“Shelley; or, The Mother of Science Fiction” A Review

It has been two hundred years since Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley published her famous story “Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus,” however it is often surprising how different people’s perceptions of the story are. From the fact that the monster isn’t named Frankenstein and could talk quite eloquently, to how Victor Frankenstein wasn’t a doctor, many details of the original story have been distorted by countless remakes. So, I decided to take a look at the original and find out what is at the roots of this horrific tale.

Frankenstein is a very interesting discussion of scientific license and a warning of deadly consequences of improper use. Consider that this came before the infamous “Manhattan Project,” where nuclear weapons were developed. Similar to how Victor is horrified by his creation, when the researcher Julius Oppenheimer saw the first atomic test he thought of this quote “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

This book is also beautifully written, with complex sentences and interesting vocabulary throughout. This format makes the book have a slow but building pace, allowing tension to gradually build up until the finale. However, it wouldn’t be honest of me if I didn’t mention my feeling towards the structure of the book. It opens and closes from the perspective of an arctic explorer who complains about not being able to meet any friends. I felt like this part was mostly just a framing device that ultimately doesn’t matter, because eventually Victor shows up and starts narrating the story from his perspective. Then, within that narrative, the monster shows up ands starts telling the story from his perspective. Lastly, the monster overhears some people in a cottage telling a story from their perspective. I just feel like all this complicated structure add only confusion and annoyance to my reading and nothing to the plot.

Throughout the novel, little sympathy seems to be given to the monster, and he is characterized as almost pure evil. Listen to this quote of the monster after he meets a Victor’s young brother William and finds out the two are related, “Frankenstein! you belong then to my enemy―to him towards whom I have sworn eternal revenge; you shall be my first victim”(Shelley 139). Many supervillains struggle to sound that evil on a daily basis. I kid, but I resent the monster’s characterization mainly because I see him more as a victimized child.

My greatest annoyance throughout the novel was my lack of sympathy for Victor himself. It is clear that Victor is intended to be the tragic protagonist of our story, and I feel for until the scene where he creates the monster. As previously discussed, he is horrified by his creation coming to fruition, and because of this he casts out his poor defenseless illiterate creature into a world that will never accept him. It was at this point my sympathy lay with the monster, the abandoned child, and not Victor, the horrible father. From this point on I felt like I must be reading the book wrong because how it tried to characterize Victor as the hero, when he was so clearly not, in my mind of course.

Look out William! Image from Frankenstein, The Ballet

Though I didn’t like this book, I do recommend watching the ballet. No joke, there is a Frankenstein ballet, it was made a few years ago by Liam Scarlett. I don’t know if there are any live performances, but you can buy a version that was taped at the London Opera House. It isn’t as good as the live performance, but it still displays a much more emotional and intense rendition of Shelley’s masterpiece. Although, you definitely are intended to read the book first since next to nothing is explained.

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