Creation and Responsibility


I continue my foray into classical reading. I finished Frankenstein by Mary Shelly. In Goodreads you can find some scathing attacks on the book- about its POV, style, the narrative methods. Nearly everything is called into question.

The said reviewers forget one thing. This book was first published in 1818. The reviewer still read it after 200 years. How many of those great books written as advised by the pundits of novel writing these days would still make interesting reading after two centuries. The great work in human psychology “Crime and Punishment” was published in 1866 nearly half a century later.

What exactly is wrong with the novel “Frankenstein or the Monster “ by Mary Shelly? The theme, the writing, the “tell don’t show” approach to writing.

Think of the author. She is the sister of Shelly and brought up in what can only be described as a protected environment. We get a glimpse into the fantasy in their mind of when we read Mary Shelly and “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Brontë. Could I have thought up a character like Heathcliff. Which is a bit like asking could I have imagined somebody like Karna.

The theme recurs in ancient myths as well as modern myths of creation. The primordial man and woman endowed with a free spirit and an injunction not to do something do exactly that: eat the fruit and they discovered that they did not die.

Frankenstein has an even more germane reason to rebel. He is created and abandoned. Unlike the obedient and rather meek progenitors of humans in the Christian myth of creation Frankenstein is far from peaceful. He is angry and turbulent and would have have been on acid or something if he were around today.

The novel is the story central to all creation stories. What to do with your own creation. Does the creator have any right to assume authority over the mind of his creation? Frankenstein states No.

The thing about this book is that after accounting for the two hundred years which passed since it’s publication, it is still readable. And raises important issues in the time of Covid. Imagine that some person or persons created the virus and let it loose like the monster of Mary Shelly. Dr.Frankenstein accepts his responsibility and dies trying to contain the danger he let loose on his own family.

Is there a lesson to be learned here. Ignore all those letters and such devices M Shelly uses. Shirking one’s duty to the rest of human kind is not an option. The creator is responsible for his creation. That is justice.

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