My goal is to eventually make my way through all of these must-read titles. These books have been around for so long and read by so many that another generic review from your average reader seems unnecessary. Instead, I thought it would be fun to take a look at what some of the experts have to say about the stories that paved the way for their own success… and how their perspective compares to my own reading experience. Today, I’m looking at Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
Determined to prove he can create life out of nothing, Victor Frankenstein, a brilliant but arrogant scientist, builds a human out of dead flesh. Horrified by his own creation, he abandons the creature – with deadly consequences. Alone, unloved, and hideous to behold, Frankenstein’s monster seeks vengeance on his creator, unleashing a cycle of destruction…
Gary Braver points out early in his essay that “Hollywood has unfortunately made people think that they know the novel’s plot, leaving them ignorant about its remarkable insights,” and I certainly found that this was true for me.
Whenever I go into a classic of which I have some cultural knowledge, I never really know what to expect. Sometimes it turns out that I knew most of the story, sometimes I only know the broad strokes and none of the details… and then there’s times like this, where I realize I pretty much knew nothing about the original story.
There’s so much more to Frankenstein than just mad-scientist-creates-monster. A good chunk of the novel doesn’t even focus on the creature itself; it spends much more time focusing on the man. “Victor Frankenstein is both Adam picking the forbidden fruit and God who creates life, then abandons the creature to fend for itself.”
I was pleasantly surprised, by both the depth of the story, and the fact that I didn’t have as much trouble getting through it as I thought I might. Published in 1818, this is quite a bit older than the classics I’ve read up until now. Still, once I got used to the language, it wasn’t hard to understand; reading just required a bit more concentration and more time than usual. These things are probably obvious to those who regularly read older literature, but I’m only just now starting to overcome the damage high school did to my appreciation (or lack thereof) of these books.
Braver says, “Frankenstein has a unique claim in the history of literature as the progenitor of modern science fiction, demonstrating that thrillers can be found in many genres.” While I’d still consider it tame by today’s standards for suspense, the lesson stands. With the right approach, any story has the potential to thrill.
Twenty-eight down, seventy-two to go…
Next month I’ll be discussing Clive Cussler’s Raise the Titanic.