CBR10 BINGO: This Old Thing (BINGO!)
I wanted to title this one “Victor Frankenstein was a real d-bag” but I didn’t want to malign a 200-year-old classic like that. I know that I’m supposed to appreciate this book but I don’t. I tried several times over the years to read this and bailed early on. Aside from Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, I tend to not like Gothic or Gothic adjacent fiction. It just makes me roll my eyes. In the interest of securing that last BINGO square during the season for spookery , I choked this one down. So, now I have to write about it when I would rather block it from my memory entirely. Here we go….
You all know the basics. While the classic movie versions are different, the premise is the same. Victor Frankenstein, full of hubris, decides to “create” life. He cobbles together dead body parts, animates his “creation” and then freaks out and hides. Frankenstein’s so-called monster, confused and shunned by his creator, stomps off into the countryside. There he is greeted by the angry mob of villagers who see DIFFERENT! DANGEROUS! and regard him as a threat.
I know that this book, in part, is a cautionary tale about scientific advances that “play God”. There is also the gothic “ghost story” component to the story. I’m setting those ideas aside. This is not just about a mad scientist animating a corpse. I’m not going down that path in this review. Instead, I’m going to rant about Victor Frankenstein.
In many ways, this book thematically represents everything that is going on RIGHT NOW. What just went on a neighborhood away from me a few days ago. This book is not just about using science to play God. It’s about lack of empathy. It’s about prejudice and fear. It’s about thinking that you are superior; that your needs are more important. It’s about self-obsession that leads to paranoia. It’s about a lack of personal responsibility that turns into shunning or fearing or blaming. It’s about making someone else the scapegoat for your unhappiness or lack of success.
In Shelley’s novel, Victor Frankenstein embodies ALL of that: the prejudice, hatred, fear, paranoia, superiority AND total lack of self awareness or responsibility. From beginning to end, Victor holds on to his righteous indignation. Even when he laments about his creation, he finds a way to deflect blame to his “monster”.
The novel is told partly through a sea captain’s letters to his sister. In his letters, the captain relates the events as told to him by Victor. Even in the end, Victor Frankenstein doesn’t really take any personal responsibility for his creation. Seeking sympathy and approval, he just spins it all into a tale.