Oh Mary Shelley. Your protagonist just needs to learn how to problem solve.
It’s Spooky September so I’ve been listening to old timey horror novels and there are many situations in Frankenstein (read to me by Dan Stevens, THANK YOU Dan Stevens) that I felt could FRANKly have been vastly improved upon. Here are a few scenes which I have rewritten for your approval and consideration. (This is the closest I will ever get to writing fan fiction.)
The Farmer Rehabilitation Program (alternatively titled : Frankenstein’s First Lesson in Feminism)
“We may not part until you have promised to comply with my requisition. I am alone and miserable; man will not associate with me; but one as deformed and horrible as myself would not deny herself to me. My companion must be of the same species and have the same defects. This being you must create.”
The being finished speaking and fixed his looks upon me in the expectation of a reply. But I was bewildered, perplexed, and unable to arrange my ideas sufficiently to understand the full extent of his proposition. He continued, ‘You must create a female for me with whom I can live in the interchange of those sympathies necessary for my being. This you alone can do, and I demand it of you as a right which you must not refuse to concede.’ The latter part of his tale had kindled anew in me the anger that had died away. “Well, normally I would,” said I, “but remember the part of this tale where you literally murdered my five year old brother?” He replied, ‘I am content to reason with you. I am malicious because I am miserable. Am I not shunned and hated by all mankind? You, my creator, would tear me to pieces and triumph; remember that, and tell me why I should pity man more than he pities me? You would not call it murder if you could precipitate me into one of those ice-rifts and destroy my frame, the work of your own hands. 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. But that cannot be; the human senses are insurmountable barriers to our union. Yet mine shall not be the submission of abject slavery. I will revenge my injuries; if I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear, and chiefly towards you my archenemy, because my creator, do I swear inextinguishable hatred. Have a care; I will work at your destruction, nor finish until I desolate your heart, so that you shall curse the hour of your birth.’ A fiendish rage animated him as he said this; his face was wrinkled into contortions too horrible for human eyes to behold; but presently he calmed himself and proceeded- ‘I intended to reason. This passion is detrimental to me, for you do not reflect that you are the cause of its excess. If any being felt emotions of benevolence towards me, I should return them a hundred and a hundredfold; for that one creature’s sake I would make peace with the whole kind! But I now indulge in dreams of bliss that cannot be realized. What I ask of you is reasonable and moderate; I demand a creature of another sex, but as hideous as myself; the gratification is small, but it is all that I can receive, and it shall content me. It is true, we shall be monsters, cut off from all the world; but on that account we shall be more attached to one another. Our lives will not be happy, but they will be harmless and free from the misery I now feel. Oh! My creator, make me happy; let me feel gratitude towards you for one benefit! Let me see that I excite the sympathy of some existing thing; do not deny me my request!’
Wow, I thought. This really escalated quickly. However, despite my repulsion, I was moved. I shuddered when I thought of the possible consequences of my consent, but I felt that there was some justice in his argument. His tale and the feelings he now expressed proved him to be a creature of fine sensations, and did I not as his maker owe him all the portion of happiness that it was in my power to bestow?
Additionally, he had not asked to be created. I had done that all on my own. He disgusted me, but if I had not been so obsessed with “creating a new species” and being exonerated above my fellow man for my weird and creepy “scientific accomplishments” this wouldn’t even be happening. I groaned inwardly. Toxic masculinity ruins the party again, I thought drily, then made a mental note to discuss my apparent god complex with my therapist. In my opinion, not doing emotional maintenance regularly should be considered a punishable hate crime. I mean, I hadn’t been going to therapy regularly and look at me now.
I considered his request seriously. I could do as he asked. I didn’t relish it. I am a creepy guy, but the thought of digging through various graves for more “parts” was not a prospect I could revisit with any sort of delight. But there was the question of how she would turn out. What if she was a remorseless psychopath? What if the she-monster should not reciprocate his feelings? What if she wanted to pursue her career instead of a family? What if she friend-zoned him? The worst friend-zoning of all time. But it could happen. She should have free agency instead of being forced into a relationship she probably didn’t even want without being told what a “good guy” he was. And no matter what, I thought to myself sternly, no one should ever tell her she looks “so much prettier when she smiles.” That sort of passive-aggressive internalized misogyny belongs in the trash. Shaking myself mentally for veering off the rabbit trail, I resumed my original train of thought. Who would even want to be with this guy anyway? Even completely disregarding his looks (which, to be honest, weren’t great – I should have paid closer attention to the aesthetics) he had no sense of humor to speak of, and he was a stage five clinger. And he whined a lot. What would he even bring to the table in a relationship? Besides unwavering devotion? I should have made him prettier so that other people would like him, I thought ruefully, what a rookie mistake. There’s really nobody to blame here but me and I have just got to handle my scandal. I don’t even know why I didn’t go looking for him sooner. If I had a murderous pet bunny rabbit that I intensely disliked and it escaped, I wouldn’t be like oh well, I hope he never comes back! Who even thinks like that? What is wrong with me?
