Frankenstein’s monster was a vegetarian.

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.

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4 thoughts on “Frankenstein’s monster was a vegetarian.

  1. you go create them monsters

    oddly enough, I had a client in therapy last year who use the novel Frankenstein as her personal metaphor in each session. Weird. It seemed to work, and was an excellent review for someone who didn’t pay enough attention in 11th grade English…

    • Re: you go create them monsters

      frankenstein is actually probably a good text to use as a life metaphor. lots of issues: education, family, the animation of some dug-up nasty body parts…

  2. Wollstonecraft on NPR

    Speaking of the Shelley clan…I didn’t actually hear the story, but I think yesterday’s NPR Sunday afternoon edition did a story on Wollstonecraft. It may be archived on the Web site and of interest to you at this moment.

    For whatever reason, Frankenstein was my Heart of Darkness. Professors I chose inevitably found ways to creatively work in Frankenstein. I think the final count was six times from HS through grad school. I do love that the first thing the monster does is smile.

    Happy reading.

    • Re: Wollstonecraft on NPR

      that story is archived on npr’s site. i’ll have to check it out. i also have a really fantastic edition of frankenstein (i upgraded from my high school version) that includes lots of background not only on wollstonecraft but also godwin and quite a few other background sources shelley used.

      i wouldn’t mind the heart of darkness requirement so much if my professors found “creative” ways to work it into a syllabus. but so far the discussions have been relatively the same each reading. maybe this time i’ll luck out… i think i might, since one of the classes that’s requiring it is material constructions.

      thanks for the npr tip!

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