Reading notes on "Frankenstein"



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October marks the beginning of my favorite time of year for reading. The days get shorter, and the weather gets cooler, and I find myself being able to spend much more time alone. With the wind howling outside at night, I look over the bookshelf for something to fit the mood and I always gravitate toward Gothic literature. One of my favorite books from that movement is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

The idea for the novel was in the early nineteenth century when Shelley and her friends got together one evening to challenge one another to write ghost stories. Drawing inspiration from a dream, she came up with a book that follows the life of Victor Frankenstein, a scientist, who one day concocts an experiment to create life. He pieced together different body parts from dead humans and living animals until one day (in November actually) he infuses the spark of life into the being and Frankenstein’s monster (the actual creature is nameless) is born. Victor is immediately horrified and ashamed but the monster escapes into the night before he can get rid of it.

Later, the monster learns to read and write after interacting with various forest dwellers including--conveniently--a blind man. Eventually, as his appearance causes many people to fear him, he develops feelings of isolation and decides his only hope is to have Victor create a bride for him. Victor hesitates, begins the work, then destroys it before completion, unable to create another wretch. The original monster becomes enraged and begins killing Victor’s loved ones including his wife. Riddled with guilt, Victor sets out to kill the monster, chasing him over land and sea all the way into the Arctic. The pursuit becomes too much for a weakened Victor to continue. He is rescued by a passing ship where he relates the tale of vengeance, truly believing he will get better an continue the hunt. He does not, he in fact dies and the monster sneaks aboard the ship to see him. Walton, the captain, confronts the monster who unsuccessfully tries to reason with him about his relationship to Victor and his own wretched feeling that mankind will never understand his misery and isolation. The monster settles on the idea that only after his death will he find peace. He leaves from the ship’s window back onto his ice-raft and is “born away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance.”