Hollywood can’t get Frankenstein right. We all grew up thinking that the Frankenstein monster was this green, groaning thing was stupid and aimlessly looking for people to murder. The reason why Hollywood can’t get it right is because while people do die in the book, it’s not a traditional horror novel. Instead, it’s a quiet study of what makes us human and what happens when our basic needs aren’t met. It’s a gentle argument that we are shaped into the people we are rather than born bad or good. It’s a really good book…for the most part.
So one of Romantic lit’s basic hallmarks is to talk about nature and the restorative power of nature. So any time that Victor feels sad about creating a monster and not caring for him, he runs off to a glacier or the woods and feels better. YAY! Good for you Victor. These chapters are my least favorite. They’re very descriptive and well written but because I despise Victor so much I just get more angry that he’s feeling so much better after a nice mountain jaunt. Sadly, hours after being brought to life, was abandoned and never had someone to show him what he was or to help him understand the world. The Monster/ Creature never gets a name (because his creator was too freaked out to think about him as anything other than monster or creature), but through the clandestine observation of a loving family he learns what it means to be human. He learns to read, to think, to see what he’s missing in life (love, connections, family) and he understands both sides of humanity–our great capacity to love and learn, and our equally great (but tragic) capacity to destroy what we fear, envy or don’t understand.
Countless times the monster attempts to show his worth and good heart to humanity and each time he is struck down (either literally or metaphorically). Eventually, he wants to leave the world of humans and remain in isolation. He asks Victor for a mate, a companion. Victor has the opportunity to redeem himself and be the “father” or even the “God” that the creature so desperately desires. Victor’s choice, sets the rest of the book into motion because it causes the monster to determine if he is to be either good (like Adam) or evil (like Lucifer). The ending causes me to weep every year (to the chagrin of my students) but it also opens up great conversations with them about why we fear/taunt/neglect and ostracize those who are different than us. The discussion is always good and I always feel like when they leave the room they might be slightly better than when they came in…that maybe they understand that their actions have a ripple effect in the world.
To Frankenstein continues to hold relevance for me, maybe moreso today because it’s our responsibility to shepherd each other in this world. There should be no one treated as “other”, but recognized for the beauty within each of us. For the monster, it was his great ability to think and learn…his desire to be connected to the world. All of us want to be accepted and loved. Let’s love each other a little more, please.