Yesterday was Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley‘s birthday. She’s most well known for writing Frankenstein . Frankenstein is one of the strongest influences in my horror and suspense. Although her style is a lot more Gothic and flowery than mine, Shelley asks deep, intelligent questions about the nature of man, of creation, of life itself. Furthermore, her story betrays a lot of her feelings of rejection from her own life–or so I proved in my senior term paper in high school.
You see, I’ve never been interested in killing the monsters at first sight. I’ve always been far more interested in the monster’s side of the story.
I often think we’re too quick to dismiss the monsters. I see in them a reflection of those rejected in life, for reasons of disfigurement or disability, of illness or mental troubles, of cultural or ethnic conflict. We so easily divide life between us and them and whenever that happens, we turn Them, the Other, into our monsters.
Forgetting that we could be the monsters in the narratives of others.
Frankenstein was one of my first glimpses into a world where the true monster was, in a way, Victor Frankenstein. His Monster, rather, was the pitiable, a figure made and then rejected for its actions.
I often wonder what the Monster thought during his final moments. Sailing into the abyss, determined to kill itself because it found that the death of Frankenstein brought no relief. At times, I wonder what would have happened if he tried to live and become more than the sum of his parts.
Never to be truly human, truly normal, but also striving to grow beyond himself. Trying to fit in and find a purpose.
Some people look into the eyes of monsters and see a reflection of things that man must be saved from. Like Eustace being turned into a dragon in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, our monstrous side is something to be overcome by a greater force. In this story, the monster can be healed (although Eustace still acts annoying at times).
But what about the monsters that can’t be saved?
What if the monstrous wasn’t a symbol of spiritual darkness, as so many claim? What if it was a physical infirmity, a psychological torment, a horrible disfigurement that must be lived with day in and day out? Something that separates people from the norm. That reminds them, in the moments of solitude, that they are different and chances of healing are slim.
Chances of acceptance are slim.
What kind of person comes forth at those moments of tragedy and loneliness? Those times of looking into the depths of one’s own heart and seeing the truth of one’s desires? Facing the trial of walking the line of heroism, but stained by the always-present temptation of darkness? Does being a monster, being rejected for any number of reasons, give someone the right to turn bitter? To strike back at those that seek to hurt them?
One wrong step, one moment of self-righteous cruelty out of hurt and anger, and suddenly, you’re the very thing you most loathe.
This line between light and darkness, this battle in the soul of man, is what struck me most about Frankenstein. The man’s obsession with the creation of life, crossing one line–and the monster, trying desperately to cross back and be human.
Falling short at the end.
For this reason, I write monsters, who aren’t always saved from their afflictions but must constantly cope with and battle them (see vampires and disabilities). Monsters who stare into the dark mirror at others, and at themselves, and fight the urge to give in and retaliate against those that would harm them.
Because in those dark moments, the light can shine brightest. Even if only a flickering candlelight.
All the Questions: have you ever read Frankenstein? What did you think? What, if any, are your favorite horror stories? What do you think of monsters? Do you have any favorites?