Frankenstein, Mary Shelley’s defining novel, is often regarded as a literary classic, a masterpiece highlighting the errors of going beyond your means and acting as god. But what is it exactly that makes this particular novel a classic?
Perhaps it is the various forms that Frankenstein has taken since it’s 1818 creation that has led to the term classic being attached to it. Whilst the original story, of a man making a creature and the consequences it has, has been repeated time and time again it remains a fascinating novel to adapt into TV shows (such as the 2004 US miniseries Frankenstein), film (such as Sir Kenneth Branagh’s 1994 version, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein) and most recently on the stage with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller. Remaking something so much always poses the risk of boring the audience, but each version is unique and can focus on one of Frankenstein‘s many themes. By being read and performed for almost two hundred years it could be interpreted as a classic.
Maybe however it is the themes that it discusses. Religion, transcendence and human emotions, particularly love and loneliness, are all key themes that are discussed in the novel. These topics are still very much at the fore of debate today, simply listen to the news to see that at least one of these themes is part of a headline story. Whether it was incredible foresight by Shelley, or merely an observation of humanity, to write a novel that is still relevant two hundred years on is an incredible feat, one that deserves the term classic.
It could just be that it is an amazing story that was unique at the time of writing. Exploring the idea of creating life with its moral consequences, all in the grisly setting of the Gothic period, the story takes what could be simple themes, humanity and power, and explores the potential for everything to go wrong. At the heart of all literature should be a story that is tight, thought provoking and most of all a great narrative. Frankenstein ticks all of these boxes, providing an exciting and dramatic narrative that forces the reader to question their own moral beliefs.
All of the things mentioned and more make Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein a classic. Not many novels can provide an original tale that is full of exciting and divisive themes, that is thought provoking to the reader and that can continuously be remade and reinvented feeling fresh every time. Whether you read it for academic purposes or just for fun take the time to reread this classic, and hopefully appreciate that it deserves its title.
Frankenstein is a definite classic with an original and thought provoking tale. Whether you read it for pleasure or for academic purposes this novel is a deserved classic that will have a profound effect on you.