Literature… whether prose or poetry or drama… essentially mirrors life. And for me, the mark of good literature is one that causes me to think about life. To ponder on the workings of society, on truths and pretences; on human nature and human experiences. And that is exactly what Frankenstein did. Yes, Frankenstein, the novel, written by Mary Shelley.
Before I jump into philosophy now, I guess I should say Happy New Year to everyone. I like this 2019 already sha, though as usual I’m always pushed back to vexing mode when I remember that I will be adding an extra year…you know… somebody will soon die like that. (In Lasisi’s voice) It is not fair! But I guess if I don’t add an extra year I would be dead so…
Well, my literature journey this year began with Children of Blood and Bones!!! I can’t believe I waited this long before reading it, and yes the novel made my melanin very excited, and suddenly I realized with horror that I was getting darker with Zelie’s magic (LOL!) Then Khaled, a tale of Arabia ( Awwn, that was so romantic…) and I cried throughout because I am a Zehowrah that is completely “anti” to the idea of romance – even though I love romance novels and poetry and the romantic period in European history and romance languages and everything that sadly begins with romance –
and I am fully certain that it would take Khaled the djinn appearing in human form to break my hard heart and give me love portion.
And then, after reading two epic fantasies I decided to go for the dark one: Frankenstein: The 1818 Text.
That 1818 thingy they added to the title made it so creepy that I have had the novel for over three months and still vehemently refused to open it. Very unlike me… but what do you expect? Ha! After all I have heard about Frankenstein’s demon, all the selling soul to the devil, bla bla, how will I then use my own two hands to open the novel??! I’m an African babe oh, and I respect spirits. That is even why I didn’t watch the movie sef.
But after reading about Khaled who was a djinn, as in, evil spirit that was not evil… at least in the chivalrous sense, and after spending quality time in prayer… you know… courage came upon me from nowhere. I just saw the book and said: “Ah! Today, you this book of Frankenstein 1818 text, I come against you by the power I have in being a literature addict, I decree that I shall read you today!”
That was how I opened the book. And that was high I received shockers and shook me! I couldn’t believe.
The first shocker was the length of the introduction. It was more than paying tithe out of your allowee.
The second was how the 1818 text was linked to feminism. (Trust feminists, once a woman author does the slightest thing against patriarchy then her work would be feminist oh! If anybody does that for me after I die, my ghost will rise up and haunt them! Mtcheew! I have strong feminist beliefs, and I defend feminism any day any time, but to confine an entire person into just a box is sin against humanity!).
The third was it even had Marxist perspectives (at this I fainted!)
The fourth was some philosophical questions seemed to exist in it ( it was my curiosity into this that revived me)
Then I began my journey into the novel, like how those village youth in Africa magic used to embark on the journey into the evil forest. Funny enough, it was written in epistolary form, and you know how classics usually are… very boring in the beginning. And then, the novel had this funny way of telling stories within stories within stories within stories. I mean that literally.
But you know what broke my heart? It was not scary at all. Like, completely not scary.
Instead, when in the beginning Victor Frankenstein was pursuing knowledge with such zest, I saw myself in him, and I was elated. Till now I hate that story about curiosity killing the cat. Without curiosity man would still live in caves today, going up and down naked. We would still be going up and down wearing lamb after Adam and Eve was cast out of the garden. (Please, whether you are evolutionist or creationist, don’t turn on me for mixing the two. I beseech you to respect my right to privacy of thought, biko. Thank you)
Thus, though the author in the beginning tried to discourage the idolisation of knowledge by projecting it as the key reason Frankenstein created a monster… Well, I was not convinced. And it was until I read till the end of the novel that I discovered that my presentiment was true.
Alas, at the closing of the day, Frankenstein’s zeal for knowledge created a creature, not a monster. Frankenstein’s attitude ( though I don’t exactly fault him, his actions were quite understandable), and the attitude of other humans (whose actions were also logically understandable) made the creature a monster. (whose actions could then be empathized with)
For those that haven’t read the novel, let me just summarize the story.
Victor Frankenstein had a beautiful family growing up, where there was plenty love (if you watch Africa magic you’d know this is a recipe for big trouble!) So he went to university to study science, became so zealous in his studies that my guy discovered how to create life. So he assembled body parts of dead people and animated it/him. But mind you, his creature was not a zombie, though he probably looked like one… he was a rational being with superhuman strength. Unfortunately, he was so hideous in appearance that Frankenstein fled from him, and the creature disappeared. The next thing you know, the creature killed Frankenstein’s younger brother and sets up a young girl living with them for the murder. In fact, the creature kills almost all his friends and family members… people dear to him; and ends up tormenting Victor till he (Victor) dies.
Frankenstein in English dictionaries refer to a person whose own creation destroys him.
But then the novel itself presents a philosophical twist, when it makes the reader to see through the eyes of the so-called monster:
Was the creature to be blamed for its response to the evils it suffered in the hands of both its creator and other humans? Or was it, in making victims of others, merely a victim of circumstances itself?
And further, humans that do monstrous things: are they evil in themselves, or merely responding to evil?