Recovery in the Media: #53. Frankenstein

Frankenstein

Frightening but powerfully emotional, Frankenstein explores deep themes like nature vs. nurture.

53. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

One of my favorite novels of all time is Frankenstein. Reading it broke my heart but also made me contemplate deep questions. When you find a book that makes you both think and feel, you have found something special. This book might not address anything explicitly related to mental illness or health. However, anyone studying nature vs. nurture and the effects of our actions would do well to read this book. Thus, I decided to highlight it for Media Monday.

Synopsis: The novel opens with a captain attempting to sail to the South Pole. On the way, he encounters a dying, miserable man named Victor Frankenstein as well as glimpsing a large, horrifying creature. Opening up to the captain, Victor tells his life story, beginning with his fascination with life and its roots. This young man leaves his family (including his beautiful adopted semi-sister Elizabeth) to further his studies. The pinnacle of his achievements is piecing together human remains to make a creature. Once given life, this monster terrifies Victor to the point where he runs back to his family. However, Victor finds that he cannot keep running from his naive-turned-murderous creation.

Recovery Pluses: Are we evil by nature or does society make us so? Can something ugly ever be accepted? Can science be pushed to limits beyond our control? This classic novel asks many deep and probing questions. Instead of moralizing, Mary Shelley forces the reader to form conclusions from the story. Frankenstein helps you not to view each situation as black and white. Life is confusing, and our choices have a huge impact on others. Like it or not, there are many questions that we must analyze if we want to live responsibly. Novels like this help us to begin contemplating those questions.

The monster that Frankenstein creates is innocent in the beginning. In fact, he only wants love and acceptance. However, all who can see the creature spurn him as an evil demon. This sad example shows how bullying and hatred can corrupt even good-hearted people. If people continuously treat you worthlessly and labels you like a monster, you will begin to believe them. Also, this reminds us not to judge by appearance. Outward looks do not tell the whole story. Everyone is beautiful, but sometimes you need to look past someone’s appearance to see that. Assuming someone is a certain way just because of skin color, attractiveness, or clothing style will often lead you astray.

Everyone needs people who are supportive and friendly. Both Victor and his monster end up feeling very lost and alone. Some of this is self-inflicted, but some is because of uncontrollable aspects of their lives. For example, many members of Victor’s family die. However he also leaves them many times and acts in such a way that his loved ones are targets of his creature’s murderous revenge. The monster, on the other hand, cannot help his fearful appearance that causes everyone to hate him. What he can control, his temper and ability to kill, he refuses to take responsibility for until it is too late. Readers can learn from the agony both characters experience. We are social creatures. Sometimes others are pulled away from us, and other times we run away from love ones. Either way, trying to find fulfilling relationships is important as is staying true to them instead of sabotaging ourselves.

Cautions: This Gothic novel is certainly dark but clean for the most part. Murders, revenge, science gone wrong, and other gruesome themes are explored in Frankenstein. Also, Victor’s marriage to his adopted sister Elizabeth might confuse modern readers although it was common in that era. Overall,  the book is best for teenagers and older.

Every time that I read or talk about this novel, tears well up in my eyes. There are so many fascinating aspects of Frankenstein. You can analyze it from a moral, psychological, scientific, literary, romantic, historical, or spiritual point of view. Few books have made as much of an impact in our media and culture (although we have certainly shifted who Frankenstein is and his story). If you have not read this novel, please take the time to do so. You will not be disappointed. Also, I would love to hear your thoughts on this deep and haunting piece of literature.

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13 thoughts on “Recovery in the Media: #53. Frankenstein

  1. A fine review of a classic tale. The questions raised by the book continue to haunt us today. For one — “Just who is the ‘monster’ in the story?”

  2. Ruth says:

    Love this book! And I agree that Victor is the real monster. He created the creature, then abandoned it when the thing didn’t live up to his expectations (okay, it murdered, but still). Victor gave up on his monster. That’s the worst evil, imo.

  3. ladygracet says:

    I don’t know, I think that it is to simplistic saying that one is the monster and the other isn’t. They both were and they both weren’t. There is an element of Greek tragedy, where both had a fatal flaw(s). First, Victor took the power of a creator in his own hands and was unwilling to accept the responsibility. Instead he hid from it. And as far as it goes I hardly think multiple homicides is the appropriate response to ‘childhood’ neglect.
    We tend to think that because of the sufferings of the monster’s early life that all the responsibility naturally falls on Victor. By that logic every murderer’s parents are at fault for their crimes. No, people are responsible for only their actions. However, assuming that there actions will not effect others is incorrect, as this book showed well. But could you not say that Victor’s perfect childhood was not at fault for his inability to accept the monster despite his imperfections. He had no way of sympathizing with an seemingly unclean creature. I mean the logic works both ways. There is just more of the pity factor going for his monster.
    I think what really you could say about both the characters, thrown on a canvas with non-entity’s(everyone surrounding them really seemed like shadows in comparison) is that the are the Victorians version of the Grecian hero. The Byronic hero. Both of these characters are amoral and they both have greater then human passions(seriously what is wrong with these Gothic writers, they are like histrionic teenagers). Furthermore they both ‘defy’ there destiny even as they succumb to it. First, Frankenstein defy’s his humanity by taking on himself the power of creating a sentient being, a power not belonging to humans, After which he sensibly he runs away tail between his legs. Later after the destruction of his family at his creations hands he .takes judgement into his hands, again this is the prerogative of a creator.
    The monster on his part desperately tries to be loved and not to be the monster he was created to be. In his search to become human he becomes a monster, killing people who where in no way responsible for his own life. Victor Frankenstein, in defying his role has become a monster as well. There goals are in the book almost intrinsically the same.

    • You are so wise, Grace! There are so many complicated aspects of the novel. It is also interesting that you picked up on how all other characters are shadows. I wonder if the Captain would have been more fully developed if we were to continue on with his story. What do you think?

      • ladygracet says:

        Hmmm…I do not think so, the captain was just someone needed to move the story forward. I mean she could have developed his personality if she wanted to. There was plenty of space, and it is extremely hard to make a narrator an almost complete non-entity. Honestly I think that Shelley was to focused on her main characters that it lefter her no attention to spare. And how per say could you continue that story with the only really character dead are about to die.

        • That makes sense. I really like Frankenstein but many of the characters are lacking. If they had all been fully developed, it would have been even more interesting.

          • ladygracet says:

            Having book populated with fully fleshed out characters takes a lot of work and even some knowledge. I mean this is a 19 year romantic writing this.

          • True, but I think she had the talent to do it. Maybe when she was a bit older, it would have been even better.

          • ladygracet says:

            Well to be fair she did get that chance. There are two versions of Frankenstein. She wrote the first one in 1818, it was serialized, much like how Dickens’ books. Later she revised it in 1831. I have been told that for awhile the later was preferred but now some scholars are going back to the first. Which is the reason I had to read the 1818 edition twice and I have no knowledge of the 1831 edition.

          • True, but authors redoing their own work after publication usually is a bit messy. Sometimes it seems that they are being influenced more by others or the society instead their own creativity. Kind of like Belinda although that was edited before Maria Edgeworth published it. I would love to read both and compare them.

          • ladygracet says:

            Well I am afraid I have never read Belinda. So I have no information regarding that.
            As far as far as one version being messier….I can not say without comparing and analyzing the differences in each version.

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