Frankenstein Finally Finished!

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“I’m f**ing done this sh*t!” I hollered happily when I read the last sentence of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

I struggled through every word of this novel just so I could knock off another classic on my Back to the Classics Challenge 2012 reading list.

The good parts:  there is much about Mary Shelley’s classic that is wonderful.  Shelley begins the story with letters from a brother, Walton, to his sister.  He seeks adventure, triumph, honour, comradeship as he ventures on an expedition towards the North Pole.  He finds Victor Frankenstein and we hear the story of his upbringing in Switzerland, his intense study in Germany and finally his obsession with creating life, which ends with the creation of a monster.  Shelley moves the plot seamlessly between Walton’s letters to Victor’s narrative and finally, to the monster’s narrative of his experiences after he escapes Victor’s home in Germany.  Each story leads to another a story, to another story – every so often, the spell is broken with Victor’s present admonitions towards his monster, but Shelley adeptly dives back into the tale.

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She expertly creates a sense of foreboding, mystery and anxiety.  Tension runs through the narrative – a must for any horror piece.  Her characters are typical of the time, at times a little too perfect, and of course so very innocent which makes the monster more evil.  The birth of a man – from innocent, to a learned individual is chronicled.  As he learns about humanity, Shelley sharply criticizes civilized society.  Prejudice deters true understanding of those around us, and at times, she elicits compassion for the monster, for he did not ask to be created.

The not-so-good:  this novel is too long for its plot, far too descriptive and overly dramatized.  It reflects the writing style of the time, but if felt unnecessarily emotional.  Too many passages that went off on tangents, though relevant in the creation of atmosphere, were completely unnecessary.

I need to connect to characters in some way in order to truly love a book.  I did not connect to one character in this novel – I didn’t care about Frankenstein, his family, or the monster and I found Walton rather whimpy.  The conclusion of the novel left much to be desired too.  At no point did any feeling other than annoyance rise out of me towards any character.

Ultimately, if you like horror fiction, and don’t mind long-winded (beautifully written) passages that do not progress the plot – but give great insight into humanity – and, don’t need to connect to the characters, then you’ll probably enjoy this novel a lot more than I did.  I’m interested in hearing from those who just love this book…my only question is, why?

Why Did I Pick Frankenstein?

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As part of the Back to the Classics Challenge 2012, I am to read a classic mystery/horror/crime fiction piece.  I automatically thought of Edgar Allan Poe – but I’ve read so many of his stories that it wouldn’t count.  Then a teacher I highly respect told me she was going to start teaching Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to her grade 12 classes next year – it’s a classic and a great read.  Perfect, I thought, another beautifully written work of literature that’ll captivate me. 

Boy, was I wrong – not about the beautifully written part – it has yet to captivate me.

I’m about five chapters in and the thought of having to read more makes me cringe, wanna cry, my belly ache, my head ache, and it is the perfect time to organize all those drawers I’ve been avoiding for over a year.  How on earth am I going to get through this one?

If there is one thing reading Frankenstein has proven is my love for the succinct.  Shelley was a beautiful writer.  She captured the voice of her narrators so eloquently – but I’m wondering if she too was paid by the word like Charles Dickens because there are just one too many passages describing Victor Frankenstein’s (the scientist) love of chemistry and natural sciences.  I get it already, he loves science….he worked day and night creating his monster…he ignored his family and friends….get on with the story, I’m BORED!

As I read I can’t help wondering how on earth my friend will teach this to seventeen year-olds in the fall.  Today’s generation barely has the attention span to sit through a fast-paced action packed commercial – never mind reading passage upon passage about some guy’s love for science.  I’m obviously judging this classic prematurely and I’m sure there are many out there who would defend this novel passionately.  I was hoping it would have hooked me by now.  Sadly, all I can think of is I can’t wait for this to be done so I can move on to my next classic.