Happy Saturday readers! This weekend is a pretty big deal for me as after 2 weeks of self-isolation I’m a free bird! (Well, within reason). Annoyingly however the weather is miserable – its wet and very dark soooo early today so my plans for a lovely farmer’s field walk has been scrapped! We did go to a little village to see a house, grab a takeaway coffee and go for a tiny village walk but after being locked in so long I need like a 5 mile hike!
However being locked in for 2 weeks has allowed more time for reading, which is always good! Today I’m sharing with you my halloween read, which is one of the most loved and well-known gothic classics.
FRANKENSTEIN, BY MARY SHELLEY
So I saw this Special Edition in my local Waterstones a couple of times before I gave in and purchased it. I am absolutely in love with this edition! It’s a comic strip cover as you can see, but the pages are textured as if they’re old..so cute for a classic! I got Frankenstein and also picked up the entire Sherlock Holmes novels in these special editions.
I’m not really one to read Classics, but after a conversation a while ago with Jessica @stuckinthebook I was thinking more about picking one up, I just couldn’t decide which one. Then when I saw this edition and it was Halloweeen.. I thought – perfect!
So this edition has 2 forewords explaining the timeline of the writing and Mary Shelley herself. My copy is the 1831 final edition which I believe had gone through 3 edits in total. The difference between the original 1818 & final 1831 edition is quite a few in number, but mainly with regards to relationships between Frankenstein and other characters.
Having seen Frankenstein’s Monster (which most people call Frankenstein) as a big scary green headed being with a bolt through his neck for the most part, I was expecting to find a sci-fi gothic horror story about Frankenstein the scientist being afraid of this terrible uncontrollable monster he had created. I was expecting to hate the monster and feel empathy for the crazy scientist. Instead what I found inside was something quite the opposite and in actual fact, quite sad.
The writing for such the young author Shelley was at the time of writing the original, is with so much skill and ability to draw emotion from the reader; towards both Frankenstein and his monster. We begin with an understanding that Frankenstein feels the need to prove himself to his professors; he is hard working and discovers amazing ‘advancements’ in science, slowly building his being to the detriment of any kind of social life or healthy lifestyle. It’s a little vague as to how the build exactly happens..the author makes a perhaps wise choice not to include much scientific information so it’s kind of left to your own imagination. But I’m afraid after the initial understanding of Frankenstein, I was definitely feeling more of a frustration and anger towards him; for after creating the monster and giving it life, he immediately abandons it.
The monster, scared, abandoned and nameless, is born with nothing but love in his heart. He watches others and comes across a family that after a short while, he wishes to join. From hiding nearby he learns their language so that he may converse with them when the time comes, and begins doing secret little things to help them such as finding them food and firewood, much to their delight. In this way the monster is like a baby although he is built like an adult. He is young, naive and just looking to be loved. One day he decides to show himself, only to be screamed at and instantly rejected. He is heartbroken. He doesn’t understand what he has done wrong apart from love them, or why he is deemed so different to them.
‘I had never yet seen a being resembling me, or who claimed any intercourse with me. What was I?’The Monster
He simply longs for community, to feel wanted, connected and to form and understand his identity. A short while later he helps a girl who had slipped into a stream, he runs to save her life. For his kindness, he receives a gunshot to the shoulder in return. By this time the monster is so sad and full of sorrow, lonely, bitterly without love or someone to call a friend, or family or lover. Nothing he can do will overcome his appearance and he is constantly feared. Because of this, the Monster becomes angry and begins acting out in this regard, starting with a house fire and eventually, murders.
