The Modern Prometheus, or Frankenstein

A great classic that is so much more than any movie made of it. Once again I will give a “spoiler alert” for those who have not yet read it. It is, at its heart, a story of madness and failed redemption. It is told through the narration of a sailor who Frankenstein is relating his tale to. That sailor in turn writes to his sister describing these events in letters. It is an old style of narration that I have always enjoyed because it seems to put you one step back from the events told through two sources, so as the reader you get a wider view of things, as well as the added influence of several story tellers in one story.

Doctor Frankenstein, in his hubris, creates a human life. He is terrified by what he has done. His creation, the “monster”, is a confused human who is spurned by his creator. When the “monster” realizes he will be spurned by all fellow humans he slips into the madness of vengeance against the Doctor who made him.

Doctor Frankenstein realizes that the death of his brother, the murder, is his creation’s doing and thus his own fault. He too slips into madness and the story continues as they spar, the doctor wanting to stop the “monster” and the monster plotting the abject ruin of the doctor.

After more murders and guilt for the murders, Frankenstein chases the “monster” into the north yet can not catch him before his own health betrays him, and he passes away just before his creation finds him for the last time.

Yet the “monster” is in some ways to be pitied for the state he is in, for it was not his doing, at least not at first. The madness he has sustained seems to pass, leaving him with greater knowledge of his wretchedness and his desire to see it end for good. (The following is the last section from Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein)

“Farewell! I leave you, and in you the last of human kind whom these eyes will ever behold. Farewell, Frankenstein! If thou wert yet alive, and yet cherished a desire of revenge against me, it would be better satiated in my life than in my destruction. But it was not so; thou didst seek my extinction that I might not cause greater wretchedness; and if yet, in some mode unknown to me, thou hast not ceased to think and feel, thou wouldst not desire against me a vengeance greater than that which I feel. Blasted as thou wert, my agony was still superior to thine; for the bitter sting of remorse will not cease to rankle in my wounds until death shall close them for ever.

“But soon,” he cried, with sad and solemn enthusiasm, “I shall die, and what I now feel be no longer felt. Soon these burning miseries will be extinct. I shall ascend my funeral pile triumphantly, and exult in the agony of the torturing flames. The light of that conflagration will fade away; my ashes will be swept into the sea by the winds. My spirit will sleep in peace; or if it thinks, it will not surely think thus. Farewell.”

It is a tragic end to a extremely scary story of madness brought on by hubris.
Do you sympathies more with the “monster” or the Doctor?
What do you think of the Gothic style of horror?


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