200 years ago, Mary Shelley penned a horror story that would not only last the test of time but would also make us think about the nature of monsters – not an easy task.
I first read Frankenstein at school. When you’re young, its easy to be afraid of monsters, to shy away and not dig any deeper than the skin they wear and the acts they commit. It wasn’t until I was much older that I saw Frankenstein’s creation for what it was, the product of yet another monster.
I hope I’m not spoiling the book/ movies for anyone by saying this… although the monster commits atrocious acts, his creator perhaps is the bigger monster of the two. Lead by arrogance and selfishness; he achieves his dream of creating life, only to shun the life he has created. This can happen to many people, to be driven and passionate about something, only to get it and feel the energy that has been sustaining you for so long begin to ebb and die.
The monster, although grotesque and made up of a mish-mash of criminal parts, doesn’t start off evil. He actually does some good, that is, before he’s shunned yet again; this time by society. Dr Frankenstein has created something that simply does not belong and, as the psychologist, Maslow pointed out in his Hierarchy of Needs, to feel you belong is central to anyone’s well-being, even a creature whose every limb sports pot-luck DNA.
It makes me wonder if Mary Shelley knew the impact of her book, which it wouldn’t be just the terrifying tale of a dark and stormy night if she would have written it differently. Perhaps give it a happy ending so that readers can go away feeling that there is some good in the world? Probably not. Most horrors end, well horribly. Happy endings are reserved for fictional romance and children’s books. As an author myself, I can’t help but consider the impact of the story if Dr Frankenstein had realised what he had done and attended as the monster had asked. Or even better, he hadn’t run from the creature at first sight, but instead had loved and cared for it?
In the UK, Sky Atlantic had a series called Penny Dreadful. The premise was that monsters and myths were alive and well and living in Victorian London. Although the series, by the end, dropped a little of it’s entertainment value, it boasted a Dr Victor Frankenstein and his monster as part of the cast and explored their relationship after what would have been the end of Shelley’s book. If you haven’t seen this series, I’d highly recommend digging into the box sets; there’s more than just Frankenstein and his monster to get your teeth into.
What are your thoughts on this literary classic? Let me know below…