Hello Gentle Readers. I do hope this finds you well; in one piece, as it were – if so, you will be in the minority in this tale, I fear. This is the story of Frankenstein and the friends he made. It’s an unnerving tale; I trust you won’t come apart. Whatever you take from our time here, please do everything in your power not to put it together.
The formidable Mrs. Shelley started her story with some letters from a sailor, named Robert Walton, to his sister. What we learned in these letters was Walton’s inflated view of himself, his isolation and loss of spirit – say, that sounds like it would make for a good story to parallel. Walton was interested in some emaciated strange man his ship had picked up; the scraggy sponge was leading a team of dead sled dogs when they found him. Oh sure, there was that odd giant who can maneuver an ice floe on his own, but surely this skinny guy was more interesting, yes?
The skinny guy took over the narration because Walton was mind-numbingly boring and the skinny guys turned out to be:
Now I don’t mean to be rude, but I do believe that your name can influence your life choices. If your name is Victor Frankenstein you don’t have much wiggle room, do you? It’s not as though he was ever going to become a pre-school teacher:
“Hello boy and girls – I am so happy to meet each and every one of you. My name is Victor Frankenstein.”
“Aaaaaahhhhh – Mommy, make the bad man go away!”
Just as if his name had been Chet Fluffersham, he probably wouldn’t have stitched himself a human afghan, would he? But I am getting ahead of myself…
As a child, Victor’s mummy adopted Victor a wife. Her name was Elizabeth and she was a beautiful blond child that was either an orphan running around Italy or Vic’s cousin, depending on which edition you read. Vic’s little social circle was completed with the inclusion of an only child named Henry Clerval (few familial ties proved essential in Vic’s relationships.) Vic spent his youth developing a taste for investigating the mysteries of the natural worlds and electricity. Again, we saw plenty of warning signs where Vic might go wrong.
When Vic hit early adulthood, Elizabeth accidently killed his mom by giving her scarlet fever, which cast a bit of a pall at the Frankenstein dinner table. On her deathbed, Mummy Frankenstein begged those two crazy kids to get married. Vic decided instead to be sullen and run off to Ingolstadt to attend university. While at Ingolstadt, home of the Pronunciation Drinking Game, Vic became fascinated in the human body and how it decays after death – an odd hobby, certainly, and possibly not the most popular topic at dinner parties. Vic latched on to brilliant professors who taught him everything they know – only Vic knew it too quick and was left to his own devices and his dark, dank apartment where he grew anemic at a wont for sunlight. On the upside, he was also increasingly isolated and shut himself off from all family and friends. You would think Vic was the catch at ol’ Ingolstadt U, but, strangely, he seemed to have plenty of time on his hands, which allowed him to indulge in his obsession with creating life.
Having had no y to his x, he found alternative ways to generate the living. Whereas most would have gone with adoption, Vic assembled a creature from dead human parts and animated it one tempestuous night (a dark and stormy night, if you will.) Now this might shock you but that reanimated collection of formally decaying human flesh-pieces freaked Vic out when it started walking around the apartment. Vic didn’t care for the Thing’s appearance (men! It’s always about how you look) and went to bed because what damage can a zombie Janga puzzle do anyway? Having had nightmares all night about Elizabeth and his mother’s corpse, the sight of his in-between, Maxi-Me’s hideous, grinning face shouldn’t have alarmed him so upon waking but it did, and Vic bolted from the apartment. Fortunately, for the sake of time-killing, his good buddy Henry appeared and Vic took him back to his pad with fingers crossed the giant Living Dead Manwich was not around; he wasn’t and Vic promptly collapsed under the strains of obsession, malnourishment and having brought something dead back to life. (When his mother suggested quilting as a hobby, I believe she had something else in mind.)
Several illness-laced months later, Vic woke with Henry still by his side because what else would a young man in college have to do in those months? Also waiting for him was a letter from Elizabeth who seemed concerned that no one had seen or heard from Vic in forever and she wanted to know was up in his neck of the woods? Vic decided writing back could wait and took Henry on a Who’s Who tour of Ingolstadt.
Wait, did we forget someone?
Vic thought a change of scenery would do him some good and wrote home. Daddy Frankenstein, Sr. said he would love Vic to come home but perhaps he should fill Vic in on the latest goings-on at the ol’ homestead before he arrived; let’s see – the front topiary had been recut to look like Mickey Mouse, the shutters were painted blue and Vic’s youngest brother William had been murdered – can’t wait to see you, son!
Vic got home too late and the town of Geneva was closed for the day. Rattling on the gates did nothing to get him in so Vic wandered around the woods where his brother was killed. And just like Old Home Week, whom should he see but Mr. Bod E. Parts himself. Not one for demonstrative homecomings, Vic laid low before racing home as soon as Geneva reopened the next morning. Vic was about to tell his neighbors how Mr. Parts killed William when he found out his old friend Justine Moritz was accused of the crime. Vic told everyone it wasn’t her but when they asked him to explain himself, he took a good look at Justine, thought her capable of handling herself and remained decidedly mute on the subject to protect his own tuchus – and they say romance is dead. Justine confessed – because everyone knows how much easier confessed killers have it – but told Elizabeth and Vic she didn’t really do it, which one of them already knew. Justine lamented that this was all a drag and she couldn’t wait until this whole ordeal is over. What Justine thought would be a slap on the wrist and a monumental tsking turned out to be her execution. At least it’s over, Justine?
