I’m not going to give this book my regular treatment, discussing the plot and my opinion of the book, since a) you know the plot and b) I would sound like an idiot sharing my opinions on such a classic piece of literature. What i will do is talk about the things that I normally think about when reading classic literature, the way I determine whether I will enjoy it or not, and how those things applied specifically to Frankenstein.
Let me start by saying that if I read a classic and don’t enjoy it, I tend to assume the fault is in me, and not in the book, and therefore, the following apply more to if I was able to enjoy reading the book, rather than if the book was “good” since I think we can safely say that a book which has been added to the canon of “Classic Literature” is pretty outstanding.
First of all, to enjoy a classic, I need to be able to read it. This is obvious, if you can’t read it, you probably can’t enjoy reading it. When I say I need to be able to read it, I don’t mean that it has to be in English, that should be a given. I mean that I have a hard time reading a book that has very lofty vocabulary or very old difficult structures. If I can’t get “flowing” when I read, I can’t get into the story and enjoy the book. I have learned over time that patience can sometimes be rewarded. I don’t like to write off a book before getting at least about a quarter of the way through it. Frankenstein is a great example of the value of patience. At first I thought the language was too out of reach in the way it was written, but as I got farther into the book, this became less and less of a distraction, to the point where I didn’t even notice it probably about half way through.
Another area that I struggle in with classics is the cultural perspectives of the author and a lack of ability to relate. Some books I just don’t get what people are doing and why they are doing it (this is very often true with more current books, but I will just toss those if I don’t get them, no need to try to push through with those). If stuff happens and people do things and I don’t get why or their reasons seem ridiculous, this can throw a roadblock up for me and make it hard for me to get invested in the story. Again, when this happens I blame myself, or better yet, the gap between my culture and that of the author, I don’t assume it is bad writing. In Frankenstein I came across this a couple times, in things like the fact that he was going to marry his cousin that he grew up with like a sister. That seemed weird, but ultimately the big ideas of the book made sense to me. The idea of creating the object of your destruction. The virtues of love and the ugliness of revenge and fear and loneliness. These are pretty universal and outshine the minor cultural differences between my world and Frankenstein’s.
Lastly, pace is important to hold my attention. Lots of classics are just too long and contain far too many asides for me to stick with them. I blame my short attention span. Coming in at right around 250 pages, there is no extra fat in Frankenstein. It is all story, and it is told at a rather breakneck speed. I actually was surprised when I reached the end, not expecting it so soon.
Frankenstein is a classic that I was able to enjoy. I was able to really get into the story and felt the feelings of the monster and of Dr. Frankenstein and the people around him. I felt his despair as he realized his creation had destroyed his life. I understood his ups and downs as he tried to live a normal life, knowing that the creature was out and about but knowing that his depression was hurting his family. I liked the parts that described nature (which I normally wouldn’t) because they contrasted the monster so well. I liked that the monster was deceptive and hypocritical but seemed to think he was good and blamed others for his evil. I liked that the whole thing wasn’t about the creation of the monster, but about the aftermath, and I especially liked that it didn’t have a nice neat happy ending.
This is a classic that I would recommend people try out.