Book Reviews

F is for the Fable of Frankenstein

“I saw the pale stu­dent of unhal­lowed arts kneel­ing beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phan­tasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the work­ing of some pow­er­ful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion. Fright­ful must it be; for SUPREMELY fright­ful would be the effect of any human endeav­our to mock the stu­pen­dous mech­a­nism of the Cre­ator of the world.” (Mary Shel­ley, 1816)

Did you know that it was from this dream that a twenty-one-year-old girl would be inspired to write a story about a crea­ture cre­ated by a man named; Dr. Frankenstein?

Marymary_shelley; author of “Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus, and her hus­band, the writer; Percy Bysshe Shel­ley, were sit­ting around in a Sum­mer man­sion invent­ing ghost sto­ries to scare each other. At that time period, great inven­tions were tak­ing place in the med­ical field, such as “gal­vanism.” Gal­vanism; which is now known as “elec­tro­phys­i­ol­ogy” is the con­trac­tion of a mus­cle that is stim­u­lated by an elec­tric cur­rent. A sci­en­tist by the name of Luigi Gal­vani was using these elec­tri­cal shocks to see if he could ani­mate an ani­mal that he had dissected.

Mary was both fas­ci­nated and repelled by this prac­tice. She had told her hus­band that “play­ing God” was sim­i­lar to the Greek myth of Prometheus.

Prometheus was the son of the gods Iape­tus and Cly­mene, both Titans. The Titans, led by Cronos, were the orig­i­nal rulers of the uni­verse; they were later over­thrown by the Olympians, led by Zeus. The name Prometheus was formed from the Greek pro (before) and meters (think­ing); thus, his name means fore­thought. He is asso­ci­ated with the cre­ation of man from earth and water and with the bestowal on the man of gifts that made him supe­rior to ani­mals. After the Olympians became the supreme rulers of the uni­verse, Prometheus con­tin­ued to look out for the wel­fare of human beings. (Franken­stein. (2010) Retrieved August 24, 2010, from
Last, First. (2010) What is the uni­ver­sal mean­ing of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein? -)

Gothic and “roman­tic” lit­er­a­ture was in vogue. Both Mary and her hus­band loved to be fright­ened with grue­some sto­ries. After Mary had the dream of the begin­nings of Franken­stein, she send her book anony­mously because the Gothic genre was reserved for men. Women were con­sid­ered “too del­i­cate” for such dark works. When the book came out it cre­ated such a stir that the pro­fes­sion of “body-snatching” (steal­ing corpses of the newly dead from ceme­ter­ies) rose to a new level. Doc­tors and Sci­en­tists who had already heard about gal­vanism wanted to see if it was pos­si­ble to re-animate a dead body back to life. Experimenting with Galvanism and re-animation of corpses

They missed the whole warn­ing mes­sage of Mary’s book. Another mes­sage that Mary strongly con­veyed was the tragedy of Dr. Frankenstein’s crea­ture when he became alive.

The mon­ster has often been mis­tak­enly called “Franken­stein.” In 1908 one author said “It is strange to note how well-nigh uni­ver­sally the term “Franken­stein” is mis­used, even by intel­li­gent peo­ple, as describ­ing some hideous mon­ster.“
Franken­stein. (2010) Retrieved August 24, 2010, from

If you’ve seen any of the hun­dred or so odd movie ver­sions of “Franken­stein” or read the orig­i­nal book; then you know of the tor­ture and the sad­ness the mon­ster experienced.

“ALL MEN HATE the wretched; how, then, must I be hated, who am mis­er­able beyond all liv­ing things! Yet you, my cre­ator, detest and spurn me, thy crea­ture, to whom thou art bound by ties only dis­sol­u­ble by the anni­hi­la­tion of one of us. You pur­pose to kill me. How dare you sport thus with life?” (Franken­stein; 1818)

And so one of the great­est mod­ern day fables illus­tratedfrankenstein-Boris-Karloff the down­falls of mankind when hubris out­weighs humil­ity and con­scious­ness. Mary was never against sci­en­tific dis­cov­ery and explo­rations, she was fear­ful of how far peo­ple would take for the sake of “science.”

I’m end­ing this post with a video set to mod­ern day music of Dr. Franken­stein and his Creature.

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