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What I Learned Reading Frankenstein

This past summer, I began to read for the first time Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. As one of the recommended books by several members of our community, and after watching Rosario Butterfield’s seminar on the reflection of her own journey in light of Frankenstein at the Society of Classical Learning’s summer conference, I chose the book as our faculty and staff summer literature selection. Like most people, growing up watching movies related to Frankenstein, I did not make much of the figure of Frankenstein or the movies. But reading Frankenstein not only changed my perception about Frankenstein, but in a real sense, changed me.

On the surface, Frankenstein may be off-putting for conservative Christians like me. It is written by a liberal atheist, Mary Shelly, who comes from a liberal family with all kinds of family and ethical problems.

But the first thing that attracted me to this book was the expressiveness of the author’s style of writing, especially in expressing the beauty of nature.

“Do you understand this feeling? This breeze, which has traveled from the regions towards which I am advancing, gives me a foretaste of those icy climes. Inspirited by this wind of promise, my daydreams become more fervent and vivid. I try in vain to be persuaded that the pole is the seat of frost and desolation; it ever presents itself to my imagination as the region of beauty and delight. There, Margaret, the sun is forever visible, its broad disk just skirting the horizon and diffusing a perpetual splendour.”

From the start to finish, this book is full of these descriptions of nature and its effect on us. It is like touring the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Although there are probably hidden secular assumptions behind this expressiveness, Christians have much to learn from this kind of literature on how we can delight, discern, and display the glory of God in nature.

A second great feature of this book is the theme of loneliness and friendship.

“But it was all a dream; no Eve soothed my sorrows nor shared my thoughts; I was alone. I remembered Adam’s supplication to his Creator. But where was mine? He had abandoned me, and in the bitterness of my heart I cursed him.

I have never empathized so much with a fictional criminal. Not for all his evil deeds. But for his loneliness, his helplessness, for all the injustice committed unto him. I shed not a few tears for the creature, because in many ways, he is a reflection of me.

Finally, the book taught me about the powers and the responsibilities of our gift as creators. Although the idea of Dr. Frankenstein making a live human being is a fiction, it is a parable about the fundamental problem of the modern man: He ends up creating a monster, who destroys everyone and who seeks to destroy its creator. What’s so moving about this book is that it reads like an honest confession of an author, one who is longing and searching for God’s love.

Many nights I found myself reaching for this book and guarding my book corner, free from the distraction of the media, free to search my hearts, free to cry, free to empathize, and free to long for God.

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