After the serious of the new Pulitzer Prize and the oh so classic Pride and Prejudice, I thought I would treat myself with a little monster story. I chose Frankenstein because I found a really nice leatherbound edition at the second hand book shop near my apartment.
Frankenstein has been first published, anonymously, in 1818. Mary Shelley was 19 when she started writing it. She actually travelled to Switzerland, where her story takes place.
The novel open on letters between Walton and his sister. This highly self educated man is bored to death and therefore decides to take a trip to the North Pole to conduct a few scientific experiments. Arrived there, his ship get stuck in the ice and he notices a huge man on a sledge going away. The next day, his crew saves a man on a sledge. Walton takes care of the stranger and when the latter has recovered enough, he starts telling his story.
His name is Victor Frankenstein. He had a happy but kind of seclusive childhood, with his father, mother, adopted sister and two brothers. He’s self educated. After his mother’s death, he’s sent to the University where he follows science courses. He gets really involved in his studies and spends a tremendous amount of time studying anatomy. He thinks he can beat death itself by building a creature from scratches. So does he. As soon as his creature arises, he regrets what he has done and falls ill. His best friend Henry joins him at the University and takes care of him until he gets better. That’s when he receives a letter telling him that his little brother has been killed. He then runs back home, convinced that his demonic creature is the killer. A servant has been accused of the murder. She’s judged guilty and sentenced to death. Victor sees the monster and follows him. The creature relates the past year he spent in the mountains. He learnt how to talk and read by observing a family with whom he tried to meet. He’s chased by the family. That’s when he encounters Victor’s brother and kills him. The monster asks Victor to build him a partner. After refusing, Victor agrees, convinced by the creature’s arguments. Victor need to travel to england to collect informations for his new project. Henry decides to accompany him. After building a female creature, Victor changes his mind and destroys it. The monster vows revenge and kills Henry (Victor will be accused of his murder). Victor goes back to Geneva where he marries Elizabeth. On their wedding night, the monster kills Elizabeth. Victor then swears to destroy the creature and starts chasing him around the world.
Back in Walton’s boat, Victor dies shortly after finishing his story. A few days later, Walton finds the monster in Victor’s room, weeping and regretting every bad deeds he’s done.
Everyone knows Frankenstein’s story but I have to say, I was quite disappointed with that little novel. I found Victor incredibly naive and whining and fickle. The creature seems to be a genius, who can learn everything in a very little time but self control. He’s presented as a genius, who has mastered Milton and sciences and philosophy in less than a year but his only outlet when he’s angry is to kill people. Plus, one can see the word wretch so much times. Shelley tends to use it every other word (just as often as Meyer used the word marmorean.
I’d give it a 4/10