Review: Frankenstein (By Mary Shelley)

Frankenstein Source: Goodreads

Frankenstein
Source: Goodreads

Length: 231 pages

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Captain Robert Walton was driven by desire to explore the unknown – to discover what lay at the northern most point of the world. But his search lead him instead to rescue a man roaming the ice caps alone, starving, and destitute. The man accepts the help that Captain Walton offers only when he learns that the ship is sailing further North. Ill and burdened by grief and pain, the stranger who introduces himself as Victor Frankenstein finally tells the Captain his tale.

The desire to go beyond that of learned men had filled Frankenstein since he was a child. It was his expansive knowledge and his thirst for scientific discovery that leads him to attempt to create life. And he succeeds – but the being he creates is too monstrous even for his eyes to bear. Thus begins the tale of Frankenstein and his monster, told by Frankenstein. He had wanted to create life, but created a monster; and the repercussions were too great. But what turned a life that was made to love towards hatred? What drove the monster to the path of tragedy, intertwining with his fate, that of Frankenstein? And why did the maker of the monster now hunt the being he’d created so that he could take away the life he’d bestowed?

My take:

Frankenstein is a classic, both in the literal and figurative senses. And it is definitely one of those classics that you should not miss. Frankenstein falls into that category of books that you just have to read if you’re a book lover. You may hate it, you may love it, but you can’t miss it. Now that that is out there, this review will help you to know just what to expect from the book.

First, the negatives – the only reason I would give Frankenstein a 4 instead of a 4.5 or 5 star rating is because I place a lot of weight on the ability of a book to grab onto you and not let go. Frankenstein is definitely interesting and engaging, but only when you read it. I did not feel this growing sense of anxiety when I put the book away, telling me to go read some more. So, although it’s an interesting read and makes you want to know what happens next, it doesn’t pull you in and keep you there until it’s over. You can take long breaks and not mind not reading, which is the only thing that I thought was lacking.

Next, the positives – everything else! The story is pretty amazing and delves into character beautifully. You will hate or love the characters and you will feel for them. That is, in fact, one of the best parts of the book. The language is not as easy going as you may be used to, especially if you read few classics. It can be slightly cumbersome if you’re not in the mood for it; but I found it to be quite charming. It’s all written from the perspective of Frankenstein, except for the beginning and end, but it has excellent narration and conversation. The best part of the writing is the dialogue, which is wonderfully done, with each sentence having immense impact.

One thing about the book is that, in spite of being known as a horror, it isn’t really scary. It definitely has its gory and cold blooded moments, but nothing that would make you cringe in fear. Yet, Shelley’s ability to make you associate with the characters is pretty amazing and that itself is reason enough to give this book a shot.

Simply put, everyone needs to read Frankenstein. If you’re not a fan of classics, then you may need some time to prepare for the book, but you should definitely invest in that time. Even though I knew the story (almost everyone knows some bit of it!), and although it took me a while to read it, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. With so many adaptations of the book, I think everyone should know the real story – and when it’s an enjoyable one like Frankenstein, why miss out?

My rant:

If you’ve not read the book or seen any movie adaptations or have no clue about the basic story, then you should probably stop reading this post now. But, if you’ve read the book, or seen the movie, or simply don’t care about spoilers, then read on without hesitation as I tell you what I really loved about the book, and what I absolutely hated, so that you can rant with me too.

The thing I really disliked in Frankenstein was… Frankenstein. I mean, come on! The guy is a self pitying, selfish, un-courageous person who spends most of the book saying ‘me, myself, and I’. Sure, he’s got problems – he did create a monster that can, and wants to, kill people. But instead of doing something about it, he just goes on and on about how he wants to do something and yet, cannot. I spent most of the book wanting to smack some sense into him. But by the end, even though you don’t empathize with him greatly, you do feel slightly bad for him.

Then there is the monster himself. Oddly enough, even with all his horrendous acts, I felt bad for the creature. Abandoned by his own maker, shunned by society, and hated at first sight, the monster turns from a creature who wants only to love into a creature who can only hate. With every heinous act, he feels remorse and a deeper sense of wanting to belong; because that is all he ever wants – just to belong, to have someone see him for what he really is instead of what he looks like.

At the very end of it, the monster seems to be nothing but extremely human. Like a human being, he wants acceptance, he craves company, and he desires understanding. Unable to receive any of that, he grudgingly courts anger which helps him survive the great disregard he receives from everyone. He fights his own anger and hatred, tries to remain true to the self that is caring and warm, and yet finds himself losing, while hating that loss. And as far as the human creator is concerned – he seems to be nothing but a selfish monster. He created life for his pleasure, and shunned it when it was too ugly. The result of his inability to create beauty was borne by the one he created, while he refused to muster the courage to change the fate of the one he’d brought to life, a fate that his actions wrote in the first place.

Shelley’s exceptional ability to create amazing characters is obvious in the fact that you will hate or love the ones in the story. That is what made me finally wonder – who was the real monster?

What did you think of Frankenstein? Share your thoughts, and even rants, in the comments below. I’d love to hear what you felt for the monster the world has loved to hate!

– Rishika

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