Monday, June 4, 2012


This too is one of my favorite books. Written by Mary Shelley at the age of nineteen this book is a masterpiece. There is a reason it is a classic. It is amazing that a nineteen year old could have written such a work, but it would be no less amazing if she had been forty-five. Inspired by a dream and a challenge Frankenstein was born. This book is teeming with life lessons and insights. This book has taught me so much about life and people. I learn a lot from books. I tend to be an observational learner and books give me a chance to look into different aspects of life even if the characters are fictional. The characters may not be real but the things they go through can be, more often than not, paralleled to real life. I see many parallels to the teachings of the scriptures in this book. The way they handle situations and the consequences they suffer from their decisions can help one determine how one might act in a similar situation. So it is with Frankenstein. Though the monster he made by magical means may not exist, the ways in which he handled the entire situation are very real. This book has taught me the importance of love in the home, and love in general. It has taught me the importance of befriending those who may seem different but who are no less human than myself. It has taught me that vengeance leads only to destruction. How to find joy in any situation and how and why to forgive. I learned to have more compassion. I learned that there is no more noble a calling than to be a servant unto my fellow man.  I learned that, perhaps, sinking into utter despair can be a means by which we learn to experience incandescent joy at the simplest of things. That people are imperfect but their constant effort to do right is admirable. I love people " and I long to discover the motives and feelings of these lovely creatures [...] that it might be in my power to restore happiness to these deserving people [...] and I am rewarded for any such exertions by seeing none but happy, kind faces around me." Here are some of my thoughts and favorite quotes from the book. They may be muddled and excessive but I they are important to me and for that reason I wanted to share them. 

*Spoiler Alert

Frankenstein. He grew up in a loving home with wonderful parents whose " benevolent disposition often made them enter the cottages of the poor. This, to [his] mother, was more than a duty; it was a necessity of passion- remembering what she had suffered, and how she had been relieved- for her to act in turn a guardian angel to the afflicted." He "received a lesson of patience, of charity, and of self-control." He had a lovely friend (eventually wife) Elizabeth who "unfolded to him the real loveliness of beneficence and made the doing of good the end and aim of his soaring ambition." He was not perfect but none of us are. I like the way Mary Shelley writes about people. She paints them with such bright colors. Though descriptions of their physical appearances are scanty (I prefer this) one can almost see the shining beings walking through their gardens. Also she writes from a perspective of one who has suffered tremendously. She writes from one who sees all as infinitely better than themselves. It is beautiful and poignant. Frankenstein appreciates the beauty around him more deeply because he has lost everything. I don't agree that we have to lose something to appreciate it fully but nevertheless trial and strife if utilized can open our eyes and vivify the colors of our lives. It is like when I have been in my apartment all day with the blinds closed and suddenly my roommate opens the blinds. At first I shy away from the light but then I notice how much easier it is too see. How everything is illuminated. I am thankful for trials for this reason. They have helped me in innumerable ways. 

