For instance, this painting by Henry Fuseli titled "The Nightmare"on the cover of my copy of Frankenstein. I feel all kinds of things when I look at it. Horror. Fear. Distaste. Wonder. Even beauty. The way that woman is lying there, prostrate and dead, yet still the most alive thing in the painting. The whole thing reminds me of a Greek tragedy. Which to me is exactly what Frankenstein is: a tragedy. I felt all the same things when I read this novel, i.e. fear, horror, loathing, with a little beauty woven in between.
Having seen multiple versions of this on film, I expected the story to be one way and found it completely the opposite. Instead of feeling sympathy for Victor Frankenstein and the situation he found himself in, I disliked him for most of the novel. I thought him weak and a coward. His creation on the other hand, I found to be born neither a monster nor a saint. I found him to be a product of his environment. Frankenstein had the chips of life in his hands, he may have laid them how he chose, perhaps even in order like any well-meaning but overbearing parent, but instead threw them high into the air and let them fall were they lay, in disarray, even scattering them about with his own hands. Like leaving a child to fend for itself in a forest full of wolves.
I thought of a lot of things while reading this book, mainly the obvious question that still holds true today being, just because we can, because we have the knowledge, should we? As Frankenstein himself says,
Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.
There are many modern day Frankenstein's, first in the movies, like The Terminator series, the Firefly series, The Matrix, I am Legend, and what about real life situations like Einstein and his regret over the bomb, cloning or growing babies in artificial wombs. The advances in science in what we might call creation will continue to grow by leaps and bounds every year until one day in the not too distant future, Frankenstein may not be so futuristic after all.
I thought of the whole parent/child relationship in the book and how that relates to my real relationships. In that light, I felt more sympathy for the poor creature than I ever thought I would. And finally I thought of Mary Shelley. Only eighteen when she wrote this ghost story in the company of famous people, including her husband. By twenty-two she was a widow and had lost several children and pregnancies.
She had a sad life. Which for me made the book all the more poignant, like one long poem from beginning to end. Well worth reading at least once.
And now, once again, I bid my hideous progeny go forth and prosper. I have an affection for it, for it was the offspring of happy days, when death and grief were but words, which found no true echo in my heart.