For summer reading with the girls, I chose the book Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley.
You’re probably wondering why I chose such a depressing, scary, horrific story to read to my children… but…
Is there any other story which shows the pain and anguish caused by unrestrained passion?
Yes, Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, comes close…
But, no one but Mary Shelley was able to provide the right venue. No one but Shelley gave us the right setting. The right protagonist, and the surprising twist and turn to antagonist.
Just as The Scarlet Letter served as both a warning to the individual and an admonition to society, Frankenstein (aka ‘Prometheus’) goes much further.
Frankenstein’s story touches on the concept of life. Of creation.
Unlike the child, aptly named Pearl, in Hawthorne’s vision, who also had their own devilish, childlike, innate challenging attitude towards the world…
Frankenstein’s monster went a step further…
To reveal the true monster.
Not the monster… as he discovers who and what he truly is…
Beyond this first ever show of bait and switch protagonists… we get to explore, via Shelley’s vision, what led Frankenstein down his dark and lonely path.
The icing on the cake?
We get to wonder why Shelley chose a male voice as her narrator.
We get to ask why she felt it necessary to be the receiver of the information, in the form of the dear sister.
And we get to ask these questions:
- What is the purpose of science?
- What drives us to ask questions at all?
- What makes us desire to break sacred boundaries, and understand the nature of our existence… the way God does?
- Is there a line? A boundary we shouldn’t cross?
These are very interesting questions for a poet and writer to ask in 1818… at the waning of the enlightenment… when philosopher and scientist were still one and the same for a few more years… when we were still worried in equal portions what and why we desired knowledge.
The reason I am reading this book aloud with my daughters?
Almost 200 years after Shelley dreamt up the concept of Frankenstein’s monster?
There is no better metaphor for modern society.