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Frankenstein

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Frankenstein Review

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein has become one of the most popular horror stories of all time. There have been multiple movies based on the story, and children often dress up as this monster for Halloween. Although the book is fun to read simply for its creepiness, Shelley's complex characters, approachable style, and relevant themes of science gone awry make Frankenstein a literary classic.

Almost everyone is familiar with the basic elements of the plot. A mad scientist, obsessed with learning the secrets of life, collects spare body parts from cemeteries, sews them together, and brings his creation to life. The monster proceeds to wreak havoc across the countryside, and the story ends badly for everyone involved. Although the novel does follow this chronology, the plot is much more subtle and complex. Shelley focuses on the personal tragedies and the horror caused by Dr. Frankenstein's act of creation. The novel is written as a series of letters and narratives which allow the reader to experience multiple perspectives, including Dr. Frankenstein's coldness and the monster's terrible loneliness.

The characters are also more complex than usually portrayed in the movies. Victor Frankenstein is more than simply a mad scientist. He is overwhelmed with guilt, shame, and remorse as everything he loves is destroyed. After a friend is punished for the monster's crimes, Dr. Frankenstein confided that “sleep fled from my eyes; I wandered like an evil spirit, for I had committed deeds of mischief beyond description horrible, and more, much more was yet behind” (75). Dr. Frankenstein feels regret for the fate of his friends, but he is unable to feel sympathy for his own creation. In contrast, Frankenstein's monster often seems more human than his creator. The creature began life with an inherent gentleness, but loneliness and despair turned him into a murderer. Rejected and attacked by any who saw him, the monster states that “When I reflected that they had spurned and deserted me, anger returned, a rage of anger” (119). Although the monster commits terrible crimes, it is difficult for the reader not to sympathize with him.

Dr. Frankenstein's cruel neglect and the creature's initial kindness lead the reader to wonder which one is actually the monster. One of Shelley's themes is the ambiguity of both humanity and monstrosity. Frankenstein's creation is not biologically human, but he thinks and feels like a man. On the other hand, Victor Frankenstein becomes so obsessed with understanding the secrets of life that he neglects his own humanity. The novel's other major theme explores the dangers of forbidden knowledge. Frankenstein's quest leads to the destruction of all his happiness. Having learned from his mistakes, Frankenstein advises another character on “how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow” (43). The novel would have ended quite differently if Dr. Frankenstein had followed his own advice.

Although Frankenstein was written two centuries ago, the idea that science has limits which should not be crossed is especially relevant today. Modern genetic engineering, cloning, and embryonic stem cell research all provoke ethical questions related to the dignity and sacredness of life. The contemporary relevance of the novel's themes, intriguing storyline, and complex characters make Frankenstein an enjoyable and thought-provoking book.





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