Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is one of the most critically acclaimed and widely read works of classic horror fiction in all of literature. At over two centuries old, it remains as effective, haunting, and thought-provoking today as it has ever been, still in print and continuing to be adapted near countless times in a variety of formats. But, despite the effectively macabre and shockingly unnerving events and imagery conjured by Shelley, the tragic "monster" of the story remains possibly the most influential and memorable aspect of this tale. Let's delve into the darkness and take a look at why this is the case.
Creating Life with Death
Victor Frankenstein's monster unfortunately never really had a chance from the beginning. Quite literally created from the dead (at least in many adaptations), he is what many would perceive as an abomination from his first breath. Even if you don't judge a book by its cover, being pieced together and reanimated from the remains of the deceased (though this is not confirmed and a lot more ambiguous in the original novel) is already enough to cement the idea in anyone's mind that this is a creature born from the most perverse scientific means. As such, even modern audiences often forget that Frankenstein's monster is far from evil, often finding it difficult to shake the notion of him being the villain of the story - which he very, very arguably is not.
Nurture over Nature
Something we should all take from this story is just how much of an effect our words and actions can have on others. After all, Frankenstein's monster is not entirely menacing from the moment his undead heart begins beating, and his darkest actions (though not exactly excusable in many circumstances) are done out of the emotional toll inflicted by his treatment from others. Shunned from society, deemed a monster by his creator, Frankenstein's monster only ever truly knows fear, hatred, and loathing. Most tragic of all is it that, were Victor Frankenstein's experiment not judged on matters he had no control over (his creation and his appearance), and were he shown love and understanding in place of being despised, the events of the novel would be far, far different.
Shaped by Rejection
There are many stories that outline the result of unfairly mistreating a person for superficial reasons, ranging from bullying to more extreme examples - but Frankenstein is perhaps the most extreme example of all. Not only is the "monster" not at all evil to begin with, but it can even be argued that he is good and pure at heart until made otherwise. This includes being rejected by his father in his first moments of life, befriending a blind man only to be driven away when the man's relatives lay eyes upon him, and saving a young girl from a river only to be shot at by her guardian. When one tries again and again to integrate themselves into a society, only to be rejected at every turn and even have their kind acts met with total hostility, it's only natural to feel totally and utterly alienated - and the hatred and violence that follows is, though not preferable, certainly understandable.
Overall, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is a novel so rich and compelling in its moral lessons and dilemmas that it simply cannot be missed by any true lover of literature. It is perhaps the perfect example of how the horror genre is often unfairly judged and misunderstood due to preconceived notions (much alike the creation himself), and we strongly urge any and all who have not read this book to give it a chance... and what better time is there to do so than Halloween?
Make sure you don't miss out on the many other chilling and gripping dark tales we have in our vintage Halloween book selection this autumn too - that is, if you dare brave them!