Thursday, August 30, 2007

Frankenstein by Mary Shelly

Title: Frankenstein
Author: Mary Shelly
1967/ Bantam paperback
206 pages

Set in 19th century Europe, the book tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a young and upcoming scientist with great proficiency in the life sciences and a gifted engineer. Whilst his colleagues spend time enjoying the social life of Europe, Victor devours books and speculates on life itself. Soon he begins secret experimentations on life, and concludes that it is nothing more than organic material energized by electricity. He follows this by creating life, in the form of a human made from spare parts that he obtains from grave robbers. The moment he brings his creation to life, both freak out and are separated.

Frankenstein's creation, the monster, wanders the cities and countryside of Europe, trying to piece together his origin, his whereabouts, and his identity. All the while, his horrific looks, made up of human spare parts, makes him so ugly as to be unacceptable to society and he spends his days in hiding. The experiences break his heart on an hourly basis. He realizes he can never be accepted into human society, so he contacts his maker and asks for a female mate. The maker accepts at first, but at the last moment, negates on his promise. In addition, so starts the hatred between maker and master, for the monster is truly the master since he is not bound by human laws or human relationships. The monster proceeds to kill all those loved by Victor Frankenstein. In turn, Victor begins a lifelong chase of the monster to kill it.

Mary Shelley wrote this book in response to a challenge issued by Lord Byron, during a vacation at Lake Geneva.

The basic fear of what evil technology may bring along with the good is a central theme, as is the warning against playing God. So is the implicit admonition to be responsible in all things, be it during innovation or being a parent. We cannot control our creations and should be more careful in what we create. This theme has since been echoed on the topics of nuclear weapons, automobiles, fire, and now nanotechnology.

In the book, the creature is really a child that is neglected, but with the strength and intelligence has the ability to strike back without restraints. The monster is born innocent, and his sufferings at the hands of humans make him into a true monster.

The creation, the "Monster," represents humankind. The creation is constantly questioning why he was created, especially created with such deformities and faults. Anyone who has ever cursed God would relate to the creation. Eventually, the creation meets his creator and demands to have what the creator has; here, a wife. However, doesn't that represent our wish as people to overcome our hardships and have what our creator has? We humans yearn to be so much more than human!

Dr. Frankenstein represents God, but unlike God, has neglected his responsibility to his creation. He created the creation just because he could, then could not follow through. The Doctor is, after all, only a man and not up the challenge of being a creator.

It is a moving, disturbing, depressing, but also a touching and beautiful tale throughout. Those qualities have withstood the test of time. While it is not always a rollicking adventure, it is a rewarding read. All in all this is a great book. It is a great commentary on human society, and it is a wonderful examination on the needs of all humans.


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