“Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus” by Mary Shelley
(First publication: 1881 / This edition: Penguin Books, Penguin English Library 2012)
Taken with my succulent babies and coffee on a Sunday afternoon
I was benevolent and good; misery made me fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous! (p.98)
I remember I had to read this book the summer before senior year of high school. I think I might’ve read just two pages of it before deciding to just slack off the whole summer and quickly “read” it through Sparknotes the day before the new year started. (Sparknotes saved my high school life—forever grateful.)
I don’t remember why I decided to re-read it. But good thing I did because the story I had in my mind all these years is completely different to this original version. Due to lack of attention when I was “forced” to read it in school and due to popular media, I really thought that there was a female monster in the story; that eventually, Dr. Frankenstein made her to be the male monster’s companion. I also thought the monster and Dr. Frankenstein were even friends—a good father-son relationship.
Oh silly me.
However, if anything, I now understand—or “remember”—why I gave up reading this back then after just two pages. The language is pretty difficult, I think. Not completely incomprehensible, but I guess at that age I really had no patience for it. Even reading it this time, whenever my mind drifted off a little and I come back, I realize that it was because the language got “unusually complicated” or the descriptions were just getting to verbose and meandering. I found that some parts were just tedious.
I enjoyed the story overall, but in a way, kind of expected more to happen. I felt like everything was predictable, and I ended up hating the monster, even though I could understand and empathize with him—all those depressing feelings of desperation for a companion, acceptance, and love. Even though I think that no matter how “human” you are (and the monster is in many ways “human”), being denied love doesn’t necessarily mean you need to go and murder half a dozen people. It doesn’t “justify” it, no matter how much you ache inside. I just thought the whole vengeance thing was…too douchey. (Sorry for the lack of better words.) I wish he had tried to negotiate or reason it out with Dr. Frankenstein better, and tried to understand why Dr. Frankenstein denied him his woman? I wish he gave Dr. Frankenstein more chances to explain his feelings too? So, because of that, I just kept getting annoyed at the monster for being so…irrational and selfish.
But then again, if I was in his position… I might act even worse that he did.
It’s kind of funny because I just started “Status Anxiety” by Alain de Botton—just a quick read on the train. On “Lovelessness”, he wrote: “To be shown love is to feel ourselves the object of concern: our presence is noted, our name is registered, our views are listened to, our failings are treated with indulgence and our needs are ministered to. And under such care, we flourish.” (p.6) It made me think of the monster in “Frankenstein” because that was what he desperately craved for with all his “human soul”. And I guess if I didn’t have all that—to be “shown love”—I’d probably go mental and be exhausted at my existence (and everyone else’s) too.
I enjoyed the read and would recommend people to read it—because it’s such a classic and I guess most people had to go through it in high school; and because I feel silly for having the story wrong all these years! 😛 It does explore a lot of human emotions and pains, and I came to understand more about what humans actually really need alll the time. We just don’t realize it and take it for granted, I guess, since we have people who love us and all. Just to be able to have a conversation with another person or to be in the same room with one and be “noticed”—we all need that at the minimal.
And, wow, Mary Shelley—so much respect! She wrote this at such a young age—what would become one of the world’s first “classic and gothic literature” and “science-fiction”. “Frankenstein” is now such a household name—probably every kid in the Western world, at least, knows of the “Frankenstein monster”. That’s quite an accomplishment, even if I didn’t know the proper story all these years (haha). Also, the story’s actually even scarier than I had anticipated. I started reading it at night, and I fell asleep with the lights on for a while—the imagery of the monster coming alive, opening his eyes and all, scared me. I also felt disturbed/creeped out whenever Dr. Frankenstein said he can see the monster standing looking at him and…just smiling. STOP IT. I hate that. I guess it does deserve the whole “horror fiction” status and to be a necessity in every Halloween and haunted houses.
But damn it, I really wish there was a female Frankenstein monster though. I was anticipating it and kept thinking she was about to become alive. I think that would’ve been a lot more exciting. 😉
Here are some of my favorite lines from the book:
There is something at work in my soul, which I do not understand. (p.12)
Remember, that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed. Everywhere I see is bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous! (p.98)
Hateful the day when I received life! […] Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance. Satan had his companions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him; but I am solitary and abhorred. (p.130)
I enjoyed this scene; and yet my enjoyment was embittered both by the memory of the past, and the anticipation of the future. (p.164)
Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful. (p.173)