The book is actually written as a record of letters from Captain Robert Walton to his sister, Margaret Walton Saville. Walton is on a sea journey to the north pole, and he comes across Victor Frankenstein in failed pursuit of his monster, floating on a raft of ice. When they take him on board, Walton and Frankenstein quickly become friends and Frankenstein relates his tale, which Walton faithfully records in his letter to his sister.
Victor Frankenstein's tale begins with a pretty idyllic childhood, he's rich and well loved. The first tragedy comes with the death of his mother, just before he moves away to university. But then he throws himself into his studies, in which he discovers the secret of life. (We are never told what this is, although we know all the movies asume it is elecricity). And he decides to create a man, by gathering pieces of dead bodies and then bring it to life with his new secret method. He pursues this in a kind of maniacal frenzy, and then suddenly when he is finished, he is absolutely horrified by what he has done, has a complete break down and retires to bed for 2 months with a nervous fever.
When his friend Clerval comes to see him, he fairly quickly gets over his upset and plans on going home to Geneva, almost as if nothing has happened. And little does he think of his Monster, who is off in the world on his own, desperately seeking the meaning of his life.
I find it hard to review this book, as I was of two different minds about it.
On the one hand I did love it, because to think of it, this must almost be the genesis of the horror genre as we know it.. Written by Mary Shelly when she was only 19 years old, and in the same decade that Jane Austen was writing romances. This constantly amazes me. And it completely laughs in the face of this 'new' monster mashup-up genre - Pride and Prejudice and Zombies etc - monsters in that era.. it's been done before.. way before.
I did also love the character of the Monster, once you hear his story you can almost forgive him for all his homicidal tendencies. How it must be like to be created, fully grown but hideous, and then completely abandoned. What would I think of my maker? Would I hate him, would I want to inflict untold misery upon him?
As it happens, I do hate Frankenstein. He has no sense of responsibility. He constantly avoids even the thought of his Monster, even after he realises it is at large and capable of great harm, he chooses to convince himself that everything will be fine. When he should be doing something about it. And every time something bad happens, he can't take the stress, and he faints and falls into a delerious fever for several months. Perhaps I ought to understand the relationship between massive psychological depression, and the whole avoidance routine, I do it myself. A lot. But maybe because of this I hate him. And I don't want to understand him. How can he be like this when his life is so otherwise idyllic, he has everything he wants, and this is his only responsibility, but he turns away from it, while it destroys everyone else. He's selfish, weak, irresposible, apathetic.. and I hate him for it.
Many people have ideas what the book is realy about.. What Mary Shelley meant by it all.. I think it's a book about G-d, From G-d's point of view. For all those people who ask 'Where is G-d, why has he created us and abandoned us?'. Mary tells us.. Well he's horrified, he's depressed, and he can't cope. Because we are monsters.