November 5, 2007


I am reading this classic novel with my son, age 14, as part of our Victorian Studies this year. This is the first time I have read this novel and I must say I have found it to be strikingly beautiful and terribly sad, all at the same time. I did read about Mary Shelley in college during a semester course on the Romantic Era. I never really wanted to read this novel, feeling as many do, a dislike (er, contempt) for horror. However, as I researched and prepared our course of study this year, I wanted us to read through the Victorian era chronologically and needed 3 novels that were written in the early part of the 18oo's. I already had two in mind: Scott's Waverly and Austen's Pride and Prejudice. I needed a third and since the fascination with horror and the genre of the grotesque actually develop during this period, I decided to give this book a try. Oh my, was I glad that I did. It is a wonderful novel, with rich and beautiful writing, and a deep and very disturbing message. With the age of cloning and medical creation on the nightly news, this novel is also aptly chosen. It fits perfectly with our overall theme of studying God, His Creation, and observing life as He created it.

If you have never read this book, consider giving it a go with your high school student. It is best read in a small group, where you can engage in plenty of discussion. Well worth the time and the effort to read (it is short - just 24 chapters).

Here is a brief synopis on this book:

FRANKENSTEIN; OR, THE MODERN PROMETHEUS (1818) The novel starts with series of letters from Robert Walton to his sister. Walton is an English Arctic explorer who spots a strange creature on a dog-sled. The exhausted Victor Frankenstein arrives, in pursuit of the creature,and while recuperating tells his story. He has been born into a wealthy Geneva family. After his mother dies of scarlet fever and becomes a student of natural philosophy and medicine. Inspired by occult philosophy and the teaching of his mentor, Waldman, he builds a creature in the semblance of a man and gives it life. It body is assembled from parts which Frankenstein has stolen from butcher shops, dissecting rooms, and charnel-houses. The creature is repeatedly rejected by those who see it, but the monster proves intelligent, and later highly articulate. Receiving no love, it becomes embittered. Frankenstein deserts his creation, who disappears. "I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body. For this I have deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I have finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart." (from Frankenstein) Frankenstein hears that his younger brother has been strangled, but Justine, his family's servant confesses the murder. However, later the monster tells that he murdered William and framed Justine. Frankenstein then agrees to make a mate for the monster so that it will not bother anyone again. A wave of remorse makes him destroy the female. The lone creature swears revenge. He kills Frankenstein's bride, Elizabeth, on their wedding night. The scientist becomes mad, but recovers and chases the creature across the world. The two confront in the Arctic wastes. Frankenstein dies. The creature describes eloquently to Walton his efforts to seek out beauty and how crime has degraded it beneath the meanest animal. "He is dead who called me into being; and when I shall be no more the very remembrance of us both will speedily vanish. I shall no longer see the sun or stars, or feel the wind play on my cheeks. Light, feeling, and sense will pass away; and in this condition must I find my happiness." The monster leaps from the ship on a ice-raft, disappearing again in the darkness. - The novel contains no supernatural elements; the creation of the monster is described in the third edition on a rational scientific basis. Frankenstein is a scientist who challenges the Creator of the world with the possibilities of modern science, but is destroyed because he cannot anticipate the outcomes of his own acts. The story has also been interpreted as an exploration of the artist's - creator's - relation to society.

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You can find this book in your local public library or through any national bookseller.

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