The Idiot Learns to Read #6: Frankenstein

“Mine has been a tale of horrors.”

And what a horrible tale this was.  I think everyone thinks they know the story of Frankenstein but did anybody ever actually read the story?  I was one of these people until I just finished reading Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s novel just now.  I had it all confused.  We have it all confused.  Frankenstein is not the monster, but the inventor of the monster.

This is truly a sad story.  It is about a young man, Victor Frankenstein, who is obsessed with outmoded methods of science.  He goes away to school and learns new techniques and theories.  For some reason, he gets it into his head that he is going to create a human being.  I’m not exactly sure why he wants to do this.  I get this feeling that he wants to create something that would be beholden to him, that would love him for having giving it life.  That’s kind of selfish right then and there, but then you come to learn that Mr. Frankenstein is a selfish bastard anyway.

He slaves away day and night to create this being.  When he’s finished, he is horrified at how ghastly the creature is.  He had to get the body parts from all kinds of random places.  The creature he made was not beautiful so he decided to run away from it.  He gave it life and then was like, “You’re ugly.  Never mind.”  He didn’t even give the creature the courtesy of telling him he was ugly.  He just left it in the laboratory and went home to his family.

The creature doesn’t know that he is a horrific sight.  When he wakes up, he’s alone and he has to teach himself everything.  He does so by spying on everyone around him, because in the beginning he did try to make friends but he was so hideous that most people ran screaming from him.  Imagine how depressed you would be when you suddenly become aware of yourself and you realise that you are a fright to everyone.  Nobody wants to be around you because you are a monster.  Not even the person who created you wants you.  That’s a sad feeling.

Immediately you feel sorry for the creature.  He had to teach himself how to speak, how to read, how to fend for himself, how to do everything.  Once he learns all that, he goes in search of his creator to ask him why he did this to him.  When he eventually finds Victor, he sees that Victor is living life with his beautiful family, having a good time, while he’s out sleeping in a shack, eating berries and roots.

The creature kills Victor’s younger brother by accident, but once he sees how much despair he causes Victor he starts to like it.  He wants Victor to feel just as badly as he does.  Here you see what a piece of trash Victor is.  Okay, he abandoned the monster, but when the creature kills Victor’s younger brother, does Victor say anything?  No, he doesn’t.  Instead, the maid gets accused because the evidence points to her (set up by the monster).  Victor understands what is happening but he doesn’t say anything.  The maid goes on trial and is found guilty.  Victor still doesn’t say anything.  His excuse is that he doesn’t want people to look at him like he’s crazy because he created the monster.  That’s pretty shitty.

In the end, the maid decides to confess even though she did not commit the crime.  She is worried about being eternally damned.  She is executed and Victor remains silent.

To me, he gets everything that came to him.  The monster now becomes set upon revenge.  He kills Victor’s friend and future wife.  After the death of each loved one, Victor gets all depressed.  Everyone in his life understands his grief, but they don’t understand how ill he makes himself.  He would rant that he was the murderer (because he created the monster) and when his loved ones would ask him to explain himself, he wouldn’t say anything.  He was still thinking that people would think he was crazy because he created the creature.  How selfish.  His best friend was killed and he didn’t even tell the man’s family what happened.  Some friend.

The monster confronts him eventually.  He tells Victor why he’s doing this to him.  The monster wanted Victor to create another monster so that they could be together.  The monster was lonely.  Nobody loved him.  He wanted what Victor had.  Victor was about to get married and the monster wanted the same type of companionship.  Victor, at first, agreed, to create a new creature, but then he reneged on the deal.  That is why the monster killed Victor’s friend.  Then the monster came back one more time and told Victor that he wasn’t finished with him yet.  He was going to suffer every bit as much as he did.  Every feeling of despair, loneliness, misery and anger, Victor was going to feel it before the end.

The monster was right.  On Victor’s wedding night, the monster killed Elizabeth (Victor’s new wife).  Victor’s father was so distraught at all this death that he became ill and died.  Except for a brother who went into the military, all of Victor’s family and loved ones had been killed.  He decided to track down the monster and end his life, to pay him back for all the grief he had caused.

In my opinion, Victor should have killed himself.  He was the author of so much misery.  In a way, he was the murderer.  He created the monster.  He didn’t bother teaching it anything.  He abandoned it.  He treated it like garbage.  The monster, being a monster, and knowing no other way, did what he did.  Victor doesn’t have a right to seek vengeance, not in my opinion.

In the end, you wind up feeling for both Victor and the monster.  Victor dies chasing after the monster.  When the monster finds out that Victor is dead, he feels remorse.  He didn’t mean to cause so much pain.  He just wanted Victor to understand how terrible he felt for being so alone in the world.  He regretted killing innocents.  He regretted everything.  He decides to disappear into the wilderness to kill himself.

So, I did really like the novel although it was kind of horrific and depressing.  All that death.  Everybody unhappy, but it tells important lessons.  Don’t try to play God.  Treat others like how you would want them to treat you.  Revenge is a dish best served cold and if you don’t have the stomach for it, don’t try it.  And most importantly, vengeance never ends up like how you think it will.

Next, it’s Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  Another long read.  I hope I can get through it.


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