Forget the big, green, shuffling, moaning monster with bolts in his neck that we've all come to associate with Frankenstein. He does not appear in these pages. I wonder what book those old horror movie writers read? It wasn't this one.
Frankenstein's monster is big, but the only other physical descriptions I really remember are flowing black hair, watery yellow eyes, and uncanny speed, agility, and tolerance for cold. Oh, and he's more eloquent than I could ever hope to be. Seriously.
As for Frankenstein himself--a more self-absorbed, self-indulgent, self-explicatory character I hope to never meet. He was terrible! This was his story:
"Oh no! Something bad happened!"
He falls over in nervous delirium and is bed-ridden for months.
He moans and groans and just generally doesn't deal.
Then one day:
"Oh no! Something bad happened! But it wasn't my fault!"
He falls over in nervous delirium, bed-ridden for months, blah, blah, blah, blah.
That really is Frankenstein's story in a nutshell.
I do realize that this story was supposed to be more of a warning about our science getting ahead of our morals, pride coming before a fall and all that. On that level, it completely worked. As I read this, the word hubris kept coming to mind, and I haven't thought that word since studying the Greek myths for months on end my sophomore year of high school. That was more years ago than I honestly want to think about. Anyway, Shelley absolutely did what she meant to do and her work is always going to be relevant. But as a reader, I need a character that I can like. I don't think it necessarily has to be the main character, just give me someone, somewhere, to root for. There wasn't one here. Clerval or Elizabeth could have filled the role, but they were little cardboard cutouts to show that Frankenstein had something to lose. The monster himself was briefly likable in his wide-eyed innocence, but then he started to learn all of humanity's nasty habits. He had his reasons, but still. Ultimately I felt kind of bad for him, but I didn't like him.
It's a classic for a reason, and it really should be read, but don't expect to be too happy with anyone.
Reviewed October 12, 2009
Read an excerpt.
My Character Connection featuring Victor Frankenstein (with some pics of a very hot Kenneth Branagh).
Buy Frankenstein at
Friday Flashback Reviews are a weekly feature here on The Introverted Reader. These are old reviews I wrote on GoodReads. Thanks to Angieville and her Retro Friday Reviews for the inspiration and encouragement!I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site.