May 12, 2010

The Story of Frankenstein From Nightmares to Novels

From the time I saw the best of the Frankenstein films on TV when I was eleven–the original featuring Karloff’s remarkable performance, Bride of Frankenstein, and Son of Frankenstein–I relished them even though they gave me the worst nightmares of my life. In fact, I continued to have Frankenstein-themed nightmares into my thirties, a few times a year crying out in my sleep and waking in a sweat. Interestingly, when the Frankenstein dreams stopped, I ceased having nightmares of any kind; and for many years, my sleep has been undisturbed.

The original novel is mostly mistaught in our universities these days, as professors twist Mary Shelley’s themes–and even turn them upside down–to endorse this or that modern attitude or political viewpoint. Of the several reasons why the book is a classic, perhaps the most important is the portrayal of Victor Frankenstein as a compassionate utopian destroyed by hubris. The history of humanity is soaked in blood precisely because we throw ourselves into the pursuit of one utopia after another, determined to perfect this world that cannot be perfected. Of all centuries, the 20th was the bloodiest because of Hitler’s National Socialism, Lenin’s and Stalin’s and Mao’s and Pol Pot’s and Castro’s versions of Communism; as many as 200 million were murdered or killed in war because of these utopian schemes. Victor Frankenstein, utopian of the first order, hoped to perfect God’s creation, to reanimate the deceased and thus defeat death, and his project could result only in calamity, for it was against the natural law and common sense.

Dean Koontz

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