Frankenstein—initial thoughts

I often find myself feeling guilty that so many of the reviews I post in this blog, especially for more contemporary works, are middling-to-negative. But then I read something like Frankenstein and can only say, well, what do you expect?

Mary Shelley has done wonders with framing stories here, so that gets big points from me. Four matryoshka dolls: Walton, telling his story to his sister, meets Frankenstein, who relates his story, in which he learns the fate of the daemon, who passes on the tale of the de Laceys, partly as a proof of his own history—and later this proof from the de Laceys makes one of the core proofs that win over Walton.

I’m also thinking about mutability. Shelley quotes part of her future husband’s poem on the subject toward the beginning of the novel; Frankenstein makes several explicit and implicit references to the mutability of human passions and emotion; and yet when Frankenstein is practically on his death bed he exhorts:

“Oh! be men, or be more than men. Be steady to your purposes, and firm as a rock. This ice is not made of such stuff as your hearts might be; it is mutable, cannot withstand you, if you say that it shall not.”

Of course, the men, won over by this speech at first, quickly change their minds back again.

I went into this my first ever reading of the novel also not having seen any film adaptations. But I had vague ideas of the public consciousness of the story, and the notion that much of that consciousness was mistaken. Still, I was greatly surprised by a few things: the very early point of the novel at which the daemon is created; the speed/ease with which the daemon is created; and the amount of time spent in such extremely picturesque and quite sunny locales. I was also surprised by how explicit is the connection throughout to “Paradise Lost.”

I’ve mentioned I think people find Wuthering Heights not to their liking because they are expecting something very different; I imagine the same happens with Frankenstein. Judging by the negative Amazon reviews I am right. Many are of the “this was not scary” variety, many more indicate the reader just doesn’t care for Romanticism. Of course the most common complaint is of boringness, which seems strange to me considering how short the work is.

3 comments to Frankenstein—initial thoughts

  • As Pascal says, more or less, the most interesting things bore us and the most trivial things entertain us.

    The 1931 “Frankenstein”, the iconic movie, improves on Shelley in a number of ways, You’ve identified some – how the monster is created, for example. The movie makes more sense. But it’s not really an adaptation of the novel. The story is completely different.

    Have you read Charles Maturin’s “Melmoth the Wanderer” (1820)? If you like frames, that novel is almost nothing but. It’s a crazy book.

  • No, but it’s on “the list.” The list is too long.

    It’s funny, there are definitely things about the novel that don’t make a whole lot of sense. How the monster is created being one (the repeat on the Orkneys is worse), and Frankenstein’s being so dense about the whole wedding night thing for another. There were frequent complaints on Amazon about how these things made the suspension of disbelief too difficult. I did remark on those as I read but they didn’t affect the experience too negatively.

  • “Dracula” is another one of those horror-romances that is everything you think it is but isn’t at all like you think it is.