Frankenstein, or, the Modern Prometheus
By Mary Shelley
Penguin Books, 2003. 273 pgs. Fiction.
Frankenstein's monster reads Milton's Paradise Lost? Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans? I dare say this "monster" is more literate that most college students today. This was just one of the surprises reading Shelley's classic novel. Here you'll find no Igor (or Fritz). No elaborate reanimation scene. No stealing brains from the Goldstadt Medical College. The story line and the manner in which the story is related is completely different than I had expected.
The story is related in letters from Robert Walton to his sister, Margaret Saville. He is a sailor voyaging into the Arctic. He relates in his letters the story told to him by Dr. Frankenstein who is dying of exposure on the ice when rescued by Walton's crew. Frankenstein relates to him the story of his life, focusing, of course, on the "wretch" he had created and the consequent events. What was most interesting about the story is that within Frankenstein's account was the account of the creature itself, as told to Dr. Frankenstein nearly two years after his creation. The monster's story is one of learning of humanity, longing to be part of civilized society, yet complete rejection by his own creator and anyone he meets. It's this rejection that turns the creature into a criminal.