Over the past month, I read Mary Shelley’s book, Frankenstein. I don’t recall if I ever read it in high school or in any college lit classes, and with Halloween it seemed like a good month to read this classic. Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus was published on January 1, 1818. Mary Shelley did not initially put her name on the book as the author until the second edition came out in 1823. Although she is most well known for Frankenstein, she was also a prolific writer of short stories, essays, biographies and travel.
She hatched the idea for Frankenstein while traveling. She spent a summer in the company of Percy Shelley (her husband), Lord Byron, John William Polidori, and Claire Clairmont near Geneva, Switzerland. The weather was gloomy and, it is said, that during one of these dreary spells she and her friends decided to have a competition to see who could write the best horror story. They all got to work except Mary, who struggled to find a story line. One night she dreamt about a scientist who created life from death. This dream became the basis for Frankenstein.
Two hundred years later, Frankenstein is one of the mainstays for Halloween costumes and late night chills. It inspired a long list of plays, movies (remember Boris Karloff?), poems, and oddball knockoffs (think Gene Wilder). In honor of Mary Shelley’s book, and Halloween, here is an excerpt from the original Frankenstein.
It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes. and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.
How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophic, or to delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covers the work of muscle and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of pearly whiteness; but the luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.
Happy Halloween Everyone!
Managing Editor, Kathie “KJ” Scrim, is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her inspiration for blogging, flash fiction, short stories, and the long haul of novel writing comes from her many life experiences. When she’s not writing you can find her somewhere in Colorado walking, hiking, or rock climbing at the local gym.