Frankenstein - Book Review

FrankensteinFrankenstein by Mary Shelley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Doctor Frankenstein becomes obsessed with creating life from dead matter.  But when he succeeds, he flees in horror from his monstrous creation, and much misery and destruction follows.

Mary Shelley, wife of the famed poet Percy Shelley, was raised in the center of the Romantic movement, which asserted that natural human feelings remained important in spite of Rationalism's mechanistic view of life.  Shelley assumes the truth of both schools of thought - that we can create life by mechanical and materialistic means, and that an individual's feelings are of greater importance than the science.  Both schools reject the existence of God, as does Shelley.  Frankenstein (who is the doctor, not the monster) is the only creator: flawed and weak, at that.

Which leads to Shelley's reservations with the prevailing intellectual winds of her time (notably of her own husband!).  She portrays the great misery that comes from going against nature.  Sin and the results of our sin are monstrous and ugly.  The unnamed monster asserts the Romantic ideal that if only men would accept and love him, he wouldn't be driven to rage and murder.  Men are good, but made bad by their environment, is the idea.  Shelley doesn't outright reject this godless and unbiblical idea, but she does show the tormenting consequences that come from crossing natural boundaries that shouldn't be crossed.  It certainly fits a Biblical worldview to that extent, especially the poetic justice theme, that if you violate nature it'll come back to bite you.

Recent children's movies have gone further with the Romantic ideal above.  The evil genius is not defeated but redeemed, by others loving him again.  If only they were loved instead of hated, they wouldn't have to be evil.  Shelley didn't go to this extreme - she never faults people for their revulsion at the monster.  Evil and ugliness remain what they are.  We cannot call evil good, nor say that our wickedness is forced upon us solely by others.

Another theme of Frankenstein that fits well with Scripture is human companionship.  The monster's creator flees him immediately, and much of the book is taken up with the monster observing human fellowship (family) and wishing to be part of it.  He asks Dr. Frankenstein for a bride.  He describes his torment using Milton's Paradise Lost's description of Satan in hell.  At least Satan had companions - this monster is totally alone.  This is arguably the worst consequence of sin - how it separates us from God and from others.

And in the end, the consequences of our sin, like the monster in the book, are stronger than ourselves, unstoppable (the source of the popular horror theme).  Sin takes dominion of us, if the Spirit of God is not working against it.  Sin leads to death - there is nothing for the monster to do, once he has taken vengeance and his creator is dead.  Suicide is the only real option left both for the Rationalist and the Romantic, since they are now isolated from God and man.  Though they extol the sublimity of nature, they themselves have twisted nature by rejecting their Creator, and so are at a dead end.

View all my reviews

No comments:

Post a Comment