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  • It's 1778, and the young explorer Robert Walton is stuck on his ship in the North Pole.

  • One morning, he sees a large, monstrous figure driving a sled across the ice.

  • No, it's not a Yeti or a bear (on a sled?)...

  • What Young Walton just saw was Frankenstein's monster.

  • Wait a minute...

  • Frankenstein in the North Pole?

  • Let's start by getting the facts straight.

  • This is Frankenstein, this isn't.

  • This is Doctor Victor Frankenstein, and this is his creature.

  • He doesn't have a first name or a last one.

  • And, yes, that morning he was the one riding across the ice of the Arctic...

  • But let's start at the beginning!

  • This is Mary Shelley, the powerful mind behind the story of Frankenstein.

  • This is her husband, the poet Percy Shelley, and Lord Byron, on a rainy night in 1816,

  • the year without a summer.

  • The eruption of Mount Tambora created a massive climate change that year, making the days

  • dark, gloomy and extremely cold.

  • What better time to make up a gothic story?

  • It was exactly then during a night of ghost stories that Mary began to create what would

  • become the story of Frankenstein and his creature.

  • Dr. Frankenstein is a brilliant scientist obsessed with human nature and the possibility

  • of creating life and protecting humans from death...

  • Here he is while he is studying how to create a new being that is stronger and healthier

  • than the common mortal.

  • The experiment works, but the new being is ungainly, extremely strong and has a bad temper...

  • so bad he steals his creator's journal and runs away in the night.

  • The creature hides near the house of some peasants, and moved by generosity he starts

  • helping them anonymously and unselfishly.

  • Being ugly doesn't mean being bad, right?

  • Well, the family of peasants didn't really see it that way... and they rewarded his efforts

  • by chasing him off with a barrage of harsh words.

  • At his first chance, the creature, understandably enraged, commits a horrible crime, killing

  • Dr. Frankenstein's younger brother... and then he disappears into thin air.

  • Sometime later he re-encounters his creator, confesses everything and makes a strange request

  • (well, not that strange!): “Create a woman for me so I will have someone who will accept

  • me as I am.”

  • At first, Victor acquiesces but then decides he won't create another ugly creature that

  • could go on to create even more little ugly creatures

  • ...so this time it's Victor who is on the run.

  • The monster doesn't forgive him: in Ireland he kills Victor's best friend, and Victor

  • is accused of his murder.

  • Once acquitted, Victor goes back to Switzerland determined to do two things: end it with the

  • monster and to marry his fiancée Elizabeth.

  • But soon after the wedding, just as Victor was looking for him,

  • the monster kills his young bride

  • "You have denied me my wedding night - I will be with you on yours!"

  • At this point, overcome with grief,

  • Frankenstein senior dies too.

  • Now, for Victor Frankenstein all of this is too much.

  • His pursuit of the creature becomes desperate and... run here, run there ...

  • ... guess where they ended up?

  • Right, the North Pole.

  • Victor collapses... he catches pneumonia and dies after having told Walton his story.

  • But where is the creature?

  • Not very far, in fact...

  • Walton discovers him at his creator's bedside.

  • He mourns over his friend/enemy and gives an astonished Walton a life lesson...

  • “I have good dispositions; my life has been hitherto harmless and in some degree beneficial;

  • but a fatal prejudice clouds their eyes, and where they ought to see a feeling and kind

  • friend, they behold only a detestable monster.”

  • ... before vanishing forever, vowing to kill himself in the cold of the Arctic.

  • The end...

  • Well, not exactly...

  • Actually, we're really just at the beginning

  • After some initial reluctance, the story of Frankenstein and his creature began to win

  • over popular culture, as demonstrated by the numerous adaptations, interpretations and

  • imitations of Shelley's work up until today:

  • in film, the first silent movie about Frankenstein was made in 1910, followed by Boris Karloff's

  • portrayal, perhaps the most famous film version of the creature, and countless other examples

  • everyone remembers: the Addams Family, The Munsters, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Frankenstein Jr...

  • The timeless philosophical and existential questions contained in the story of Frankenstein

  • are one of the reasons of its success...

  • Can man, with the help of science, overcome the limits of life and death?

  • Can man himself become a creator?

  • Or is he destined to end up like Prometheus (alluded to by Mary Shelley in the book's

  • subtitle), punished by Zeus for having gone too far?

  • Is human nature good, like Rousseau believed?

  • And are institutions, laws and prejudices what force people towards evil, as Mary Shelley's

  • father William Godwin argued?

  • As the creature says: “Shall I respect man when he condemns me?

  • Let him live with me in the interchange of kindness, and instead of injury I would bestow

  • every benefit upon him with tears of gratitude at his acceptance"

  • That's a rather deep thought for a creature we're used to thinking of as cold and definitely

  • not brilliant.

  • But certainly fitting for the complex and problematic creature Mary Shelley imagined

  • one cold night of the year without a summer.

It's 1778, and the young explorer Robert Walton is stuck on his ship in the North Pole.

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B1 UK frankenstein creature victor shelley mary shelley walton

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (in 7 minutes!)

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    Li Chia Hung posted on 2019/06/15
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