Thursday, September 22, 2011


Anyone who has managed to read "Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley will know that the monster is not the monster in the story. The monster is the monster's creator.

"Frankenstein" is the tale of a scientist who fashions a body from various corpses and then brings it to life through the application of lightning bolts. True, Dr. Frankenstein is horrified by what he has wrought but the monster himself, all simple and untutored and largely unloved, comes naked into a world that finds no place for him.

Sometimes I wonder how many corpses of the past have been stitched together and brought to life in the lightning of the present only to be left to fend, naked, for itself. A tall and boundlessly powerful infant is born.

Who will care for that infant?


  1. My wife's currently teaching the book in a high school english class. An assignment that she gave the class last week was to choose which character is the monster, Frankenstein or the creature, and to present some argument and evidence (quotes from the book etc) to support the chosen position. She said that there is always a portion of students who will initially refuse to choose. They can see both sides of the story and don't want to take a position. She explained that they would fail the assignment unless they did take a position, or rather, that they let go of the position of no position.

  2. Well, I guess it is a question of point of view. Someone else may say that seeing both sides (either in a positive or negative light, i.e. both are or neither is a "monster") is itself a position and arguing whether this it is a position or not can go on forever, like discussing the sex of the angels.

    If a child chooses that both are at different times of the story and if that means the child fails the assignment from one point of view, from another point of view the failure may be a victory.

    Perhaps Frankenstein is the first "monster", unaware of the consequences of his own action, he acts in reckless way and creates the creature, who for the same reasons becomes the second "monster" and, finally, the village people who, out of ignorance and fear decide to persecute them in a cruel way, become the third "monster"...

    So maybe we just take turns at being the "monster" or maybe we just take turns at being the "child"; immature, cruel and unaware of the suffering we can unleash onto others and ourselves.

    Take your pick (or not).

    p.s. There is always the option to forgive.

  3. If I remember the story correctly the creature could not forgive Frankenstein. A scared and angry mob is probably the least forgiving of all.