Grayswandir (_grayswandir_) wrote,

"How dare you sport thus with life?"

I finished reading Frankenstein last night. In spite of all the fun I've had mocking it, it wasn't that bad. It wasn't that good, either -- but I enjoyed it, and I'm glad I read it. In technical terms, the style, while not very unique or exciting, is fairly faultless. It reminds me a bit of Hawthorne: eloquent, expressive, rich in vocabulary, grammatically inculpable, but sometimes tedious in detail, excessive in exposition, and absurd in purport. And of course, like most books of its time, Frankenstein is profuse with exclamations of wretchedness and misery. Angst and more angst, and some nature, and some more angst: welcome to the Romantic Period.

Mainly I was amused by the monster's resemblance to your typical goth teen -- some poor, unpopular kid reacting violently against the rejection of his peers, and possibly shooting up his high school classmates to punish their prejudice. The way he talked about "The Sorrows of Young Werther," it sounded like he was listening to The Cure; the way he talked about "Paradise Lost," it sounded like he was listening to Marilyn Manson. He has been rejected as an angel; he is ready to become a Satan. The boy that you loved is the man that you fear, and all that.

Victor Frankenstein was rather pathetic, and in spite of being reminded continually about his allegedly grand and noble nature, I never was able to conceive of him as much more than a precocious child who stepped into boots much too large for himself. I mean, instantly upon creating his monster, he practically fled screaming from the room, even though the monster had as yet done nothing more heinous than to open his watery, yellow eyes. The monster was absolutely right; Frankenstein made a horrible father, and it's no wonder his boy grew up badly. One can only begin to imagine how much worse things would have gone if the monster had been one of average intelligence, instead of a genius with a keen sense of moral right and a love of reason and justice.

For some reason Victor Frankenstein reminded me of Wordsworth. A lot. I have no idea why; maybe it was all his talk about nature, and the strange girliness of all his actions, and his intense love for his sister... but however it was, even before any mention of Tintern Abbey came up, I just kept seeing Wordsworth running around bemoaning his fate, and how he should have spent his life contemplating the beauty of rainbows instead of thrusting his grubby mortal fingers into the clay of creation. I don't know.

Of course, in the Bible, it often seems that God doesn't do a much better job Himself. And His excuses are about as bad as Frankenstein's. I made you; how dare you question me, even if I should hate you, abuse you, or choose to destroy you? "Woe to him who strives with his Maker, an earthen vessel with the potter! Does the clay say to him who forms it, 'What are you making?' or 'Your work has no handles'?" But, you know, it's harder to argue with God. Unlike Frankenstein, He didn't fashion His creation big enough and smart enough to squish Him.

Well -- or maybe He did. I'm sure Nietzsche would say that he did -- that the whole aim and end of Man is to become great enough to wrestle and overcome his own purported Maker. But anyway.

It's a Romantic novel; I see that. Still, I have trouble seeing the book as an expression of the Romantics' view that nature ought not to be meddled with, because it wasn't Frankenstein's meddling that got him in trouble -- it was his complete failure to finish what he started, to take responsibility for his work and see it through to the end. Evidently if he had only played a proper fatherly role to the monster, all would have been well. Instead he ran off and fainted and went insane for a while. Some kind of parent! Some kind of scientist!

The monster made a few good points, though -- as impossible as it was that the monster should have been able to make those points, I'll allow that his role and character were interesting. It could have been done a hell of a lot better. But for what it was, it was all right.

So. Back to reading The Red and the Black now, I suppose. Or something else. I'm sort of inspired to reread Paradise Lost now, actually...
Tags: books, frankenstein, literature
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