Blast the media for making me think all these years that Frankenstein is a horror story. True, it was intended by the author to be a ghost story, which materialized from a writing activity she did one summer, along with her husband and their poet host. But it didn’t end up to be as horrifying as I imagined it to be, the way Sadako and Toshio are. But yes, I must concede, I was horrified in a different sense. My horror stemmed from an anger towards the vicious face of humanity.
For how can one be overwhelmed with terror by a creature who yearns for companionship and who only means well? Of course, the creature we are are referring to, the anti-hero of this novel, is a daemon. Eight feet tall, sinewy in strength, indescribable ugliness. I understand that people will immediately have violent reactions upon seeing a daemon taller and stronger than them. I am not trying to be a moralistic bastard here, but I think that if the daemon speaks to me, I will have second thoughts. Yes, I am that gullible, but do we not give our fellow creatures the benefit of the doubt?
And I just started. Those were the first thoughts that ran through my head when I decided to sit and write something about this novel. So I keep referring to a daemon, right? It’s because he has no name; he’s simply called the daemon. A popular notion is that Frankenstein is the daemon, but really, Frankenstein is his creator.
“Farewell! I leave you, and in you the last of human-kind whom these eyes will ever behold. Farewell, Frankenstein! If thou wert yet alive and yet cherished a desire of revenge against me, it would be better satiated in my life than in my destruction. But it was not so,; thou didst seek my extinction, that I might not cause greater wretchedness; and if yet, in some mode unknown to me, thou hast not ceased to think and feel, thou wouldst not desire against me a vengeance greater than that which I feel. Blasted as thou wert, my agony was still superior to thine; for the bitter sting of remorse will not cease to rankle in my wounds until death shall close them for ever.”
From that, it looks like the creator and the created are not in good terms. How could they be after Frankenstein abandoned his daemon? He should have died of hunger or sickness when he was left to fend for himself, right? Of course that’s wrong. The daemon is very much a human with an instinct for survival. After all, he was resembled from various body parts of random corpses.
And what a tenacious being he is! What quick wits he has for him to be able to teach himself how to speak, read, and think like a rational being by thorough observation of the people he discreetly came in close quarters with. He also learns the history of civilization and how dangerous they can be. This knowledge is what made him realize that life is not peachy. His delved through his thoughts, trying to understand the dynamics of the society. But he can never be a part of the society: he is not of their kind. He is immediately shunned away, complete with beatings and broken bones.
His body may heal faster than that of an ordinary human’s, but his mind and spirit are forever fractured. He will never forget how he was treated with violence and disgust after saving a human life. He will carry this acid bitterness in his heart, but he has the sense to not brood forever over it and to realize that he will never belong. He concludes that the only way to ease the burden of his existence is to be with his kind.
And how is that possible when he is only one of his kind? There’s hope for him: he has to track down Frankenstein, the creator who has the ambition to equal God in terms of unlocking the secrets of life with his superior and dangerous knowledge in the medical sciences. So yes, this is the grand theme of the novel: the dangers of knowledge. The product of Frankenstein’s knowledge is a danger in itself. His unnatural coming to life is alarming, a reasonable cause for the society to intervene in order to purge a thing capable of destroying men. True enough, Frankenstein’s loved ones are killed one by one, not by sheer monstrosity but by a more powerful device: vengeance.
The daemon is a monster in such a sense, but to be fair, he was a gentle creature capable of compassion. As he slowly gains knowledge of a man’s wants and needs, he gets this notion that he at least deserves a little. And then it gets suspenseful and gripping from that point.
In fact, the novel is a real page-turner right from the start. The diction may be unmodern, but it is very readable. In fact, it is not a long read. Other editions have longer introductions or forewords than the text itself, which is quite understandable because there is so much more to analyze in this novel than what this write-up is attempting.
We read the letters of an Arctic explorer who has the ambition to travel to the unexplored regions of the North Pole. This ambition puts him in danger along with his crew, a situation like that of Frankenstein’s. And when this explorer meets Frankenstein afloat an ice floe, the structure shifts to the explorer’s retelling of Frankenstein’s story.
So yes, I think I have rambled uncontrollably. But I hope the message is pretty clear. Do not be scared of reading this novel. It can be read at the dead of the night without the fear of summoning scary thoughts, but prepare yourself for bloodshot eyes caused by reading more than you could sleep.