This is the first book I’ve finished since being free from exams and, although in my last post I said how I couldn’t wait to choose my own reading, this is actually one of the books on the reading list for my modules. It was the last book we had to read and I didn’t have time to finish it before the end of term, but I wasn’t writing my essay on it so I decided it could wait. I quite enjoyed the early chapters of the book so that’s why I decided to finish reading it. I also thought that it was probably a novel that I should read as an English Lit student, although that doesn’t usually concern me too much.
Overall I did enjoy the novel as the story is imaginative and original but it definitely wanes in the middle during Victor Frankenstein’s narration. I found myself getting more than a little bored at the frequent descriptions of his fits of depression, which, I felt, resulted in the novel becoming tedious. Maybe I was biased from the outset but I viewed Frankenstein as more of a monster than the creature; his selfish and ambitious personality could not accept the consequences of his creation, and his suffering seemed to be very self-inflicted. The creature, on the other hand, shows compassionate and kind human qualities and I felt that Shelley was perhaps trying to convey a moral message by showing the consequences of man’s treatment of the creature. The creature is judged for his appearance and not for the person he is; this is shown most clearly in the scene with the blind man, who listens attentively to the creature’s eloquent and intelligent speech before the others return and banish the creature from the house without pausing to recognise his peaceful intentions. His benevolence and innocence are only responded to with hate and fear due to his appearance and thus his miserable exclusion causes him to be filled with anger and thoughts of revenge. I thought that his remorse at the end was particularly touching whereas I had little sympathy for Victor.
As I mentioned earlier, I thought it was rather slow-moving in the middle of the novel – definitely too many descriptions of Geneva and the surrounding countryside (I could probably give someone a guided tour of 17th century Geneva after reading it) but there were some promising elements. I think the way Shelley creates moments of suspense are excellent and you can tell why this is a pioneering novel in the science-fiction/horror genre. The scenes where Victor is dreading the appearance of the creature, like when he first returns to his study after the creature awakens and while he is in the desolate hut on the Scottish island, are particularly thrilling (or maybe it’s just because I’m a sucker for being scared by someone jumping out and shouting ‘boo!’).
I don’t think I could recommend it as a particularly fantastic book, I’ve certainly read better ‘classics’, but I think if you’re interested in this genre then it’s worth a read. I hadn’t seen any film version of Frankenstein before I read the book but I think everyone has some preconceptions about the characters without realising, as it’s such a literary icon – the huge green monster, with thick black hair and metal bolts through his neck. I can’t believe how different the creature is in the novel! Reading the book will certainly change how you view the ‘monster’.