At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.
Frankenstein, an instant bestseller and an important ancestor of both the horror and science fiction genres, not only tells a terrifying story, but also raises profound, disturbing questions about the very nature of life and the place of humankind within the cosmos: What does it mean to be human? What responsibilities do we have to each other? How far can we go in tampering with Nature? In our age, filled with news of organ donation genetic engineering, and bio-terrorism, these questions are more relevant than ever.
I’ve been taking part in the 2016 Classics Challenge, hosted by Stacey of The Pretty Books. So far this year I’ve read Dracula, The Devil’s Elixirs, Uncle Silas and (part of) the Lovecraft anthology Great Tales of Horror. This month, I reread Frankenstein.
I’m using the Classics Challenge to explore Gothic classics — read more about that here.
WHEN I discovered this classic
I first read Frankenstein when I was a teenager. I was a bit of a geek, and used to spend my book gift vouchers (from winning class prizes) on £1 Penguin classics. Frankenstein was one of the first I bought and read.
WHY I chose to read it
Frankenstein is a true Gothic classic, and since it’s ten years or more since I last read it I thought it time for a reread. I also remembered it being really enjoyable and quite short — something I needed after my two months reading H.P. Lovecraft!
WHAT makes it a classic?
Frankenstein has a pretty incredible origin story. The eighteen-year-old Mary Shelley, daughter of William Godwin and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, came up with the idea for the novel during a ghost story telling session with Byron, Shelley and Polidori. That’s a lot of big-name authors in one sentence!
The story itself is incredibly entertaining, but it’s the moral issues the novel raises that makes it so fascinating. Frankenstein’s monster isn’t the bumbling, slow-minded creature of some films, but a highly intelligent, philosophical, emotional being. He might look like a monster, but he’s ‘born’ good — it’s only through the rejection of his creator and mankind in general, and the realisation that he has to suffer life alone, that turns him to revenge. It’s a powerful exploration of the responsibilities of creation, and the ethics of playing God in science and medicine.
WHAT I thought of this classic
I’ve always loved Frankenstein, and still love it since rereading. Because it’s quite short and fast-paced, it’s an easy read and a good choice if you’re looking for a classic that’s not too strenuous.
WILL it stay a classic?
WHO I’d recommend it to
Anyone really — it’s such a good book. But especially readers interested in Gothic or horror, or anyone who fancies getting their teeth stuck into a good moral conundrum.
For July’s classic, I’ll be re-reading The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg.
Have you read Frankenstein? What did you think?