“This was then the reward of my benevolence! I had saved a human being from destruction, and, as a recompense, I now writhed under the miserable pain of a wound, which shattered the flesh and bone. The feelings of kindness and gentleness, which I had entertained but a few moments before, gave place to hellish rage and gnashing of teeth. Inflamed by pain, I vowed eternal hatred and vengeance to all mankind. But the agony of my wound overcame me; my pulses paused, and I fainted.The Monster, p143
The ‘Monster’ may be described as such, but he is actually very human, with all the emotions one would expect, love, happiness, jealousy, anger. The story may be 200 years old, but the writing and its themes are still very relevant to today – we see many stories both in the media and in our fiction books about lone wolves who after much rejection and humiliation from society decide to act against it, often in the most horrific ways. In some ways, Frankenstein the scientist is the monster’s parent, the giver of life. He abandons his ‘child’, not taking responsibility for his creation, selfishly not wanting to deal with the less than perfect being he has created. If the Monster had been loved, if he had carried a name, if he had not been socially rejected from birth, would he have acted out in the ways that he did? Unlikely. I interpreted much of the tale as part of the nature/nurture debate. Admittedly I shed a few tears over the course of the pages when the Monster was going through such emotional pain. I really just wanted to befriend him – which I definitely was not expecting. Sadly the Monster eventually believes himself to be bad, which is painful as a reader to witness as it is clear that he wasnt born that way; it is the mistreatment and abandonment and lack of any form of love or friendship that has led him to his actions.
It brings science and ethics in question – how far is too far? Is creating life in a lab ever ok? What needs to be considered in science and at what point are we manipulating nature to the level of playing God? How much is social acceptance important to Human beings and what must be done to ensure that nobody feels alone? It’s almost like a fictional case study of everything that could go wrong.
However, although the monster’s emotions are written beautifully (and many of the places they visit, the scenery is practically another character in the story) , the book isn’t without its problems. Although in some ways the emotions are very mature, in other’s the author’s youth shines through on a few occasions when writing from male perspectives, such as when men are describing one another to others by complimenting on attractive eyes and such – it’s not what I would expect. I also gather thesauruses weren’t a thing back then, as everything bad, distasteful, less than perfect, the monster, sights, negative expressions (and I mean, EVERYTHING) is ‘wretched’ which got so very tiresome and lost any power or meaning in those words very quickly in my opinion.
Apart from feeling like Boris Johnson is telling you a creepy tale with over flourished dithery complex language in most places, it’s worth sticking with although to do so can often take effort – it’s not an easy read. Thankfully at around 250 pages, it’s not too heavy in terms of pages, but I did have to stick to a chapter or so at a time as anything else was too much work.
CAN’T PUT IT DOWN RATING: 4/5
A difficult read, with a lot of floral language (too floral for some characters to use) and overuse of the word wretched. However the themes that this ‘gothic horror’ explores is beyond its time; exploring a whole host of societal and moral issues regarding science that I wouldnt have expected from writers so long ago when this science wasn’t invented yet. I’m not one to read classics but really glad I read this as it’s not at all what I expected. Halloween movies do not do it justice. This may have some gothic moments, but its really a very emotional philosophical book that raises many questions about how we treat people different to ourselves that are just as relevant today.
You can buy Frankenstein from many different outlets. My copy is a Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition priced at £12.99/ $17USD
WASHED DOWN WITH:
Well it was Halloween so of course it had to be.. PUMPKIN SPICED! I decided to go with this coffee from Beanies which was absolutely delicious and had the perfect amount of spice! I did also have some English Tea Shop Pumpkin flavoured tea (alll about the pumpkin that month!) but I have to say that the flavour wasnt the strongest so I stuck to the coffee mostly. Its perfect with just one teaspoonful and a drop of milk. It’s smooth and flavoursome without being overpowering and is just £2.50 a jar. I’m a big Beanies fan as you may tell from my previous posts!
I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend, I’m planning on working out in my spare room as the gyms are closed in England (back and shoulders today!) and then have a lovely bath and cook my other half and I a nice curry, before getting an early night. These dark days leave me exhausted!
Before I go.. which Classic is your favourite, and if you don’t have one, which one would you like to read?
Until the next Chapter