Possibly one of the very best works of literature of all time is the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. It is a worldwide known book, and there have been countless film adaptations, sequels, and retellings of it. As one reads this novel he or she will more than likely be able to relate to the story or the characters in some way or another. It makes a great analysis project also. Things that readers are likely to find when researching this book are the interesting way Shelley came up with the idea of the book, the differences in film adaptations and the actual novel, the view of both science fiction and horror in the book, the relationship between creature and creator, the different interpretive levels the story has to offer, and the way Shelley related a lot of the topics of the story to the political community.
A very interesting topic to research when it comes to this novel is how it actually came into existence. The tale began to form in the year 1816 as a result of a ghost-story-telling session between Mary Shelly, her husband, and a couple friends when the Shelleys were in Switzerland. They decided to have a contest to see who could write the scariest story in one weekend. It took her a few days to get inspiration, but she eventually got her waking dream. She said that what terrified her would terrify others, and she needed only to describe the specter which had haunted her midnight pillow.
The story and it's monster-hero eventually became such a well known and popular subject for film and stage that many acquaint themselves with the creature before even reading the book itself. Most first-time readers shockingly discover that the monster remains unnamed throughout the whole book, and the creator's name is actually Frankenstein. The novel can be difficult for modern readers to understand, with an older form of language and a plot that has less action or suspense than expected. Usually readers discover a much more intimate view into the lives of Victor and his creation than they would with the movies.
Frankenstein is a novel thought of as both horror and science fiction. Although the reader is more than likely horrified and disturbed by the events that happen, Victor Frankenstein's creature is not born by magic or the supernatural but by scientific principles. It is true that it is terrifying to think the morbid events in this story, but they are done in the name of science. For example, Victor gathers the dead body parts, but he is doing it to have supplies for his experiments.
The very core of this story is the intensely bitter relationship between Victor Frankenstein and his creation. Victor creates the creature but is afraid of it after doing so. He completely rejects it and doesn't even give it a chance to show if it's good or evil. Victor just automatically assumes that it's an evil monster. At one point in the story the creature tells Victor to remember that he is Victor's creature and that he ought to be his Adam, but instead Victor treats him like the fallen angel. This shows that the creature feels hurt by the way his creator is acting, and therefore may not be a monster. Perhaps Victor Frankenstein is the actual monster here.
When one is reading Frankenstein the novel intends the reader to see Victor Frankenstein as stealing creative fire from heaven in order to make a creature, who most people call a monster. One of the only reasons this creature is even referred to as a monster is because of what Hollywood has done to the story. In spite of the creature's crimes, he is as much angel as he his monster. The traditional movies don't show the true side of the creature or the creator.
There is a significant difference in Hollywood's depiction of this relationship between creator and creation and the original story. One way to measure the distance in Mary Shelley's daemon and Hollywood's monster is to try to imagine the film monsters being self-educated by reading Milton's Paradise Lost. The original creature does exactly that, and actually receives a great education. Unlike Victor, who has lack of imagination, the creature has great sensibility. As a matter of fact, critics normally agree that Victor and his creation are two halves of the same being, somehow divided against itself. This is how most critics believe the confusion came about in Hollywood giving the creature the name Frankenstein. Readers realize that, in the actual novel, the creature's sympathy far surpasses Victor's.
Frankenstein exerts a very strong hold on the readers imagination because it works on so many different interpretive levels. Beyond its appeal as a gripping tale of morbid horror, it is also a myth of technological arrogance showing what happens when man attempts to rival the laws of God and mother nature. Victor's is the tale of an out of control ego whose drive for power is self-destructive in the end. From another point of view, it is the exploration and creation itself, both creative act and psychical birth, posing questions of responsibility and consequence. At a psychological level Frankenstein and the creature may possibly represent two combined aspects of a broken psychic whole, with the creature enacting murderous desires that Victor simply ignores. The novel also treats society's sin in blocking out disturbing aspects of human nature that challenge us to second guess what we conceive as monstrous. Is it that it resides with the creature, or does it reside with the denial of love that he wants?