Thursday, June 2, 2016
FRANKENSTEIN by MARY SHELLEY
First published in 1818, Mary Shelley's masterpiece has been (often badly) reinterpreted by filmmakers, other writers, comic book publishers and so on. Victor Frankenstein creates a living creature (the details are vague) and is so horrified by it and what he's done that he simply runs off, abandoning it, leaving the monster (who feels like an ordinary human abandoned by God) to fend for himself. The whole business with the monster having a defective brain was invented by the movies. The monster is shunned everywhere he goes, but learns language and mores by observing a family with a blind father. When he reveals himself at last, he is brutally attacked by the blind man's son. Furious at Victor for creating him and causing so much anguish, he lashes out, murdering his creator's loved ones. He importunes Victor to make him a mate; the scientist initially complies but can't go through with it, initiating another killing spree. (Victor is depicted as a morally weak man. He knows that his creation is responsible for the death of his little brother, William, but allows a young woman to be hanged for the offense. While people may have had trouble believing his tale of a monster, surely he could have told everyone that he had a disfigured enemy who was out to get him and his loved ones.) Modern-day readers may be put off by Shelley's epistolary approach and writing style (the book doesn't really get started until after a series of letters from a ship's captain -- who discovers Victor in the Arctic -- to his sister), but the book is nevertheless absorbing and well-done, and emerges as a fascinating study of ultimate loneliness. Film versions include the 1931 Frankenstein and such Hammer films as Horror of Frankenstein.
Verdict: A certified classic. ****.