Friday, 10 August 2012

Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus

An eighteen year old eccentric, a horror story competition and a masterpiece...

When Mary Shelley started to write the famous novel she was but eighteen years old. She kept company of the most illustrious poets of the 19th century romantics (among them was Lord Byron and Coleridge) . In their gatherings they liked sharing their works -among other things they were known to do- and they specifically enjoyed having private writing competitions. It was during one of those gatherings  where it dawned upon them to make a competition to write the best horror story. And that made way to one of the best horror stories I have ever read in my life and I do like horror stories.

So what made it best for me? The violence of Dr. Frankenstein's monster? The atmosphere of the book? The murders? The frailty of the victims? The chase? The sci-fi elements? While they were all very well written, it was not those points which made the book best for me. It was how unable I found myself as a reader to take sides. Unlike the puritan works of the contemporary American horror stories, here you will read the story of a made-evil not born-evil. And at many points you will have to sit back and ask to yourself: Is the creation really evil or is it the creator who is cruel?

Very few times do we read a horror story which bases its story upon philosophical dilemmas rather than the fight between the good and the villain or the evil. When the reader focuses the reading energy on his/her wishes for the good to win then many discussions to be had is lost in a book. This of course is a generalization but it goes that way especially for the horror stories. Here you will think you want one side to win only to change that perception in a little while when you see things from another light. The book is not a fight against evil unlike how it was projected in many works later on especially in the movies. It does seem like it but it is not. The book is a huge discussion, an unasked question which conveys itself in the narrative: Can every single person become a villain when put in the place of the 'fiend' by all and above all by his own creator?

When I first read that book I was seven months pregnant to our son and I chose the perfect place to read it: Our two-day vacation on the mountain top in a cabin. I was asked if it was wise to read horror stories in my condition which I lightly laughed away and I love being right... :) I couldnt let the book go although it gave me pregnancy nausea because of the tiny letters and I drank it rather than read it. It made the hair on my neck stand and not because I was terrified of an unknown monster but because I was in awe of how a 19 year old girl could know so much about human nature so as to write such a wonderfully horrific story.

 Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus will not cause insomnia because of fear and it will not procure little asian girl ghosts in your mind to make you check your back every now and then but you will find yourselves getting goose bumps over the depth of the story and how far it goes. If you like to get really impressed then read it in its original language not translations. Much is lost in translation.