yellowish cast to its eyes, and something very wrong about the skin. Immediately Victor is frightened and appalled at what he has done and flees leaving the creature to fend for itself. Wracked with horror and grief Frankenstein becomes mentally and physically ill for a while turning to his best friend Henry Clerval. Victor goes home only to find his younger brother has been murdered and the nanny executed for the crime, of which Victor knows she is innocent. It is apparent that the monster has turned on Victor and his family.
The narration of the creature is fascinating, and actually much more interesting than that of Victor. Even though he never seems to have a name he does refer to himself when talking with Victor as “your Adam,” and Frankenstein refers to him as, “the creature,” “the monster,” and by the end as, “the daemon.” The creature begins his life almost as an innocent, searching for nurturing, survival, and love. Instinctively he knows he is different and he keeps himself hidden while learning how to survive. He also learns about the ways of men and acquires language from a family he observes while hiding in the woods. Once he feels brave enough he exposes himself to people with drastic consequences. Experiencing violence, he learns to be violent, and to crave vengeance on humanity, particularly upon his creator.
In the ensuing years while the monster is hiding and learning to survive. Victor has gone on to try to live a normal life. Of course, he is eventually prey to his creature. I encourage all to reread this classic. If you put yourself in the proper frame of mind you will love it once again. Our discussion group was lively and I believe everyone there had come to appreciate the novel once again.