Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

What a brilliant story! Nothing at all like the Hollywood versions.

The things I liked: it has an adventure, trekking across different landscapes in a never-ending chase of revenge and torment. The frame narrative suits it so well. It juxtaposes passion and love with disgust and cruelty. Characters are lovingly created; there are life stories within life stories. It tackles disturbing issues concerning the advancement of medical science and how this treads a thin line with what is moral.

The idea of dead body parts coming back to life was something fantastical and outrageous in the day of Shelley (early nineteenth century). Now, just over two hundred years later, science has advanced to the point where donation of organs actually saves lives and is the only recourse for many sufferers with kidney, heart, and other organ failure. Shelley, a writer ahead of her times, tackled these issues, and revealed that in pursuing personal glory and fame, man is capable of crossing the boundaries and entering unchartered and quite possibly unethical territory. In our present, governing bodies and law makers are forced to tackle issues that just a few hundred years before belonged in the sphere of fantasy. Modern science is able to clone animals—perhaps human beings too. Human eggs can be fertilised outside of the womb. Human organs can be grown from stem cells and laboratory doctors and scientists are confident that they can produce human organs in pigs, however laws passed by the National Institutes of Health in 2015 instituted a moratorium on using public funds to insert human cells in animal embryos. As a point of interest, in the States, there are 76,000 people anxiously waiting for organ transplants in order to live a normal life.

Returning to our story, Shelley paints a very disturbing picture whereby a new species is created by human intervention: a being made from body parts of dead humans. The being is awakened through the use of modern science and electricity. Its creator, Dr Victor Frankenstein, is horrified with his creation and turns away from it in disgust. The monster, an innocent being with the human capacity for love and learning, leaves the laboratory and soon comes up against human reactions of horror to its appearance. Forced to stay out of human sight, the creature finds a dwelling where it is able to observe a family without being exposed to them. It learns to read and speak and grows fond of the family members. When it finally decides to make an appearance, the family is horrified and the monster, embittered, flees and seeks vengeance on its creator for abandoning it. Shelley draws parallels here with Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and her character, Heathcliff. The monster in Frankenstein, like Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, is subjected to hatred and likewise develops into a vengeful and violent being. Shelley toys with the idea that had this hatred been replaced by compassion and love, the being might very well have developed differently.

This novel was so enjoyable, and so easy to read, that I finished it in a day.

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