I don’t wish to alarm you, but Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is nothing like the movie Young Frankenstein. No Igor. No platform raised to the heavens during a storm while he screams, “It’s alive! It’s alive!” All my childhood memories of monster movie snippets dashed by the book. I finally read it last week. I know some book snob is sneering, “you haven’t read Frankenstein?” Look, I was busy reading other books.
A Four Layer Cake
Published in 1818, the book supplies more verbosity than we’re used to in the 21st century. Despite the advice of editors everywhere, the book is not only a flashback, but three more levels of recursion as one point as Captain Walton relates Frankenstein’s story who then tells the monster’s story who at some point tells some couple’s story. The writer’s equivalent of jumping a poodle on a bicycle doing a wheelie as you yodel.
The Plot Thus Far
People call this book science fiction, but it’s very light on that. Shelley alludes to Frankenstein mixing old science and new as he is fixated on creating life while studying in Germany. He builds his project while sequestered away doing unspeakable things which he politely doesn’t speak about. On the plus side, it’s a good move to not bog the reader down with lots of science fiction jargon so everybody can follow along. On the downside, this could have been a magic ritual, and I have no idea which section of the Dewey Decimal System to file the book.
Where was I, oh yeah. Frank finishes the job, gets scared, runs to his room, and awakes to see his creature reaching for him. The creator freaks again, leaves the building, and runs into his old buddy come to check up on him from back home. When he returns, the monster is gone, and of course, Frank doesn’t tell anybody. The rest of the book is Frank needs therapy. Gets better, goes home. His sibling is murdered, a maid is framed and Frank goes hiking after midnight and meets up with the monster who tells the other layers of what he experienced since he woke up in the aforementioned layer cake. Also, he killed Frank’s brother and framed that maid. By the way, can you make me a wife?
Frank says yes, goes to Scotland by way of England with his buddy. Montage scene of Frank sequestered making lady bits and at the final stage realizes his monster’s an evil mo-fo and cancels the project. Goes out in a boat, gets lost and lands on Ireland just in time to meet the villagers who discovered a body. Of his buddy. That monster loves frame jobs and knew Frankenstein would come ashore right there. Another mental breakdown and recovery and get out of jail card and Victor comes home to the land of the Swiss Miss for some hot cocoa and a wedding to Elizabeth, his adopted “cousin”.
She gets whacked on their wedding night, Victor tells the local cop what happened. Cop says, “Man, if that’s true, we can’t handle your super-dude, you’re on your own.” So Frank follows on a merry chase to the North as I’m sure the beast leaves his clues and food just to keep him going. Where he nearly dies, just in time to be found by Captain Robert Walton, the letter writing author of this entire tale. The Captain is obsessed with finding the Northwest Passage because Global Warming hasn’t been invented yet. He also writes that he’s lonely and needs a Friend. I’m not sure if he’s gay or wants a girlfriend, but regardless of his preference, he needs a soul mate or reasonable facsimile. Since the ship is stuck, he nurses Frank back to health and builds up a doomed bro-mance as Frank relates the entire tale. Frank is dying, and does. Just in time as the monster pops in to check on him, and laments how he should have given up sooner so the man wouldn’t die. Walton makes a good point of “You’re only saying that ‘cuz he’s dead.” and the monster shrugs and decides to go further north and kill himself or something. The end. Ice melts, and Walton goes home to hand deliver those letters to his sister since they ain’t been moving. No epic battle amidst cracking ice floes.
What’s it all Mean?
On the back-end, we know Mary Shelley suffered a miscarriage and dealt with a severe depression over it. This book is a literary expression of that feeling. Backing off on an obsession before people get hurt is the obvious theme. But I have a different take-away.
Deadbeat dad’s suck. I know other people take the lesson that man wasn’t meant to create life. Worse, a superhuman who is bigger, faster, stronger. But I see a total lack of scientific controls and planning for parenting. It really comes down to once Frank spilt his load, and got scared when he got the news. He ran. He never took responsibility. He didn’t try to be a parent to his creation. He should have been prepared beforehand. He should have tried afterwards. Never mind that pesky losing his mind, if he had proper controls and a partner, somebody else could have picked up the slack.
Don’t make superhuman designer babies without a plan for raising them and a contingency for if something happens to you.