Every school fall costume parade (we do not dare call it a Halloween party anymore) features at least one "Frankenstein." Block head, unfortunate bangs, large ears, bolts in neck. Shuffling gait and incomprehensible moans and grunts. You know the drill. Ask that costumed child who he is, and he will quickly and confidently reply, "Frankenstein." Never "Frankenstein's monster" or anything like that. The nameless abomination has usurped his creator's name. The rich cinema history that Shelley's work has inspired has also defined the way that many imagine the monster's appearance.
Victor Frankenstein describes his towering creation a bit differently than that popular conception.
"His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips."
Everyone that comes in contact with the creature shudders, flees, faints, closes their eyes involuntarily, etc. The one exception is the blind man in the isolated cottage who is often discussed as being accepting of the stranger who has knocked on his door when his family is away until that family returns and reacts to the visitor's appearance with horror. In reality, I think that the tide really began to shift when the monster revealed that he had been living in close proximity to the family for some time, "helping" them with various chores while they slept and watching them to learn both language and social skills. Now that's not disturbing at all, is it? I know you all wish you had a similar set of helping hands spying and aiding your own family.
So while a popular interpretation of the novel rests upon the presumption that the monster is kind, articulate and gentle yet suffers because his different appearance elicits such harsh reactions from others, my most recent reading has really led me to embrace what I eloquently term "creepsterism" as a means of describing the behaviors of both father and son in the novel. Or as Tom commented on Bellezza's post in reference to Victor, "Also, he is a psycho." The good Frankenstein spends months creeping through his university environs in the wee hours scavenging for body parts in what ghastly ways we do not fully know, and then turns around and does the same thing when the monster demands a mate. And then in another display of mental stability, ravages that second creation. The monster savagely takes lives in order to forge the satisfaction of his own demands. Both assume that whatever force drives their perceived superiority (intellect, a sympathetic nature, sheer physical power) somehow makes them worthy of the readers sympathies. And that is an easy trick to fall for. Were it not for the use of Walton's character to offer contrast, and a closer look at the actual behaviors of the Frankenstein boys, I might have felt more sympathetic on this reread. As I vaguely remember feeling in the past. But their godlike presumptions did not sit well this time.
Framing in the novel and the influence of Milton's Paradise Lost are two more topics on which I jotted some notes while reading that I would like to get to this week. Well, I actually planned to get to them last weekend but the joy of being school free for the moment kind of took over the last couple of days. The best intentions...