At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.”
Although I’m a self-professed lover of Gothic horror and Classics, I actually found Frankenstein quite a disappointment.
Despite Victor’s obsession with grave-digging and the creation of the undead, the description and language Shelley used hardly struck me as truly Gothic. I was expecting gory details and gruesome imagery, but the language was so vague that in some places, I had to read passages twice just to realise the scene was about a dead body.
I also didn’t enjoy Frankenstein’s Monster as a Romantic or Pantheist: a gruesome corpse comes back to life and one of the first things it decides to do is some soul-searching, and hypothesise about the meaning of life in the beautiful Swiss countryside. This is complete juxtaposition in comparison to his character as a ruthless, bloodthirsty murdering, vengeful monster! Whilst I understand that juxtaposing character traits can be really effective at times, I just don’t understand how these two particular conflicts can work in a novel and still be considered Gothic.
However, I still admire Shelley for her ideas – ideas which are genuinely creepy and Gothic – and the boldness of her to write such a novel as a woman in the 19th century.
I also enjoyed the storyline as portrayed in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the 1994 film adaptation, directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh, as well as Helena Bonham-Carter and Robert De Niro. For me, this film brought to life the gory details of the plot I’d read in a genuinely horrific way, that I then found enjoyable.
All in all, I don’t think I’ll read Frankenstein again.