Sunday, December 06, 2015

Book #49: Frankenstein

A little over two years ago, I invited my friend Boyd to talk about Mary Shelley's Frankenstein at a library lecture series I used to host called "So You Want To Read." I meant to read it then, but didn't.

Last year, Jack read Frankenstein for his sophomore English class, and I started reading it in solidarity. I meant to finish it then, but didn't.

A couple of months ago, Roger reviewed this edition of Frankenstein, illustrated by Gris Grimly, for BYU's Children's Book and Media Review. I meant to read it then, but didn't.

This week, though, I was in a bit of a funk and a horror story seemed like good medicine. So I picked it up and read it (and thoroughly enjoyed Grimly's fabulous steampunk illustrations).

My timing ended up being just right, at least in terms of maximizing the impact of the Rorschach test that is Frankenstein and his creation on me. The past few months have been tough, and now I have a few new metaphors I can use to help process it all.

At times I saw myself and others in Frankenstein, who misunderstood what he created, who wanted to ignore the consequences, and who never realized that he actually held the power (love) to reverse the course he had set.

At times I saw myself and others in the monster, who, when he revealed himself, could not be seen for who he truly was, people feared him, and in his resentment and isolation, he became something he regretted.

At times I saw myself and others in the ship captain, who rescued Frankenstein in the frozen north and who took on the weight of Frankenstein's tale.

Several times I was startled by how much I saw myself and others in both Frankenstein's cousin, who became his unwitting bride, and the unrealized female monster he started to create as a companion to the first, but ended up destroying because she would dangerously have a mind of her own.

I'm quite sure I saw all sorts of things in the text that Shelley never dreamed of, as I viewed her work through the lens of modern day politics and the history that informs our struggles to see "the other" as fully human, the uneasy relationship between organized religion and people who do not fit in prescribed boxes, and, of course, the challenges I create for my own self that would not be so destructive if I faced them head on and made peace with them.

But that is the mark of a good universal and enduring (and cautionary) tale.

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