Book Review: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I bought this classic from a book sale last year. As a writer, you learn a lot from this book. Also, as this genre has come a long way since the early 19th century, and as we are often subjected to modern-age movies, novels or series that have much gory, gothic and horrifying stories than Frankenstein one might not be able to appreciate it entirely.

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Frankenstein is a science-fiction novel belonging to the Romantic Era*, written by Mary Shelly and published in the year 1818. You can buy from any bookstore and online shop or simply download a PDF file.

Prelude:

Mary Shelly is one of the earliest writers of the science fiction genre, and Frankenstein is probably  the first book in the genre to lack magic or fanciful elements and to be based on science alone. In fact, Frankenstein is also a progenitor to the horror genre in films. There is a lot of backstory to this particular book, also a few controversies, huge pile of speculations and the book had garnered a lot of rejection in the literary circles as well as the then society in general. Surely its Wikipedia page is worth the read…

Fun Fact: Mary Shelley was only 18 years old when she wrote this book from which probably spawned the modern science fiction genre.

While you read the book, it is apparent to you why it is regarded as a Classic; it’s perfect in so many aspects and as I have emphasised earlier, original in its idea. The prose is unexpectedly beautiful for a book whose subject is gore.

Content:

Victor Frankenstein is introduced to the world of alchemy and natural science by a few theoretical books written by scientists who lived thousands of years ago. He has marvelled at the wondrous workings of nature from a young age and develops a deep awe for these old-age scientists and their methods.

In his pursuit for knowledge, our genius scientist becomes a pioneer for a lot of things. His knowledge, his capabilities increase and with that his ambition too. He remains unrestricted and forays into different fields of science like chemistry and anatomy.

While working on dead bodies he figures out the secret to life. I am leaving out many details here but ultimately Dr.Frankenstein brings his vision to life. He is about to fall in love with his capabilities when he notices the hideousness of his creation, and is revolted by it.

The monster, upon realising that he has been shunned by his creator, sets out to hurt Dr.Frankenstein in every way that he was hurt, snatch away everything  from Dr. Frankenstein that he was denied.

Characters:

Well, you already know Dr. Victor Frankenstein and his Monster. The third main character is Robert Walton. Walton is a traveller, an explorer to be precise, and it is through his letter’s to his sister that we hear the story.

There is Dr.Frankenstein’s family, his love interest- Elizabeth, his friend- Henry, and a family in a remote village which are all secondary characters that drive the sub-plots.

I love how Mary Shelly brings every character to life; she describes their mannerisms, portrays their nature. You connect with them, you like them and you feel bad when she kills them off ( oopppss!Spoiler.My bad).

In fact, the only characters that are truly unlikeable are our tragic heroes Dr.Frankenstein and the monster. This book comes from the Romantic Era; the significant characteristics of this age were, firstly,the authors dwelled more on their character’s emotions & thoughts than their actions. Secondly, they had atleast one tragic hero, a guy who through his own tiny flaw or misjudgement or tiny misfortune ends up losing every good thing. The readers are left feeling sorry for him because apparently he paid a lot more than he should have.

Our hero and anti-hero are no different. I am sorry if I sound condescending. I personally feel the concept of a tragic hero, though interesting, the portrayal is shallow and at the end of it I just think- ” Bro, you had it coming…”

I am yet to meet a tragic hero that I really sympathize for. If you happen to know any, tell me about them.

Writing:

The prose is smart, eloquent and the imagery is…you see for yourself!!

“I [roamed] through the valley. I stood beside the sources of the Arveiron, which take their rise in a glacier, that with slow pace is advancing down from the summit of the hills, to barricade the valley. The abrupt sides of vast mountains were before me; the icy wall of the glacier overhung me; a few shattered pines were scattered around; and the solemn silence of this glorious presence-chamber of imperial Nature was broken only by the brawling waves, or the fall of some vast fragment, the thunder sound of the avalanche, or the cracking reverberated along the mountains of the accumulated ice, which, through the silent working of immutable laws, was ever and anon rent and torn, as if it had been but a plaything in their hands. These sublime and magnificent scenes afforded me the greatest consolation that I was capable of receiving. They elevated me from all littleness of feeling; and although they did not remove my grief, they subdued and tranquillised it”

This is where Victor is right before he is going to confront the Monster. His state of mind and his emotions are often weaved in the writing compelling the readers to feel what the characters feel.

 

Conclusion:

It’s surprisingly refreshing. It dwells on emotions but hasn’t got an ounce of drama. And like I said earlier, it deals with gore and horror, but somehow is beautiful.