Published: 1831 (originally published in 1818, but updated in 1831 and this is the version I read)
Author: Mary Shelley
There are some things that are “common knowledge” that are just plain wrong. “Play it again, Sam” is never said in Casablanca, that we only use 10% of our brain was thoroughly disproved by Mythbusters, and the monster created in Mary Shelley’s famous novel is not called Frankenstein — it doesn’t have a name.
In fact, just about everything I thought about Frankenstein is wrong. I thought Frankenstein* was created by a mad scientist using lightning to reanimate a corpse. This monster was little more than a giant, lumbering zombie, who was killed when the local villagers rose up with their torches and pitchforks. Absolutely none of that is true.
Frankenstein is the name of the scientist (and frankly, he is a bit mad). The details of how Frankenstein brings his creature to life are rather thin, but from what I gathered, it was using chemistry, not electricity/lightning. The monster was huge, but anything but lumbering – he was described as having superhuman speed and quickness. Nor was the creature a zombie; he learns to speak fluently and read. I won’t give away the ending, but I will say that there are no villagers with torches and pitchforks anywhere in the novel.
I think I liked Frankenstein better this way than my original preconceptions. It was a bit short on details—Shelley briefly mentions Frankenstein gathering the “materials” for his project (I mean these are body parts, right? Where is Frankenstein getting these?). And as already noted, there was no real detail on how the reanimation occurs. This is understandable since the science didn’t exist, nor does it particularly matter for the story, but my dorky side would have liked to have seen how the creature came about.
I found the creature far more pitiable than Frankenstein. The creature is immediately rejected by his father/creator, rejected by society on account of his hideousness. Yet, the creature learns love, history, and language through a peephole in a cottage. Unfortunately for the creature, he still isn’t accepted into society, so he becomes the monster that everyone assumes he is and becomes a murderer—at least as a “pay attention to me” to his father/creator. Frankenstein, on the other hand, is as guilty as anyone, not for creating him in the first place as Frankenstein believes, but because he didn’t nurture his creation from the beginning.
It is bizarre to read a story you think you know only to have it be absolutely nothing like you expect. In this case it was a good thing; the creature was more sympathetic than what I’d anticipated. On the other hand, it is always a bad thing (in my mind) when you are rooting against the protagonist – but it is at least partially intentional, if not fully so.
WWYT Rating 7.0
*Technically, I did know that the scientist’s name was Frankenstein, not the monster’s.