Reading Frankenstein: It’s Paining Men!
I vowed to myself that I would read Frankenstein by Halloween this year, the bicentennial of Mary Shelley’s debut novel. (The only Shelley my college professors assigned was Percy Bysshe.) I’m glad I read the book on my own; its discourses on creation and monstrosity are compelling. But it’s full of paining men! A map of masculinities as well as a prototype for science fiction, Frankenstein was ahead of its time. If you haven’t already read it, you should. Then take this Mandemonium Quiz. Can you match the profiles to the characters below?
The Callous Captain. What are the feelings of his ice-trapped, failing crew compared to those of his newfound friend who speaks of noble purpose? Yet it is terrible to reflect that the lives of all these men are endangered through me. If we are lost, my mad schemes are the cause. He also writes mansplaining letters to his sister: You will anxiously await my return. Years will pass, and you will have visitings of despair and be tortured by hope. Sheesh.
Daddy Dearest. Can guilt-tripping mothers hold a candle to this guy? I know that while you are pleased with yourself you will think of us with affection, and we shall hear regularly from you. You must pardon me if I regard any interruption in your correspondence as a proof that your other duties are equally neglected. Ouch.
The Peevish Professor. When a new student travels to study with him, this character asks the young man what he’s read–then berates him for his academic pursuits. Every minute…every instant that you have wasted on those books is utterly and entirely lost. Calling him my dear sir adds insult to injury.
The Bromancer. His best friend considers this character a being formed in the ‘very poetry of nature,’ a man whose very soul overflowed with ardent affections. The Bromancer succors his friend during illness and despair; they travel together. His own words bespeak an abiding love: I had rather be with you in your solitary rambles, than with these Scotch people. Awww.
The Outcast Vegan. He’s got a point about deserving some love for his DIY sustainable diet. I do not destroy the lamb and the kid to glut my appetite; acorns and berries afford me sufficient nourishment. Hell hath no fury like a vegan scorned.
The Orientalist. Falls in love with a Turkish woman who professes Christianity. She lifts her veil to reveal hair of a shining raven black, and curiously braided; her eyes were dark, but gentle, although animated; her features of a regular proportion, and her complexion wondrously fair, each cheek tinged with a lovely pink. Of course.
The Privileged Victim. He has all the suffering that leisure, family jewels, and a seemingly endless supply of cash can afford him. What better cellmate for one’s execution eve: The poor victim, who on the morrow was to pass the awful boundary between life and death, felt not, as I did, such deep and bitter agony. I gnashed my teeth and ground them together; uttering a groan that came from my inmost soul. The Privileged Victim will manspread his misery for miles around.
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818)
stills from Frankenstein (1931), Dir. James Whale
another Imminent Ned meme