I began reading Frankenstein tonight. It’s been so long since I’ve read this book that I feel like I’m reading it for the first time. I’ve forgotten some basic elements of the plot, so it’s more exiting for me than… say… another go-round of Heart of Darkness.
Three things are making my current reading of Frankenstein fantastic. One is academic and the subsequent two are shallow but fun:
1. I’m reading it in the context of a class on the Victorian family. (Frankenstein was actually published in 1818 and is therefore a little early to be considered strictly Victorian, but such boundaries are debatable anyway.) I’ve just read some nonfiction accounts of the perception of family in the nineteenth century, and what I read is really influencing the way I read this book. Family boundaries were extremely fluid when Shelley was writing for a number of reasons, and claims of parental responsibility and filial duty were not only hot topics but also models for political views of community (e.g. in the writings of Edmund Burke and Mary Wollstonecraft, Shelley’s mother*). Reading the book with these issues in the back of my mind has really made Shelley’s project and intention seem innovative and relevant. In class, we’re going to discuss how the monster frames his claims toward Victor Frankenstein as his progeny. In the lexicon of my good friend Noel, I’m fuego excited.
2. The very moment I reached the pages in which Victor creates his monster, an edge-of-the-hurricane storm hit Houston. I waited patiently for Victor to burst through the front door of my apartment screaming It’s alive! It’s aliiiiiiive! This never happened. I am telling myself that his failure to appear is not due to my irrational expectations but instead because these words do not actually appear in the text.
3. My initials are the same as Victor Frankenstein’s. How freaky is that? I need to go create me some monsters.
In any case, I’m really enjoying reading this book. I suggest that those of you who have not read it since high school or who (the horror!)** never had to read it in high school at all pick it up in the near future. It’s a much better read later in life. For example, tonight I noticed that at the moment when the monster first approaches his creator, he smiles. Who can resist a face like that?
* Mary Wollstonecraft also died shortly after Mary’s birth of puerperal fever, which is associated with puerperal insanity — a condition that was used to plea insanity in cases of infanticide in the nineteenth century. So strangely my interests are coming full circle in one book. Spooky.
** Further evidence that Heart of Darkness has claimed full possession of my life. Without my consent.