Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Not having much time to post here, I wanted to write something brief about Frankenstein, which I reread a few weeks ago. Midway through the book, I realized I had forgotten a major piece of the plot. I couldn’t remember what happens when the monster asks the scientist Frankenstein to make him a female companion. I knew the woman monster never gets completed, but I couldn’t remember why.

As the moment approached in the story for the female to come to life, I tried to guess why she never does. I told myself that it pertained to Frankenstein’s skills as a scientist. He doesn’t know how to make a woman even though he has tried his best to find out. He has traveled to England to learn about “some discoveries” that are “material” to his project. But in the end he doesn’t learn enough about the female form – or so I speculated as Frankenstein started to make a woman out of dead flesh.

Imagine my surprise when he starts to tear up this woman before he has finished. The male monster, who has come to check on Frankenstein’s progress, watches the body being destroyed. The hideous and lonely monster has been promised a mate, but Frankenstein goes back on his word: “I thought with a sensation of madness on my promise of creating another like to him, and trembling with passion, tore to pieces the thing on which I was engaged.”

I was going to write about the sensation of reading this passage, of seeing my own amnesia while watching, like the monster, the half-formed female being ripped apart. But as I said before, I don’t have much time to spend on this blog entry. I am busy writing a manuscript right now, and the sensations I felt while reading the scene would take a while to describe. The feelings were as profoundly weird as the body that gave rise to them.

Which brings me to another point about this book that surprised me this time around: I forgot that Frankenstein builds the monster to a huge scale in the interest of finishing quickly. “As the minuteness of the parts formed a great hindrance to my speed, I resolved, contrary to my first intention, to make the being of a gigantic stature; that is to say, about eight feet in height, and proportionally large.” So in honor of Frankenstein, who learned the hard way about haste – his monster does get him in the end; I didn’t forget that part – I will end this comment here.

Originally posted on 5.22.2008