What makes a classic? Frankenstein
Okay, did I mention I would be blogging annually? No? My bad. We're coming up on a year since the last post on this series and though I have continued reading classics let's just say the list is now officially making itself up as I go and that I've determined not to disappear again...here goes.
Perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is how the idea of Frankenstein being the name of the monster made its way into pop culture. It is not a spoiler to say that this belief is incorrect. The creature is unnamed and it is his maker who bears the name Victor Frankenstein. Whether this is a misunderstanding or an unintentional expression of the novel's essence, I leave up to you.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Your copy of this novel might look small. Don't be fooled. It's a massive work between the moral questions and the fact that it is neither an easy nor a fast read. I'll admit I struggled to get through it but it is such a rich experience that I am glad to have made it once even if once is enough.
So what is this big theme that makes it worthwhile?
Well, returning to its expression in pop culture, one aspect of this novel is about monsters. Yes, plural.
It is full of characters representing the depths of human feeling, virtue, and beauty, but these attributes often do not survive the thirst for power, fame, vengeance. Even the desires for knowledge, contentment, and companionship are sometimes corrupted by the resentment that occurs when they are not attained or when they are attained and subsequently abused.
It is a story of broken humanity and how a creature so exquisite can become monstrous with cruelty, pain, and greed, sometimes manifested in the outside world, sometimes rising up from within.
Those whose humanity is destroyed by events and choices and bitterness in the novel seek a way back to the faculties for compassion and joy they once possessed, but some are unable to do so.
Why are they destroyed and why don't they return? What part of their corruption is out of their control? What part is within it? This is just a start to the questions this novel will challenge you with as the reader.
It is a story of ambition and how much sacrifice is too much for its sake. Of what artists and creators owe their creation. Of the limits of science and whether there are limits whether physical or ethical. Of what creates prejudice. Of whether there is free will. Of when there are consequences to becoming blind to our weaknesses and taking no responsibility for our actions.
It is a deeply human story about losing one's humanity and trying to find it again.
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This is one of those reads that I found more valuable than enjoyable, and while I tried to tackle it in a short amount of time, deceived by how small the physical copy was, I would recommend considering dipping in and out of the work, taking your time, reading other things, coming back.
It's as much a philosophical piece as it is a work of fiction and I feel like half the battle with it is expectation and what you hope to gain from it. I hope this post has provided you with a sense of where to start and that if you decide to tackle this work, which I recommend for anyone eager to take on big questions, that you enjoy the journey.