What do we all know about Frankenstein? That question could be helpfully rephrased as ‘what do we all think we know about Frankenstein based on some cultural references which are less than helpful?’. The book itself turns all the cultural notions on their head. ‘Igor’ for example. A bolt through the neck?
Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein in 1818 and it is therefore nearly 200 years since it was written. This book demands a degree of respect given its long heritage and this has largely been absent from film adaptations.
The novel itself is, for me, a science fiction horror in a Gothic romantic setting. It uses a framing device using a narrative from the fictional Captain Walton who is navigating the seas of the arctic circle. This allows us into the story at a late stage and we know where we are heading at that point. Victor Frankenstein is then given a chance to relate his tale from childhood to the present moment.
The monster is given a chance to speak and fill a large gap in the narrative. This gives us a chance to view the story from his perspective and who are we to deny that. Far from being a ‘monster’ we see that He is a being with developed feelings and a well -structured cognitive ability. This does leave a gaping hole in working out how the monster developed such abilities by watching a family in a cottage through fleeting glimpses. Developmental psychology is a lot tougher than that in real life.
From this story we can explore some of the dilemmas that could exist between ourselves and something we create. Who has control? who sets the narrative? Can we act as if we are the only thing which matters? How would we feel if the thing we created turned against us? What does all this say about how we treat others?