Welcome to the October edition of BBRBF Book Club! This month we made a collaborative choice to read the classic Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
Frankenstein, an instant bestseller and an important ancestor of both the horror and science fiction genres, not only tells a terrifying story, but also raises profound, disturbing questions about the very nature of life and the place of humankind within the cosmos: What does it mean to be human? What responsibilities do we have to each other? How far can we go in tampering with Nature? In our age, filled with news of organ donation genetic engineering, and bio-terrorism, these questions are more relevant than ever.
The story begins with the captain of a ship writing to his sister about the extraordinary events that occur in the unlikely icy sea in which they are travelling. They spot a creature of giant proportions dashing along the ice on a sleigh and the next day they find a man almost dead from exposure. They pull him aboard and as he opens up to the captain about the circumstances that brought him here, the tale of Frankenstein unfolds.
I was immediately drawn in by the language. As a Gothic novel, I didn't expect anything less, but the cadence and the darkly haunting tone throughout set the stage well for the tragedy that was about to happen. I found myself unconsciously mimicking the old fashioned, poetic style while I was reading the book which is common for me. Does anyone else do that? It's really embarrassing when I'm reading Shakespeare and start trying to add "eth" to everything.
The story is fairly common knowledge. Frankenstein harnesses the power of science to reanimate a creature composed of pieces of corpses and when the creature is set upon the world he finds nothing but violence and hatred aimed at him. What I didn't know is that almost every iconic image I have in my mind, from the movie, does not exist in the source material. There's no Igor. There's no dramatic scene in the lab where Frankenstein hoists the monster to the heavens to shock life into him with lightening. The monster is no ungainly, lumbering beast who becomes a rage filled animal at the sight of fire. He is actually quite eloquent and sensitive and a very nuanced and moving character.
Throughout the book Frankenstein is described as a wonderful being who is all the goodness of man, but I often found him to have more flaws than the monster. His ambition drove him to extremes, but he was too weak to be responsible for the product of his fiendish drive and pays the price for his wrong doings accordingly. He actually brought the monster to life and was so repulsed by it that he just went to bed to wallow in his unhappiness. When he discovers that the creature is gone he doesn't even seem to question what has become of it.
There were so many times with Frankenstein that I had to just stop and say, "what did you think was going to happen there?" Especially when he refuses to comply to the monster's request and then seems shocked when the monster follows through on his revenge. I even had a few good chuckles at the sweeping, dramatic physical illnesses that he would succumb to over emotional turmoil. I didn't judge the book by this characteristic because it's not something that is relatable in modern times, but I couldn't help but saying, "that's not how this works. That's not how any of this works!"
But, oh my. The highlight of the whole book, for me, was the monster's story. I felt swept up in his simple tale of the poor family that he shadows and I felt all of his grief and shame as each attempt he makes to find friendship and companionship becomes an episode of violence and prejudice for the monster's countenance. I hurt for him.
I have been carrying the final scene with me since I read the last page. It was chilling and terrible and I lamented deeply the fall of such a good and innocent creature. I lamented the loss of so much life and potential in all of the characters that became victim to circumstances that had nothing to do with them. It's the kind of story that leaves a sad and hollow feeling in your soul for a long time.
My outfit was inspired by the dark and elegant tones used in the tale. The black and white is an homage to the classic movie and the beautiful lace detail reminds me of the era in which the book was written. And I won't lie. I felt some Bride of Frankenstein vibes with this for sure.
Be sure to check out all the other babes and their reviews of this Gothic pioneer of horror and science fiction.