June 13, 2007


Public domain poster courtesy of moviewallpapers.net.

Welcome to Frankenstein Week at Goat Rope. If this is your first visit, please click on earlier posts. As mentioned previously, one reason Mary Shelley's story keeps on trucking is because its themes still speak to people.

If your idea of the plot of Frankenstein is taken from most movie versions or take-offs, you might be surprised by the book version.

The story begins when explorer Robert Walton, seeking a northwest passage by sea to the New World, sees a sled driven over the ice. Later, he finds another man on a sled on the ice in a very weakened condition. The man is Victor Frankenstein, who proceeds to tell his story, which goes something like this:

The eldest son of a loving family in Geneva, Victor loves his adoptive sister Elizabeth and younger brother William. Fascinated by the secrets of nature, Victor studies the writings of early alchemists and natural philosophers such as Cornelius Agrippa (after whom one of Goat Rope's goats was named), Paracelcus, and Albertus Magnus. He eventually enters the university at Ingolstadt, where he excels in natural science and begins to ponder the secrets of life and death.

After discovering the secrets of reanimation (conveniently not described by the author), he begins the experiment which will lead to the destruction of all he holds dear.

Assembling parts from various cadavers, he succeeds in bringing his creature to life only to abandon it in horror. The creature is frightened away. Victor succumbs to brain fever and is nursed back to health by childhood friend Henry Clerval, from whom he hides his secret.

On returning home, he discovers that his younger brother has been killed and a trusted household servant Justine has been charged with the murder after an item of his was found on her. She is executed for the crime. We soon learn that the creature is responsible both for killing William and leaving the evidence with the sleeping Justine.

Later, Victor encounters the creature on a mountain, where the latter recounts his sad story of hiding, loneliness, and rejection. He tells of how he learned to speak and write by secretly watching a family living in a humble cabin. The creature demands that Victor prepare a mate for him and promises to leave him and the world in peace if he does so.

Victor eventually journeys to England and prepares to make the “bride of Frankenstein” on a remote Orkney island. Eventually recoiling from the task, he destroys his work. The creature promises a terrible revenge on his wedding night.

Incredibly obtuse for a genius, Victor interprets this as a threat only to himself. Instead, his wife, the companion of his childhood, is strangled. At this point the hunted becomes the hunter as Victor pursues the creature into the Arctic wastes where he is found by Walton.

Victor dies after telling his tale and warning Walton of the danger of excessive ambition. The creature makes a final appearance on the ship, where he tells Walton that his “heart was fashioned to be susceptible of love and sympathy” and that his abandonment by his creator and resulting isolation led to this tragic chain of events. The monster is last seen traveling across the ice towards his self-destruction.

Walton eventually gives up his quest, perhaps taking to heart part of Victor’s ambiguous warning to “Seek happiness in tranquility and avoid ambition, even if it be only the apparently innocent one of distinguishing yourself in science and discoveries. Yet why do I say this? I have myself been blasted in my hopes, yet another may succeed.”

No big electrical scene, no bolts from the neck, more talking, and a rehash of the ancient theme that the sin of hubris invites the retribution of Nemesis. Good though.

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. Terry Jones, an original member of Monty Python's Flying Circus, had this item in the UK's Guardian about Blackwater and the privatization of war. Thanks to El Ermitano for the heads up!

ACCESS TO EDUCATION. Post secondary education is crucial for economic well-being these days, even while funding for financial aid has been slashed in recent years. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has proposed a plan to make community college education free to state residents by 2015.



thinkulous said...

Did you rip through that book already? Wow.

And there are those pesky brain fevers again! I wonder if they found some kind of vitamin or vaccine for those things around the turn of the 20th century. Maybe that's why no one has them anymore...

I'm a Mass. resident, and had strong doubts about Patrick. However, he might be proving himself to be the real deal. I heard him discuss that higher ed. plan on a local talk radio show last week (which he co-hosts once a month) and it sounded interesting. And by the way, he has a sharp sense of humor. I enjoyed listening.

El Cabrero said...

I'm revealing Goat Rope trade secrets here, but I recycled Frankie from notes I made when we had a traveling exhibit about the book and I did a program on it at a library. Also, it comes out six days a week so often I try to plan a weekly theme in advance.

Are you in eastern or western MA? La Cabra used to work in western.

I wish patrick luck on that one.

thinkulous said...


Would love to know in what capacity you did the travelling literary road show. My betrothed is a librarian, and I love that stuff.

I'm in the Boston area. I've spent much time in Western MA -- in fact, went to camp out there for 10 or 12 years, plus friends later on. Where's she from?

El Cabrero said...

It was a grant program thingie from the National Endowment for the Humanities. We applied for it in about 2001 and didn't get it till late 2005.

She's from VT but worked in Northampton.