This is a difficult review to write. How can one channel the raw elemental and emotional beauty of such a book with flighty and often flippant words? How can one tame such a monster and convey to anyone else how powerful and vibrant this novel is? How much depth this contains for a book written by a nineteen year old is astounding, and to summarise such a work of art would be magical.
One could write about the tormented creation of the book. A reviewer could focus upon the psychologically damaged scientist and his obsession with forbidden knowledge. Freud and Jung would therefore prove useful in this particular analysis. One might even delve into the intertextual links hinted at within this work: such as The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Paradise Lost. However to do such would be to spoil such discoveries for the reader. It is best to tackle Frankenstein with an open mind and an awareness of the literary power of its words instead.
No instead let us examine the most powerful aspect of this novel. Apart from the overall legend, this is an idea representative of the central conceit of the text. Frankenstein is the tale of a man playing with powers greater than humanity. The idea that men should not mess with forbidden knowledge, nor try and draw life from death, is crucial to understanding Frankenstein. The element of attempting to draw life from its incongruous opposite is powerful; humanity cannot create life where there is none and cannot bring it forth from death. To attempt such was beyond the protagonist and resulted in his personal torment. It could also be debated that the ‘protagonist’ was the true antagonist in this narrative.
Frankenstein is both a philosophical book full of cautions, a book that is in many ways prescient. And it is that eternal element. The fact that it still can be applied to today as a cautionary tale (cloning, genetic modification, stem cell research or organ growth etc.) transforms Frankenstein into less of a campy horror (as with the dated films) and into a true gothic classic. Like Dracula this is a tale with philosophical and psychological baggage tags attached. However it is greater than any of the surrounding tales and stories. It is a beautiful work of art that deserves the title of classic and should be read by all readers of any background.