Classic Review: Frankenstein

By Jacob Reese


For this semester’s third (and final) Classic Review, I have decided to do something different. Instead of reviewing an old movie I will be talking about an old book, the original “Frankenstein:” or, “The Modern Prometheus.” Now I know “Frankenstein” doesn’t seem like a very “Christmas-y” novel, but it has snow, and as we all know, snow equals Christmas.

Frankenstein was written by Marry Shelly at the young age of 19. Originally written as part of a writing contest between friends, “Frankenstein” soon became one of the most successful horror stories of its time, and credited as one of the first science fiction novels.

Similar to horror stories that would precede it, “Frankenstein” is not actually told by the main character but instead told by a third party, who is then told the story by the main character. The opening being set in the future is, in my opinion, a great way to build suspense and let the reader know that something bad has happened without explicitly saying it, and having a different character tell the plot allows for a seamless transition into the actual story without the “flashforward” feeling awkward or out of place. Authors like Bram Stoker and H.P Lovecraft would use this exact same technique in their writings several decades later.

I’m sure almost everyone knows the basic premise of “Frankenstein.” A doctor by the name of Victor Frankenstein creates a living being out of various pieces of human flesh. What most people might not know is that the monster Frankenstein creates is much different in this story than how pop culture depicts him. The most notable example being that he can speak and is very intelligent. He is able to learn several languages just by watching people speak along with learning about European culture and the meaning behind relationships. The monster frequently debates with Frankenstein and other characters in the story, going into detail about the reasons behind his actions.

The evolution of the monster is extremely well executed. He starts off excited to learn about the world and how much wonder he feels from it, but from the way he is treated he learns that he is not allowed to have the good things that he sees humans having like love and companionship. The novel makes you feel really sorry for the monster which unfortunately can’t be said for the main character, Frankenstein.

Frankenstein is extremely unlikable, and while that may very well be on purpose, it is nonetheless frustrating when you spend the majority of the novel with him. It is hard to feel sorry for the terrible things that happen to him due to his selfish and woeful attitude. To add insult to injury, Frankenstein does not evolve at all throughout the story, he is a completely static character, even on his deathbed he does not have a change of heart, unlike the monster whose development (while tragic) is extremely engaging.

Ultimately I think “Frankenstein” or “The Modern Prometheus” is an extremely emotional and thought provoking story of how people treat anyone they deem “different.” While it’s flaws might become too much at times, Frankenstein’s influence on both modern horror and sci-fi cannot be understood, and it’s beautiful prose and tragically touching story make it a worthy read for anyone interested in Classic Literature.

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