Frankenstein OR The Modern Prometheus
By: Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Genre: Horror, Gothic, Science Fiction
Mary Shelley’s seminal novel of the scientist whose creation becomes a monster.
Frankenstein OR The Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Written in 1818 by the English author, and original Goth Girl, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein was originally published anonymously when she was 20. It wasn’t until the release of the second edition that Shelley’s name even appeared. Some of Shelley’s background is certainly important to know to fully understand the magnitude of what the author has so masterfully painted and implied in her work. I assure you; the message and the social implication of Frankenstein is just as relevant today as it was two hundred years age.
Shelley’s mother died from an infection she developed after giving birth to Mary. The iconic author grew up never knowing her mother and had bonded strongly with her father, William Godwin. However, Godwin’s second wife was jealous of their relationship which resulted in his pulling away from young Mary, and for his favoring her half brothers and sisters instead.
Mary later met and married Percy Bysshe Shelly, one of the Romantic Poets. In 1815 Shelley gave birth to Clara, who died two weeks later. Mary continued to lose her children in a similar way for the next eight years. This is such an impactful premise that followed her through her life and ultimately helped to shape Frankenstein.
In 1816, while travelling in Geneva, Shelley, Percy, Lord Byron, and John Polidori decided to see who could write the best ghost story. Only one of them ever completed their story. Mary Shelley was 18 when she won the contest with her story Frankenstein.
The story is masterfully executed as it shifts from one narrative POV to the next. Initially the story is told through a series of letters from ship’s Captain Robert Waldon, a failed writer on an expedition to the North Pole. It is through the eyes of Waldon that the reader first meets Victor Frankenstein, and we get a glimpse of the giant creature on the horizon. Victor is nearly dead by the time Waldon finds him. Consumed by his own compulsive desire and obsession, Victor sees a bit of himself in the captain, a man obsessed with his voyage to the North Pole. We learn that Victor has been pursuing the giant creature and his obsession has nearly killed him.
Flawlessly the narrative shifts and is told through the eyes of Victor as we learn about his childhood, the death of his mother, and his passion for the sciences and Alchemy. Victor is consumed with the pursuit of knowledge and has learned the secrets to creating life.
There are no bolts of lightning, there is no assistant named Igor, and there are no electrodes attached to the neck of Victor’s creation. The creature is 8 feet tall because the intricacies of the human anatomy would be too difficult to work on and recreate if performed on normal scale. It is done with a mixture of science and chemistry, and a bit of mystery as we never learn how Victor actually did it. However, he succeeds, and he is instantly repulsed by the sight of the creature. It is so profound to take note that Victor has put a great deal of effort and devotion into the creation of his creature. Then when the act is complete and the fruits of his labor are revealed, he no longer wants it. In fact, Victor wishes nothing more than to destroy his creation. Victor losses his mind for a moment, if he was ever in possession of it to begin with, and takes off, while his newborn is left to fend for himself. We later find out that shortly after this incident happens, Victor’s brother is murdered.
The narrative then shifts to the point of view of the creature. Alone, unable to understand the language, the creature must fend for itself in the wild. It hides and teaches itself how to speak by watching a family, and he quickly grows intelligent. However, he is aware of his own repulsiveness and soon finds that all humans see him just as his father Victor does, hideous and unworthy of love.
The creature decides that if he cannot be loved and since he is so hated by man, that he will find Victor and force the scientist into creating the only thing that could love him, a mate in his image, hideous and repulsive. I will not give it all away as I nearly have already. However, if you have only seen the Hollywood flicks and never read Shelley’s masterpiece, you are doing yourself a great disservice. This is the real deal, the original horror classic. Certain Horror associations should be giving out the Shelley award. The guy who wrote that story about a creepy count was a hack compared to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. I said, and it is too late to take it back. And I will tell you why…
First, Victor is Frankenstein-not the creature. Also, Victor is the monster. A parent who decides to conceive his child, puts all his effort in giving that child life, and then brings that child into the world, only then wishing the destruction of that child. Shelley’s mother died as a result of childbirth. Mary Shelley lost several children during childbirth and/or soon after. Also, abortion was as controversial a subject then as it is today. This all plays heavily into the subjects of destruction of life and the abandonment of a living being.
Science was in question. Was it right for man to assume the role of God when it came to creation? Was it even a place for a man to have a place at all? I urge you to read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and allow yourself to go a bit deeper. This story not only sets the precursor for the modern-day horror novel and sci-fi thriller, but also suggests that we dig a bit deeper into what truly defines us as human? It’s about the balance between our emotions and our obsessions, our desires and our darkness. It’s about what separates man from monster?
Can I give more than five stars? What is the limit? Whatever it is, that is what Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley deservers, and so much more for her masterpiece, Frankenstein-The Modern Prometheus.
I Love, Love, Love this Book…Daemon Manx
Daemon Manx writes horror and speculative fiction. He is a member of the Horror Authors Guild (HAG) and has had stories featured in magazines in both the U.S. and the U.K. His short story, The Dead Girl, became a finalist in The Green Shoe Sanctuary’s summer writing prompt contest in August 2021. His debut novelette, Abigail, was released through Terror Tract Publishing and has received 4.8 stars out of 5 on Amazon and Goodreads. He lives with his sister and their narcoleptic cat Sydney in a remote cabin off the grid, where they patiently prepare for the apocalypse. There is a good chance there they will run out of coffee.
Strange things come in small packages. Adrian Billard believes he knows what it’s like to be different, and has nearly given up hope of ever finding happiness. But, a strange package left on his doorstep is about to turn his entire world upside down. Everything Adrian thinks he knows is about to change. He is about to meet…Abigail.