Posted by: Yorgos | May 22, 2008

Text 19 – The Monster with the University Degree

I just finished reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Firstly, I would like to address a common misconception. Frankenstein is not how the monster is named, in fact it is never given a name. Frankenstein is the name of the young talented scientist who gives it life. Oh, and in this book, at least, there is no bride of Frankenstein (although the monster asks for one to be made), nor does the scientist screams “It’s alive, it’s alive”, when it wakes up. He doesn’t even know that it is alive, until he sees it standing over his bed. This image is actually the inspiration of the novel, according to Mary Shelley’s introduction.

In any case, I really enjoyed this book, even if most people find it boring nowadays. It starts slow, but the second half of the book is a quite compelling description of the pain and agony of playing God, when you can’t handle it (and you never can) and of evil that is born by injustice.

I would like to make two comments on this book. The first one has to do with the first paragraph of this text. It is very interesting, at least to me, how the myth of Frankenstein is completely separated by its origins. So many things that we take for granted, simply do not exist in the book. I will not say if this is good or bad. Myths have a tendency of acquiring a life of their own; According to Borges, Aladdin’s tale is not in the book of a Thousand and One Nights (also known as Arabian Nights), but it was added by an early translator. On the other hand, this particular myth seems to have been taken over by Hollywood and that has nothing to do with having a life of its own. I have addressed this issue in some of my other posts, especially the one about Fairy Tales.

The second comment is an observation about the language of the novel. The monster speaks as if he has a university degree in English or as if he is an accomplished author and yet he admits at times his ignorance on the meaning of certain words. Thank to the wonderful concept of “suspension of disbelief”, I have no issues with that choice of Mary Shelley. In fact, I quite enjoyed it, because it shows that in this novel and most probably in the majority of the novels of the era, beautiful language is of prime importance and it will not be abandoned for the sake of realism. I don’t know who was the first one, but I do know that Dickens is the most important author of that era who made his characters speak in accordance with their background. But Dickens is a whole other story and the words of his crooks and factory workers are brilliant in their own mistakes.

I wouldn’t recommend Frankenstein to those who are looking for the typical Hollywood myth. But it is a good read nonetheless.

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Responses

  1. I read Frankenstein in my first year of University and I loved it!


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