“I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.”
-From the 1994 movie
The worst thing about this novel is how distorted it has become by constant movie adaptations and misinformed ideas about the nature of Frankenstein and his "monster". For years, like many others, I thought Frankenstein was the name of that slightly green dude with the bolts in his neck. Nuh-uh.
Did Frankenstein scare me? Did it have me staying awake and sleeping with the light on, jumping at every slight creak in the house? Was I terrified of the monster and technology and the dangers of playing God? No. Because the beauty of this story is that it isn't the one so many people think it is. Which is almost my favourite thing about it. This book is not a Halloween kind of story with Halloween kind of monsters. This story is heartbreakingly sad.
“...once I falsely hoped to meet the beings who, pardoning my outward form, would love me for the excellent qualities which I was capable of unfolding.”
The book offers many interesting avenues of philosophical exploration if one wishes to ponder such things. For example, allusions to religion and Genesis, possible criticisms of using science to "play God", and the relationship between creator and creation. All of these things interest me, yes, but it is the painfully human part of this book that has always so deeply affected me.
Because the sad thing, the really sad thing, is that pretty much everyone has heard of Frankenstein's monster... but so many don't know how human the character is. Created as a scientific experiment by an overly ambitious man, he comes into a frightening and hostile world that immediately rejects him on sight. Even the man who made him cannot look upon his creation without feeling horror. It's that same thing that gets me in books every time: things could have been so different. If people had just been a little less judgmental, a little less scared, and a little more understanding.
This being, created from different parts of corpses, seeks love and finds hatred, so he instead decides to embrace it. Fuelled by his own rage at the unfairness of the world, he gradually turns towards evil.
He belongs in my own little mental category with the likes of Heathcliff and Erik (aka The Phantom of the Opera). Scared, angry villains who were made so by their own unfortunate circumstances. The kind of characters you simultaneously hate and love, but most of all hope they find some kind of peace.
So call it science-fiction, if you want. Call it horror, if you must. But this story is brimming with some of the most realistic and almost unbearably moving human emotion that I have ever read.