”Now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart…’
Obsessed with creating life itself, Victor Frankenstein plunders graveyards for the material to fashion a new being, which he shocks into life with electricity. But his botched creature, rejected by Frankenstein and denied human companionship, sets out to destroy his maker and all that he holds dear. Mary Shelley’s chilling Gothic tale was conceived when she was only eighteen, living with her lover Percy Shelley near Byron’s villa on Lake Geneva. It would become the world’s most famous work of horror fiction, and remains a devastating exploration of the limits of human creativity.’
Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ is often considered the first real science fiction novel and was written by Shelley as part of a competition between herself, Lord Byron and her then lover Percy Bysshe Shelley, to write a ghost story.
Thus, ‘Frankenstein’ was born. Possibly one of the most famous Gothic horror novels today. The story of Victor Frankenstein and the monster he gives life to is one of those stories that is so well known that most people know the general concept without actually having read the original novel. Much like ‘Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ and ‘Dracula’, the story of Frankenstein and his deadly creation has become so famous its now half remembered by most of the population. Many people know of Victor, and how he created a monster by creating a being out of corpses and bringing it to life with electricity. But how many people would recall the brutal murders of his younger brother, best friend and wife by the monster’s wrath?
The story of Frankenstein has been brought to life on screen in many forms, including multiple film versions (i.e. the Kenneth Branagh version and the more recent Victor Frankenstein starring Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy), TV show versions (such as features in Penny Dreadful) and even a stage version popularised by actor Benedict Cumberbatch.
The story centres on a young science student named Victor Frankenstein who creates a monster from dead bodies while at university. Horrified at his work, Victor flees his monster and attempts to forget about him. But this endeavour fails when Victor’s younger brother is murdered and the family ward is blamed and executed for the crime. Victor knows in his heart that the monster is to blame and when he appears and demands Victor create him a mate to accompany him Victor cannot decide what to do. He feels sorry for the loneliness he has inflicted on the creature but cannot risk creating another such fiend capable of such atrocities. Victor’s internal struggle between striving for scientific knowledge and the questionable morality of his actions frames the novel and provides the interesting psychological backdrop to the horror story.
Personally, I really loved reading the book as I’d only ever seen adaptations before now. The novel is far more poetic and filled with a sense of ingrained sadness. The cycle of depression and self destruction that Victor begins when he gives life to his beast continues right up until his death at the end of the novel and beyond. It touches the lives of almost everyone around him and diminishes his health astronomically. The concept of Victor’s experiment is really interesting to me, and one that I’ve not forgotten since I first heard about Frankenstein when I was a child. Most people are familiar with the monster, if only because of the sheer volume of cheap halloween costumes you can get of it, but the real story is rather more horrifying and yet tragic at the same time. You can’t help but feel for the loneliness of the monster, and yet his hideous crimes are far too much to forgive. Perhaps thats when, at the end of the novel, the monster announces he will leave to die in a bleak, white landscape you feel it is a fitting ending for a being so steeped in hatred and bred from death.