Vic’s dad reasoned a family getaway to Belrive would take everyone’s minds off the unfortunate business of their beloveds dying. Vic was in a bit of a quandary: why was all of this bad stuff happening to him? What had he done wrong? Surely his hubris leading him to make a humanoid just to see if he could do it and his subsequent abandonment of Mr. Parts, which caused to him wreak havoc on those around Vic had nothing to do with this? Feeling ere so put upon, Vic took a walk, which cleared his head until *argh!* there was that damn monster again. Unfortunately, the decay didn’t really seem to slow the creature down and he caught up with Vic fairly easily. Since Mr. Parts was massive, and in possession of inhuman strength, Vic decided to hear the guy out and they went off to Mr. Parts cozy little cave.
Mr. Parts took over the narration to recount his tale of being caught off-guard when he found himself once again alive in Vic’s apartment and how he and his stolen body parts took off like a bat out of hell. Mr. Parts told his little saga that, coincidently, paralleled the story of human evolution without the pesky centuries-in-development part. When Mr. Parts discovered fire, he was so thrilled by it; he wanted to share his good news with the townsfolk. For bringing the gift of fire to the townsfolk, Mr. Parts had hoped they could spare a slice of bread since keeping a dead form upright was taxing work. It was the darndest thing but town after town, people would run in horror upon sight of him – like they had never seen several faces stitched together and wielding a torch before. He decided that if that was how they were going to be – fine, he would simply hang out on the outskirts of town and take up voyeurism. As he spied on a young couple, he saw they were unhappy due to starving since some hideous creature kept stealing their food. Oh, wait; he remembered he was the hideous creature. So, he began not stealing their food and helped out around the house by collecting firewood. In return they taught him to how to speak – only they didn’t realize they did because they didn’t know he was living in their shed. At some point, Mr. Parts gave in to vanity and checked himself out in a bucket of water. Seeing that his face resembled a cross-stich sampler, he opted to hide in a hovel.
Then things got complicated. Okay, they got more complicated than an un-living monster living in a shed while his creator skirted the countryside hoping everyone would forget he dabbled in necromancy. Mr. Parts learned all he could about those he was stalking: Felix, Agatha and Safie. Their story was long and – shockingly – full of moral lessons. After listening to their entire meandering tale, Mr. Parts questioned if maybe he just wasn’t lonely so he taught himself to read, which was terrific except that he didn’t know people sometimes just made stories up and thought Paradise Lost was a biography (cue Orson Wells.) With all this newfound learning, Mr. Parts pulled out a few letters from the coat he had nicked from Vic’s apartment and discovered how he came into being. Let’s just say this didn’t sit too well with Mr. Parts and he decided what he needed to do was introduce himself to his new best friends and together they would all love each other and all wrongs would be righted. Somehow, Felix, Agatha and Safie didn’t quite see things in the same light as him and chased him the hell out of Dodge.
Once again, proving that book smarts is not always streets smarts, Mr. Parts went to Geneva to give Vic a piece of his mind – literally. On the way he saved a young lady from drowning and the only thanks he got was being chased off again. By the time he met a young boy who was actually cordial to him, Mr. Parts had a pretty big chip on his immense shoulders. When the boy told Mr. Parts that his (the boy’s) father was Alphonse Frankenstein, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back or, in this case, Mr. Parts that broke the boy’s neck. Mr. Parts planted the photo of Mrs. Frankenstein on Justine that ultimately convicted her and I think that just about brings us all up to date. Oh, except that Mr. Parts would like Vic to build him a Mrs. Parts because if he just met the right woman, he would never do anything bad again.
Vic believed arranging the right woman for Mr. Parts was a fine idea and agreed, as well as took back the narration. This time, Vic was going to put a little thought into fashioning an anthropomorphic collage and put his marriage to the beleaguered Elizabeth on hold once again as he and Henry travelled around trying learn how to properly assemble a body to revivify it (wasn’t that a “Road to” movie?) Things get delayed because Vic had this nagging feeling like something might go wrong so when Henry called from Scotland whining about haggis, Vic packed up shop and dumped his new, non-animated female monstrosity in the drink. And while he was doing that, there was a murder. After finding out the victim was Henry and that the townsfolk thought Vic was suspect, he returned to his go-to in times of stress and got violently ill. His illness convinced the townspeople he couldn’t have killed Henry (we are way beyond logic here, people) and Vic returned home with his father to marry Elizabeth right away. He decided his wedding gift to her would be a horrific confession about building a monster that ended up killing William, Justine and Henry in retaliation for Vic’s universal disavowing of him and now intended to kill Vic because he never got around to making Mrs. Parts. However, before he could actually grow enough spine to tell Elizabeth this, he realized it was never him Mr. Parts wanted dead. Oh, of course! “Make you suffer as you have made me suffer” – I get it now, this all make sense… oh crap, where was Elizabeth?
So with Liz dead at the hands of his creation, Vic, realizing he had not handling this whole mess very well, went home once again and told his dad everything… which killed him. Now Vic had a few choices to make – none of them the right one – and vowed the rest of his days to the pursuit of destroying the creature (I will wait until you are done hitting your head against the desk.)
Walton (remember our tedious sailor who started this tale?) took back the story and wrote to his sister that he believed all of Vic’s story and that there was probably a moral in this for all of us; he can’t quite put his finger on what though. Vic was no help because as soon as they told him they will return to England where Vic could finally have peace, he died. It was then that Walton met Mr. Parts who was distraught over losing Vic (I mean, who wouldn’t be, right?) Walton weighed his options and showed Mr. Parts the first bit of kindness he’d ever received (well, if you don’t count poor William) and they sailed to California who had finally recognized dead and undead marriage.
I give Frankenstein 74 Plumes for thinking the story needed three separate narrators to try and convince us making individuals from dead people is a bad idea.
Takeaway: Shelley and Byron’s faces when Mary said, “Here, I just threw this together.”
*special thanks to SparkNotes.com for literary assistance