The latest selection for the Dark and Stormy Book Club is Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein!
A lot of people are unfamiliar with Shelley’s story – they think that Frankenstein is the tall green guy with bolts in his neck who goes around moaning and terrorizing villagers. They are surprised when they find that much of what they thought they knew about the story – what they learned from Boris Karloff movies – has nothing to do with the novel as Shelley wrote it.
I love this book and I always have. I don’t really remember the first time I read it; I know I picked it up on my own in the summer between my junior and senior years in high school, but there was an awful lot going on at that time in my life, so I don’t have a whole lot of intact memories about that first reading.
Subsequent revisits to the novel have been profound experiences for me, though. I love the story and find that I see something different in it every time I pick it up. I respond to it very much from the point of view of an adult survivor of child abuse, and I notice that most of my interpretations of the story come from that place. I identify with the Creature and his struggle to find a family and a sense of history and belonging, and I find that my judgment of Victor is particularly harsh because of what I see as his failings as a parent.
The novel deals with a lot of really interesting themes – the power and purview of nature, the limits of human ambition (or, more to the point, what SHOULD be the limits), the pursuit of glory and admiration and the idea of hubris, the concepts of family and relationships and responsibility, the role of women, the importance of literacy and communication, and the nature of what makes us truly human. It’s a nearly bottomless well of really great discussion fodder, and I’m very much looking forward to sharing this with other readers.
I know a lot of people who hesitate to share their favorite things, and I’ve known a lot of English teachers who are reluctant to discuss their favorite stories; they don’t want to see them any differently than they see them – they want their favorite story to live in their consciousness the way it does right now; they don’t want anything to threaten or change their impressions of the story. I’m excited to share Frankenstein with others, though – I’m always interested in seeing new things (or old things in new ways) that other readers bring into my experience.
The novel is available online for free (here’s my favorite link) and can be had for almost no money at pretty much every book store (especially around Hallowe’en). Join us, won’t you?