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Book Review: Frankenstein

Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel centers around a young Swiss nobleman named Victor Frankenstein. Victor leaves his home town of Geneva for Ingolstadt for his education. There he drops his interest in philosophy for the natural sciences. Somehow he comes to an inspiration for creating life and sequesters himself in his own lab for several years on this cause. He works incessantly and foregoes family, friends, and relaxation in his quest. As the hominoid’s body is being put together, Victor starts to loathe its ugliness and hideous demeanor. But he continues on. One evening, he finds his “daemon” standing in his lab. Victor is horrified and bolts from the room. He returns several days later to find the room devoid of his creation. Even though gone, the daemon still haunts Victor, who deplores his own fantastic feat. Victor seems never to be a good state of mind throughout the rest of the novel.


The daemon finds his way to the forests around Ingolstadt. At first, his thinking is no more than a wild animal foraging for food, He learns to stay away from humans. After several years, he learns the language, finds books, and becomes well educated. He really wants to be part of the human race, but his large size and deformed body horrify people.


Eventually the daemon confronts his creator. He challenges Victor in that God creates Adam and even though Adam sinned, God still loved his creation. Why, then, could Victor Frankenstein not love his creation? Why did Victor go in the direction of contempt and hatred?  The daemon pleads with Victor to create a female companion. The two daemons would then find their own isolated spot in the world to live out their natural lives.   


At this point, I won’t give away the story for this is a good book for you to read. However this exchange between the daemon and Victor had a hidden level for me. Let’s take our daemons of the 21st century. Maybe an ISIS terrorist; maybe a serial killer; maybe a third-rate criminal who spends most of his life in jail, maybe a ruthless CEO. Did we not have a hand in creating them? Should we not have some degree of understanding the way they are?


Victor tries to have an understanding of his daemon’s plight. But in the end fails: Victor’s contempt overtakes his humanity. He becomes psychologically unbalanced, incapable of sound reason and loses all the good things in his life.


Maybe Ms. Shelley was trying to warn us about human nature. She was only 20 years when she wrote this fantastic book.  And she wrote it in a time when women weren’t supposed to aspire to be writers and philosophers.

Published on Writerbeat 2017

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