During the summer of 1816 in Geneva, while being trapped inside their villa due to heavy rains, Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, Claire Clairmont, and John Polidori were passing the time by reading ghost stories when Byron suggested that all of them should write a ghost story (more like a competition). 

Mary had a dream which she describes as.. “I saw-with shut eyes, but acute mental vision…the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together”. And this vision inspired her to write what we now call the first sci-fi gothic novel ever written, namely, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.

Frankenstein is the story of Victor Frankenstein, a science genius who embarks on the creation of a human being. After about 2 years of toil, he succeeds at infusing life into an inanimate being. However, he turns away from his creation in disgust as his features are far from what he had conceived. Frankenstein abandons his creation and the creature is left all alone. Wherever the creature goes, people are horrified at the sight of him, attack him with various weapons and hurl stones at him.

The creature escapes the country and takes refuge in a hovel, adjoining a cottage. He self-educates himself by learning the science of language through listening and observing the speech and actions of the cottagers. He delights in reading ‘Milton’s Paradise Lost’ that he had found in an abandoned suitcase.

He is capable not only of rational thought but also understands emotions- love, happiness, empathy, and sadness. He performs deeds of kindness for the cottage family (one which he considered as his own) only to be shunned by them in the end. He is abhorred and beaten for his good deeds, his help is met with curses.

Revenge boils in his blood and he embarks on a journey to meet his creator. When the creature finally meets Frankenstein, he tries to reason with Frankenstein to create a mate, a female companion for him. But when his wish is not fulfilled, he vows to take revenge from his creator.

“You are my creator, but I am your master; obey!”

 “I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel”.

The novel is interwoven with multiple complex themes including ambition, alienation, death, sympathy, fallibility, injustice, revenge, and nature. In the novel, the creature is called a “wretch”, “monster”, “demon”, “devil” and “fiend”. Even his creator calls him an “abhorred monster” and “vile insect”. Frankenstein’s refusal to fulfill his responsibility towards his creation can be likened to shunning of parental responsibilities.

The key lesson to be learnt from this masterpiece is “just because a man can, it doesn’t mean he should”. Science and technology have done wonders for mankind but it often comes at a cost- of lives and sometimes even one’s sanity.

“Seek happiness in tranquillity and avoid ambition.”

The book with its complex yet vivid style of writing combined with exceptional story telling brilliance will cater to all kinds of readers (especially the patient ones) except the ones who find old-fashioned writing a bit boring. I would definitely recommend this novel to my reader friends for this is a book too good to miss. It is thought-provoking and most of all it possesses the capability to humanize us humans who perhaps sometimes forget what humanity is supposed to look like.

Mary Shelley’s narrative style and brilliant language succeeds at making our hearts bleed for the creature, who is not a monster any different from man.

‘All men hate the wretched!’

Ps: It seems that Shelley was deeply influenced by Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” as one can find striking similarities with the work in the novel in terms of the style of narration and themes such as the power of nature or the consequences of going against Nature.

5 new words I added to my vocabulary: 

  • Asseveration

“the solemn or emphatic declaration or statement of something”

  • Ennui

“The feeling of being bored by something tedious”

  • Panegyric

“a piece of writing or speech praising somebody/something”

  • Torpor

“a state of laziness or lifelessness”

  • Uncouth

“rude or socially unacceptable, uncivilized”

Theatre Adaptation

Frankenstein has been adapted into plays and movies innumerable times. However, my favorite adaptation of the novel is the 2011 Adaptation by National Theatre, UK. It has been directed by Danny Boyle who is an Academy-Award winner. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller switching between the roles of Victor Frankenstein and his creation. It is a humane and intelligent retelling of the story which will keep you hooked for two hours.

– By Nidhi Bajaj

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