This week I read Frankenstein for the first time and I felt so much love for this book, that I just had to share it.
There are those stories you know (at least vaguely) even though you haven’t read the book, Pride & Prejudice, Harry Potter, 1984 – and Frankenstein is certainly one of these. Personally I have not seen a lot of adaptations besides Penny Dreadful, so I only had a general idea what this was about, nevertheless I had high hopes.
Mary Shelley’s writing style is so beautiful and I would read the most boring story of hers just for the way she writes. It has been quite some time since I fell in love with an author’s writing style, but Shelley managed to make me fall again. I guess it will be the same es with the German Lessing, I now have to find every single one of her stories and read it.
When Shelley sets the scene you are there, in the Swiss Alps, in the laboratory, during the storm, it’s so vivid, dark and beautiful.
Wondrous scenes which surrounded our Swiss home – the sublime shapes of the mountains; the changes of the seasons; tempest and calm; the silence of winter, and the life and turbulence of our Alpine summers – she found ample scope for admiration and delight.
The general area this story takes place is known to me quite well, as I only live about an hour away from Ingolstadt and have been to Swiss various times as a kid, so I’m aware of the setting. Nevertheless, the way Shelley describes it I really want to go there again (and for the first time to Geneva) to see the beauty that inspired her. (Of course, even though I love that way she writes about storms and the weather, I would prefer sunshine.)
Second to that the way science is included in this work is just amazing, the connection between students and teachers – real teachers and already dead scientist whose work Victor reads -, chemistry, the passion for knowledge. It’s something I feel, too, being passionate about science is a wonderful thing. Since I also recently read Physicists by Dürrenmatt, which is focused on moral issues with science and research as well, it was interesting to think about that theme.
With this comes Victor, he is so hunted and I felt so much love for him, reading the way Walton talked about him in the letters to his sister. But also from the way he told his own story, he is suffering so much an placing all this guilt on himself, it feels like he is sitting right in front of me telling me the misfortunes (as far as I remember I consider the Penny Dreadful portrayal was pretty good, I feel like I have to rewatch the show now). All his angst and anger are so beautifully written, I cannot keep from feeling this compassion and love for him just like Walton does.
His eyes have a general expression of wildness, and even madness, but there are moments when, if any one performs an act of kindness towards him or does him any the most trifling service, his whole countenance is lighted up, as it were, with a beam of benevolence and sweetness that I never saw equalled.
Besides the focus on science there are also some words on literature throughout the book, even though they have little to do with the story, the fit so well and add a lot to it and to the way I look at Shelley. I always anjoy talk about different books inside a story no matter whether or not I have read them (Sorrows of Werther I actually did read years ago, but I am just not a fan of Goethe), the way she writes about cultures and literature, especially oriental literature just motivates me to pick up books and read.
Their meloncholy is soothing, and their joy elevating, to a degree I never experienced in studying the authors of any other country . When you read their writings , life appears to consist in a warm sun and a garden of roses, in the smiles and frowns of a fair enemy, and the fire that consumes your own heart. How different from the manly and heroical poetry of Greece and Rome!
I also think the thoughts about literature just humanise the monster so much, but in general I do have a lot of empathy for him. Even though I relate to the concerns and fear I also jus want happiness and love for the monster.
With a feminist mother (even though she died shortly after Mary Shelley’s birth) it is not too surprising that the female characters in Frankenstein are pretty elaborate and interesting. There are strong, intelligent women like Caroline Beaufort and Elizabeth. Latter having such a good heart, and yet determination and knowledge. Shelley also puts some morality in issues besides the science, women’s rights, prejudices and general issues.
She instructed her daughter in the tenets of her religion and taught her to aspire to higher powers of intellect and an independence of spirit forbidden to the female followers of Mahomet.
I heard of the discovery of the American hemisphere and wept with Safie over the hapless faith of its original inhabitants.
And it was judged that his religion and wealth rather than the crime alleged against him had been the cause of his condemnation.
Lastly, I wanted to share two fragments, that just show the beauty of Shelley’s writing.
with all their melancholy sweetness
fairer than a garden rose among dark-leaved brambles
After reading this, I feel like I just have to read this again, it’s so beautifully written and such a touching story with great characters.
[Confession time – I probably would not have picked it up had I not known it was written by a women in the early 19th century. The fact that a young women in that time decided to write and then chose horror (well it was after a suggestion, but nevertheless), just made me buy it and I was not disappointed.]