Open Book
Light Bulb

frankenstein questions

Like most unknown authors, I’m gratified by any media attention. So, I was pleased when on 2/3/2017 the Wall Street Journal published my letter, complete with its very own graphic. That letter refuted a reference in an opinion piece describing the man-made creature in the classic Frankenstein as “inarticulate”. It’s Hollywood that has given us an inarticulate, sub-human, barely rational Frankenstein’s monster. But, that’s not the creature in Mary Shelly’s 1818 classic. Perhaps Hollywood made her creature inarticulate because they didn’t like the questions it asked.
In the book Frankenstein’s creation is gigantic and grotesque, powerful and resourceful. But Mary Shelly also gave him a great mind. Her creature teaches himself to read, then studies Plutarch’s Lives, Milton’s Paradise Lost as well as other classics. He explains to his creator how these books awoke in him an awareness of his own uniquely warped humanity:

“As I read I applied much personally to my own feelings and condition. I found myself similar yet at the same time strangely unlike to the beings concerning whom I read. I sympathized with and partly understood them, but I was unformed in mind. My own person was hideous and my stature gigantic. What did this mean? Who was I? What was I? Whence did I come? What is my destination? These questions continually recurred, but I am unable to solve them.”

These are the questions our post-modern culture wants to avoid. 

These are the great questions every generation and most individuals ask. What is life? Who or what am I? What is my origin and what is my destination? Frankenstein’s monster never found answers, not even when he questioned his creator. Those unanswered questions drove him to the conclusion that he had no purpose—his life was meaningless. That realization produced a murderous rage. The monster assigned himself the purpose of making his creator share its suffering, would accomplish that by killing the people Frankenstein loved.

Mary Shelly’s book ends with the hideous, murderous creature resigning himself to oblivion. “Soon I will die, and what I now feel be no longer felt. Soon these burning miseries will be extinct.” Strange how much our culture embraces the philosophy of Frankenstein’s monster while rejecting the hope Jesus promises. ~

Dan Nygaard