Friday, August 29, 2014

The Politically Incorrect Frankenstein

"What are you reading now?"  Nick asked as he paused behind my chair at the sushi bar.  I showed him the cover of my latest and greatest.

"Frankenstein, huh?"  He suddenly brightened and excitedly gave me his analysis of the famous classic. "My teacher taught us that the moral of the story was to treat foreigners better and refrain from prejudice.  It really makes you think!  You'll have to let me know how you liked it!"  

He returned to his work and I to my book and steaming miso soup.  As the chapters and days progressed I heard the same analysis from many good souls who had made the literary journey before me, insisting that the monster was good initially and the treatment of humans caused his evil behavior.  And yet...I couldn't help but form my own contrary judgement.  Anyone who is surprised must of course prove a new reader to this rather opinionated blog of mine.  

Knowing Mary Shelley was daughter to the immortal, radical authors of the dying generation and studying her own words and purpose for creating the unhallowed work I cannot help but disagree.  I mean, certainly, the moral is there to some very limited degree, but it isn't the powerful, underlying obvious one and I believe the reason the stronger moral to the story proves so obscure is because it pertains to God and we as a politically correct society simply cannot allow such a reading within the realm of public education.  Just as we often refer to the monster as "Frankenstein" when in truth he has no name and Victor Frankenstein proves the name of his creator, we misread continually the primary purpose of the work.

It is simply this. Victor Frankenstein dabbles in science so profoundly that he feels he has a right to play with the powers of life and death.  He makes himself a god as it were to create a man, not from the dust of the earth, but from foul and loathsome matter.  He lusts after power and discovery, ultimately creating a being he can neither love nor control.  His monster at length describes his creator's behavior in such terms as one would attribute to a prostitute, playing wantonly with the powers of creating life.  We cannot argue that the monster turned to vice due to human behavior, for to him, Victor was not a human but a life giving god, and the monster poured out his soul, applying to his maker for love and acceptance.  Where any of us may have prayed to God and received comfort, the monster applies to his weak mortal creator and finds disgust.  The monster turns to wanton murder in revenge, proving that he also can play with life and death.  Truthfully, I found the real horror in the stark description of what life would be like without a loving God and the moral lesson in the dangers of using science or sexuality to play lightly with the creation of intelligent beings. 

Recently National Geographic published an article about scientists trying to bring back the saber tooth tiger, mammoth, etc.  But if they could bring back one of the extinct species the life expectancy would be horrific and the animal could not procreate due to lack of a partner.  What right have we to play with life outside the realm appointed by God, and though we may have the power so to do, are we ready for the consequences?  Victor Frankenstein surely wasn't.  Until we have the pure, perfect, love of God, or at least something close to it, can we play with His role?  Repeatedly Shelley calls this act "unholy", "unhallowed" and the like.  And certainly when the creator played with life wantonly it follows naturally that the monster would take the powers of life into his own hands as retribution; the lesson is doubly taught.  Indeed, in this world where science seems ever more powerful, individuals turn to the laboratory instead of the chapel, and we find the sacred powers of sexuality carelessly employed, Frankenstein proves a remarkably poignant, timely and very necessarily politically incorrect read.  


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