Review

The Night is Darkening Round Me, Emily Bronte

It was National Poetry Day on Tuesday and to celebrate it I decided to read some poetry by Emily Bronte.  I have previously read Wuthering Heights by Bronte but none of her poetry – despite hearing how good it is.

I do not usually read poetry.  In fact, I hadn’t enjoyed reading it until I read Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur (read my review of it here).  After reading that collection I was then determined to read more poetry, especially by female poets.  So when I saw a Bronte collection in the Penguin Little Black Classics series, I was intrigued to give it a go.

This collection of poetry is about love, death, nature and time, the usual themes of Romantic poetry in the eighteenth century.  Bronte has the talent of portraying the deepest, most passionate emotions within carefully constructed delicate lines and stanzas.  There is very little internal deviation from the structural styles and rhyme schemes Bronte has selected for each poem.

Each poem was a pleasure to read.  They were all quite different in theme but had a similar style which brought them all together as a collection.  Some were dark and melancholic whereas others were happier and lighter.  Even the descriptions of nature varied from naturalist to gothic – a style Emily, and her sister Charlotte, are famous for using in their novels.  My favourite poem of the collection is an untitled poem which first line is ‘The blue bell is the sweetest flower’.  It felt appropriate in the lovely spring weather.  (As I type this blog post now, the sun is shining and the daffodils are blooming.  It is beautiful.)  Another poem I particularly liked was Stanzas, an emotional poem about the mourning of a loved one.

Review

Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

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Of all the texts I’ve had to read at university so far, this was my favourite.

Frankenstein is referred to as a gothic, proto-science fiction novel and paved the way for the two genres. The story is told through a series of letters sent from Arctic explorer, Robert Walton, to his sister Margaret back in England. Within these letters are mini narratives by Victor Frankenstein (and the monster) after Walton rescues Frankenstein from the frozen plains of the Arctic.

Frankenstein tells Walton of his childhood in Geneva and his fascination and obsession in the pursuit of the principles of life. Whilst at university in Germany, Frankenstein manages to create life but is so disgusted by what he sees, he casts out his creation. He then tells Walton how this one event affects the rest of his life and the lives of those he loves.

Before reading this book, I already had a good idea of what the story is about, and had wanted you read it for a while. It’s a well known book which has seeped into our culture and has shaped the science fiction genre that we know today. I had also watched the Kenneth Branagh film adaptation several years ago. This meant that I was prepared for a classic science fiction tale of mystical science and a murderous monster. However, that initial impression was wrong. Frankenstein is much more a reflection of human nature than it is a tale about a monster. In fact, there is no real explanation as to how the monster was created in the first place.

Through Frankenstein’s desire to act like God and the monster desire to be accepted by society, we can learn what it means to be human. The themes of morality and sin are very captivating and thought provoking. The account of the monster’s acquisition of language and human behaviour is fascinating and moving. Considering how short this book is, it really packs in a lot moments that force you to think.

Throughout the novel, there are references and allusions to Milton’s Paradise Lost. This reinforces the themes of evil and morality, and often creates a parallel between the monster and Satan. Both rebel against their creators because they feel like outcasts in society. As I had also read Paradise Lost for the same module at university, I was especially interested in this.

Overall, Frankenstein is an incredibly captivating and intelligent book. I only wish I had read it sooner.