Frankenstein – Mary Shelley – *** (3 Star)

February 07, 2014

Something about it kept me reading, but I’m not sure what…

I guess it was the lure of a classic and the birth of such iconic characters that kept my interest.  It certainly wasn’t the writing style or the story.  I’m not scholar of century old writing but from what I have learnt, story theory has kept true throughout the ages.  This being the case, I’m baffled as to how this piece of work gets its “classic” status.  Character is one thing—Victor Frankenstein and his monster have definitely played a critical role in modern culture; but how the story of Frankenstein is told, in my opinion, is extremely flawed.

This is a very internal story told in first person and that’s fine; however, in Chapter 11 the story shifts POV from Victor Frankenstein to the monster (nameless for some unknown reason).  This immediately put me on guard because I was suddenly unsure whose story I was reading.  I admit that I was interested in how the monster got to where he was but not about the family he creped on which gave him his ability to speak, read…  However, I was more interested in the situation Victor was now in being the monster’s creator; therefore, responsible for its actions.  Shelley took me out of that story by shifting POV.

Externally, I found the story very basic and dragged down by the huge internal passages which did little to move the story forward.  We learnt about Victor and his internal conflicts, but that should be done within the story line and not with details of his travels.  Even his introduction through the letters of another character did nothing for the story and took many pages to get through.  Ending the story with these letters created a “bookshelf” effect—a story within a story; therefore, disjointed.

While I found the POV shift from Chapter 11 through Chapter 16 a distraction from Victor’s story, the description of the conflict within the monster was beautiful prose.  From all the good he wished he possessed, to the feeling if revenge that resulted, Shelley took me into the head of a monster with gripping detail which created shattering empathy.

By Chapter 17, the story was back on pace.  It took a long time to get there, but we had the creation of a monster—an inciting incident; the murder of an incident—a first act plot point; Victor’s grief for his responsibility—the beginning of act two; and confirmation of the monster’s capabilities, and his demand for another like him—a midpoint… But right away, back in Victor’s POV, we fall into lengthy descriptions of internal misery and travel unrelated to the story.  The second act turning point, the crisis, and climax passed by without great drama.  Really they seemed to be the shadow of Victor’s internal turmoil.

There is defiantly a compelling story here, but I feel this telling of it was far too burdened with internal conflict and unrelated events.  Also, POV shifts and introduction/resolution passages distracted from the story of Victor Frankenstein.

Brian Robert Smith

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