Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Frankenstein's End (Spoiler Alert, sort of)

I finished "Frankenstein" yesterday. The ending was not at all surprising, because Shelley foreshadowed it into the ground, over and over again, for the last 60 pages or so. Frankenstein almost goes through with making the monster a bride, but then freaks out, thinking about the two monsters then reproducing, and then killing humans right and left. So he rips up the half finished female (which, although Shelley doesn't use must description, sounds pretty gross) and then the monster gets all gangsta on Frankenstein's ass and kills his friends and family. Oops. Then, Frankenstein proceeds to chase the monster up to near the North Pole, in hopes of seeking revenge, but the monster just keeps taunting him by staying just out of reach. Ha, ha!! That's when Robert Walton finds the near dead Frankenstein. Frankenstein tells his narrative, and then dies. And finally, Robert Walton finds Frankenstein's corpse is visited by the monster, who regrets what he's done, pays his last respects to Frankenstein, and then says he's going out on to the ice to kill himself. The End.

While I thought this book could have benefited from a good editor, it's still a ripping tale. But what's the moral? Is it that man should not attempt to create life...that there's a line between man and God that should not be crossed? Why is Frankenstein so repulsed at his creature? Is it that he's realized that he's crossed this line, and pulls back in horror at what he's done? Well, that's one idea, but it's not my favorite. My favorite, outlined in my last post, is that Frankenstein brought this on to himself. His fatal flaw was creating a life and then freaking out at the ugliness and running away from it, instead of taking responsibility. He could have covered the monster in a bag, ala the Elephant Man, if physical ugliness was the problem. But he should have "owned up" and taken care of his laboratory progeny. To me, this then is the moral of the story..."with knowledge comes responsibility". And that's a lesson that rings even more true in today's science and technology-centric society.

One final note: I wonder if the premise of this story is as shocking today as it was when it was written. After all, genetic engineering is now a reality, and genetically modifed organisms pervade the world around us, whether we like it or not. Plus, perhaps Shelley was not aware of this, but humans have been mucking with life for thousands of years. After all chihuahuas do not exist in the wild. And have you ever seen what corn looked like before humans started breeding it? So to go from humans to Frankenstein's monster does not seem such a big stretch today. Perhaps the modern Prometheus has already visited us. Although, as far as I know, no GMO has ever gone on a murderous rampage and killed it's inventor's entire family and circle of friends.


J.D. said...

I like that you extend the usual simplistic theme of this book to deal with the responsibility that comes along with creation.

Read in this way, it could certainly add something to a discussion of deism and a disinterested God, don't you think?

Robby Virus said...

Wow, that's a really insightful comment, J.D.! Deism, the idea that God is like a great watchmaker who created the universe, wound it up, and then let it run without interfering in it, became popular in the 17th and 18th centuries, partially inspired by the scientific discoveries of people like Kepler and Newton who figured out the laws of motions of heavenly bodies. Thus it's perhaps not surprising that Frankenstein is a scientist, or a "natural philosopher" as they were known in those days. A scientist who played God and then was disinterested in his creation, with tragic consequences. Ironic. Even if Shelley didn't have this in mind, it's a cool interpretation.