Theodore von Holst, ‘Frankenstein’ (1831)

“Sometimes mortals can be more horrible than monsters.” ― Rick Riordan

Have you ever read something that didn’t sit right with your morals, yet you are so deeply intrigued that it feels almost impossible to stop reading?  For me that was a reality while reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein because my ability to stop reading out of horror became disabled, locking me in a horrifying pleasure that rotates with deep anguish until the novel is finished.  The initial point of the horrifyingly pleasurable journey begins at the assembly of the creature, with Victor, a focused and almost mad scientist collecting bodily materials from graveyards in pitch darkness to assemble his creation from the rotting flesh and bones of generations past (Shelley 55).  For me the singular thought of anyone digging up the deceased is petrifying enough without the addition of Victor’s desire to create a living creature from the once living, now rotting flesh.  I believe that Shelley was able to capture me so well because she was aware that with the addition macabre a reader’s interest would be so easily captured, giving her the ability to transmit the overall message she was trying to impart such as the importance of caring for your children.  Furthermore, it is because of Shelley’s addition of macabre, she was able to create a horrifyingly pleasurable reading experience in Frankenstein while still imparting her powerful messages.

Not only in Frankenstein there are moments that make your skin crawl and cause every hair on your neck to stand at attention, there are also many parts that make you feel as if your heart were to break at any moment.  Shelley does this by creating indisputable parallelism between Elizabeth, Victor’s cousin whom he was raised with, and Victor’s creation, who he gathers the necessary supplies create his life for almost two years.  Apparently, for Elizabeth, “…her blue eyes, cloudless, and her lips and the moulding of her face so expressive of sensibility and sweetness…a distinct species, a being heaven-sent, and bearing a celestial stamp in all her features.”, making her Victor’s idol, causing him to swear that he would never abandon her (Shelley 32-33).  Tantamount, the creature had yellow skin that covered his muscles, lustrous, flowing black hair, and pearly white teeth along with watery, ghostly eyes (Shelley 58).  Although Elizabeth was not yellow and didn’t have pale, watery eyes, she was in the same situation when she was an orphaned child as the creature was after his creation, with the creature’s “jaws opened, he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks” proving the creature is no more harmless than a young child, because both he and Elizabeth just wanted to be shown love and kindness (Shelley 59).  Unfortunately, Victor could not see past his creation’s appearance, creating deep sadness and the tribulation that takes over the rest of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

To conclude, in my opinion, it is because of the horrifying pleasure and deep anguish that locks the readers mind in Mary Shelly’s hands that Frankenstein is so effective in transmitting Shelley’s messages that oftentimes evokes the deep sadness and misery so commonly associated with Frankenstein.  So I leave you with this thought to ponder, “Inside each of us is a monster; inside each of us is a saint. The real question is which one we nurture the most, which one will smite the other.” — Jodi Picoult


Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein. Penguin Publishing Group, 2013.