Frankenstein creates his monster. Then he runs from it. When it looked to him for guidance in a world it was unfamiliar too and that it had no choice to be in Frankenstein forsook his creation. He fled. His Creation, confused, alone, helpless and lost, began to roam the countryside. Eventually this creature (I do not think he had, yet, become a monster) came upon a cottage. An old blind man and his two children lived there. He observed them for many months wondering at their relationship and their love and their family. He wanted to be a part of it. It was one of his greatest desires. He was kindly, with the purest of intentions. He learned much about service from the children "for several times they placed food before the old man when they reserved none for themselves." The hope that they might accept him fostered kindness in him and his "present was tranquil, and the future gilded by bright rays of hope and anticipation of joy" sustained him through his many months in hiding. One day he decided to inquire of the old man if he could stay with them. He went down at sat at the old mans feet. The old man smiles at this creature, he could not see him so his judgement was stayed until the creature spoke. He was so full of love that the old man spoke to him fondly when the creature asked him how he might become part of a family, or how to make a friend. He told him "(man)Do not despair. To be friendless is indeed to be unfortunate, but the hearts of men when unprejudiced by any obvious self-interest, are full of brotherly love and charity. Rely, therefore, on your hopes; and if these friends are good and amiable, do not despair." 
"(creature)They are kind- they are the most excellent creatures in the world; but, unfortunately, they are prejudiced against me. I have good dispositions; my life has been hitherto harmless and in some degree beneficial; but a fatal prejudice clouds their eyes, and where they ought to see a feeling and kind friend, they behold only a detestable monster"
"(man)That is indeed unfortunate; but if you are truly blameless cannot you undeceive them?"
" (creature)I am about to undertake that task; it is on that account that I feel so many overwhelming terrors. I tenderly love these friends; I have, unknown to them, been for many months in the habit of daily kindness to towards them; but they believe that I wish to injure them, and it is that prejudice which I wish to overcome." 
The children were good. They performed many acts of service towards each other and loved each other deeply, but they were not perfect. Unfortunately the children's eyes were overcome by the creature's appearance and they tried to kill him. After that the creature became something of a monster. Hate had changed him into a vengeful and murderous being. Filled with jealousy and loneliness he began killing Frankenstein's family. "How much more a murderer who could destroy such radiant innocence!" Frankenstein became wroth and vengeful as well. Frankenstein and his creation both began life " with kindness and a love of virtue. [they] had begun life with benevolent intentions and thirsted for the moment when [they] should put them into practice and make [themselves] useful to [their] fellow beings." They had now become unrecognizable and distorted by their hate. Frankenstein's father tried to save him from this destruction by asking him to think "not brooding thoughts of vengeance against the assassin, but with feelings of peace and gentleness, that will heal, instead of festering, the wounds of our minds, enter the house of mourning. My friend, with kindness and affection for those who love you, and not with hatred towards your enemies." Yet Frankenstein could not be persuaded to let his creation live in peace. He and his creation met in the mountains and his creature asked for a wife that looked like him. His creation wanted a companion. Frankenstein refused and so the hunt began. After many, many years of hunting Frankenstein was nearly dead when a sailor found him. Suffering had changed Frankenstein. " His countenance became expressive of a calm, settled grief that touched to the heart. Even broken in spirit as he is, no one can feel more deeply than he does the beauties of nature. The starry sky; the sea, and every sight afforded by these wonderful regions, seems to still have the ability to elevate his soul from earth. Such a man lives a double existence: He may suffer misery and be overwhelmed by disappointments, yet when he has to retire into himself, he will be like a celestial spirit that has a halo around him, within which no grief of folly ventures." How can I see so noble a creature destroyed by misery without feeling the most poignant grief? He is so gentle, yet so wise; he is not so utterly occupied by his own misery but that he interests himself deeply in the projects of others." Loneliness can stifle a soul. Companionship can help ease much pain. To have no friends, is a tragic thing. Frankenstein had been surrounded by his friends and family yet he forsook the thing which he created because of it's hideous face. He forgot to take into account the love that creature could posses if nurtured. His creation became a monster. He was not a monster to begin with. Many times I wonder if his creation thought "I have no friend, when I am glowing with the enthusiasm of success, there will be none to participate in my joy; if I am assailed by disappointment, no one will endeavor to sustain me in dejection. I shall commit my thoughts to paper but that is a poor medium for the communication of feeling. I desire the company of [someone] who could sympathize with me, whose eyes would reply to mine." 

Frankenstein forgot to show his love. He forgot to nurture that which he created. He felt guilty and ashamed of his creature expressing only hate towards it. Imagine if Frankenstein's creation was but a child. Imagine if Frankenstein had acted in the same way towards his child. If he showed them no love. If he spoke only hateful words to them. Would the child have turned out differently than poor Frankenstein's monster? If no one showed any love towards this child how would he survive?  If all his attempts at love and charity were met by disdain and disgust would he not too shun the idea of love and turn towards that which he has only ever known? Hate, despair and selfishness. Frankenstein's feelings towards his monster can be paralleled to many relationships today. Hate fills the home. Relationships splinter and families decay. It may not be to this extreme but if Frankenstein had showed but a little more love towards that which he had brought into the world things might have been different. His wife, nephew and friend might have lived happily. Instead hatred passed from father to "son" and the destruction of it reached farther than both of them. Frankenstein's monster could have chosen to metabolize the evil by which he suffered so much. He could have continued on refusing to accept the hate that other's showed towards him. He could have decided to be different than them. Yet, he chose to turn his grief into hate. Neither party is entirely innocent. 

I hope if I meet a creature or a person like Frankenstein's monster, who may appear less attractive than most but with an innocent and pure countenance I can stay my judgments like the blind old man and appreciate that being. I hope I show love to all those I come in contact with regardless of their appearance. I have learned so much from this book about unbiased love. I am not perfect but I refuse to allow superficial judgements to chain me down. I will make mistakes. Maybe I may not try to kill an unfamiliar face but what if I flee from them? I refuse too. I refuse to leave them alone. I have been shown so much love in my life I wish to do the same for others. I hope I can have the courage and determination to follow through with my decision. If I mess up I will try again and again and again to be better.

This book has taught me far more than I can express. I love this book. Books, to me, are a guide. Although nothing can take the place of experience books can help one decided in advance the reactions one might have to different things and they open up new worlds of insight. They help one see from different perspectives. Good books truly are like best friends. They make you better, they help you understand, they add something to your life. 

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