2014 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner
Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley
Oh my goth! At the top of my summer reading recommendation list is Mary Shelley's nineteenth-century gothic novel Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus. The novel emphasizes dangers: the danger of over-reaching ambition, scientific advances, revenge, judging one's value on physical traits, and other real-world menaces that remain prevalent in our society. Reading the novel will dispel the age-old myth that the heart of the novel is largely about the conflict between a crazed scientist and a vicious, merciless monster.
Shelley adds incredible depth to her characters as she subtly conveys the following thematic messages: 1) how loneliness and alienation can have devastating results, 2) with knowledge comes responsibility, 3) how revenge is wasted energy, and, lastly, 4) an ugly face is better than an ugly heart. This novel puts on display the nature of humankind by invoking moral and ethical questions, which causes us to think about life, our intolerances, and our beliefs. Along with rich Romantic-era sublime settings and adventurous escapades, Shelley gives the creature a voice, which allows the readers to sympathize with the physical and emotional pain society subjects him to because of his hideous appearance. After many desperate attempts to connect with mankind, the creature concludes that "[I]f I cannot inspire love, I will cause
fear. . ."
The creature will likely remain the most memorable character in science fiction. The novel remains relevant today because it continues to spark insightful debates; e.g., nature versus nurture, whether one can be innately evil, and if scientific quests exceed our humanity. This is an enlightening, thrilling summer read!