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.