Friday, October 2, 2015

The Monster Speaks

Somehow during my middle school, high school and undergrad education, I missed reading Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (I can't even write that name without thinking about the movie Young Frankenstein where Gene Hackman keeps correcting the pronunciation of his name, "It's Frankenstein!").  In fact, the only book I can remember easing in high school was Silas Marner by George Eliot (a female writer, by the way). I wrote a paper about it or put on a play about it, or something, and I remember that the little girl's name was Eppie, and she had sausage curls to color of gold. One of my first brushes with symbolism--the gold of her curls mirroring Silas' own love of gold. But I can't recall any other books we were required to read. I read a lot anyway, so I got my Bronte and Austen from the public library or as gifts from my mom or grandma (Little Women, The Girl of the Limberlost). We probably read Mark Twain's Huck and Tom and we may have read some Conrad (not Heart of Darkness though. That's another classic I haven't read and don't want to). We did read a lot of short stories too, but books...I do not recall.

I've read Dracula a couple of times and liked it because it's got different points of views and it's scary and because Lucy dies. Frankenstein though...I started reading it this weekend and was surprised to discover that it doesn't take place in a deserted castle on a hill, there are no flashes of lightning that bring the monster to life, and the monster does not have greenish skin, a square forehead and bolts in his neck. In fact, he's very human, he speaks well, and like a gentleman. He also has only turned violent because he's been rejected by society. Did you know this? Did you know that the monster (unnamed or referred to as Prometheus in the books subtitle) could say things like, "I felt as though I had been pushed asunder by my almighty, my God, my creator" instead of only being able to say "Ugghhhh..."

Here's the story, in a nutshell: an ardent natural sciences student learns how to create life while at the university. In his dorm room, not a castle. No one ever suspects what he's doing or finds it odd that his room smells like decaying flesh. He is purposefully vague about how he re-creates life, by saying that he doesn't want others to figure it out. He then makes a man out of bones he finds in the cemetery, though this part of the story is skimmed over, so that it reads like, "The next day, I created a creature in my likeness from bones I stole and saw his limbs stir." The man he makes runs away to the woods (somehow, he makes it to Frankenstein's home town, though he has no money, no language, no knowledge of where the guy lives, no transportation and he looks like a giant freak). But forget that for a minute. He makes it this forest and then finds a hovel next to a house and learns how to speak by watching the poor people who live there. He spends most of his time watching them through a peephole. That's where I stopped for last night, but my guess is that the family will discover him someday soon and be repulsed by him and then he will have to kill them. Also, it's not scary. It's sad. and melodramatic, but not frightening.

I will probably finish it this weekend. I'll let you know if there is a surprise ending.

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