Right then there, I resolved that I would just have to correct my mistakes in these and past regards.
“First of all, Frank – can I call ya Frank?” I asked him. “I’ve decided to name you after myself, because I am a singularly pathetic narcissist.” I sighed deeply. “First of all, I’d like to apologize for ditching you in the first few years of your life. That wasn’t polite.” Frankenstein looked mystified, but I continued. “It’s just because I was completely horrified by how you looked and didn’t want to have anything to do with you, but still. That’s no excuse for being rude.” I fell silent for a few seconds, contemplating my grave irresponsibility, and then moved forward. “Also,” I explained, “I was extremely ill and I had extensive and prolonged diarrhea. Have you had diarrhea yet? No? Well, that’s a pleasure all the greater for being deferred.” I sighed even more deeply. “Now, even though murdering my little brother and framing Justine for it WAS a total dick move – and I’m very disappointed in you, by the way, and really think you ought to take some time to reflect upon your actions – I have realized it is my duty – as your pop-pop – to teach you right from wrong. It is NOT my duty, however, to make you happy, as you say. I’m not here to babysit your emotions.” I regarded him sternly. “On that note, I am not going to make you a female companion. I don’t believe females should be forced into traditional gender roles or choices they don’t want to make, no matter what Jordan Peterson has to say about it. Chances are she might want to go off on her own anyway, and you’d be just as upset as you are now, and then you’d blame me for it and go on a murdering spree. Now I’m sorry, young man, but that kind of behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated under my roof.” Frankenstein seemed even more mystified. “Why not?” He asked me. “Other men do as they like and nobody seems to reproach them.” I rolled my eyes. “I guess in this society, being male and an asshole makes you worthy of our time,” I commented sarcastically. Frankenstein had no worthy rebuttal to my scathing remarks, so I continued. “However, I realize that it would not do to leave you completely without companionship of any kind. That would stunt your emotional growth and leave you unfit for even reclusive society. I will find you a habitat suitable for your needs, where you can be left alone in peace. Someplace scenic, with a brook nearby. I will provide for you a garden, where you will grow your own food. I will procure the necessary books and youtube channels for your tutelage. I will supply for you a pet of your choosing for you to socialize and cuddle with, although pandas and ferrets are out of the question. Dogs, cats and obscure turtles are on the table.”
“What is a ‘cuddle’?” Frankenstein asked me.
“I WILL ALSO,” I stated in an elevated volume, for I was most desperate to avoid questions of this nature, “provide for you a LIBRARY card, and you can tell me which books you might like to read by writing them down on a list. I will tutor you in all the subjects, but I must insist that the first book you read be Anne of Green Gables. You will see that she also had to overcome her temper, even though she was naturally subjected to it by being redheaded. You see,” I said. “You can hate me, if you like. You can be angry, if you like. But you can’t just go around murdering five year olds and then framing their innocent nannies for it. That sort of thing has just got to be nipped in the bud.” I paused for a second. I did not look forward to what I was about to say next, but it had to be said, and well I knew it. “Companionship you shall have,” I said, “but not that of a subjugated female who didn’t ask for it. Your companionship shall be my own. While we can both agree you are disgusting to look at, looks aren’t everything, and I vow to be your closest friend and ally. I admit, I really should let the authorities take over from here, but as I believe in restorative justice and not punitive, I’m gonna let this one slide.” Frankenstein stared at me like I had taken all leave of my faculties. I had to wonder, myself, if I was really in my right mind. The sight of him repulsed me, and his manner of speech was pretentious and weirdly cultivated. What would spending time with him be like? It sounded like a drudgery I could not face. But in this way I would do penance for my crimes, and I need not spend ALL my time with him. Really, if I only spent a few hours with him every few weeks or so, that would probably be sufficient – and it wouldn’t be so arduous if our association was activity-oriented. I made a mental note to acquire some adult colouring books while internally cursing the arrogance that had convinced me of my own superiority in creating life. Master race indeed, I thought bitterly. He doesn’t even know what cuddling is. I should have known I would have done a botch job of it. When will I ever learn to think things through?
My proposition, however ghastly to me, was well thought out. This way, I could go home and marry Elizabeth, my “cousin” – even though it was weird as balls that we had been practically raised together and now I was just going to take her as my wife. Still. It wasn’t fair of me to expect her to sit around at home and wait around while I cavorted around creating monstrous beings and feeling sorry for myself. Maybe she has things that she’d like to do and I should just stop being so selfish. It was time, more than ever, to shit or get off the pot. I just had to make sure Frankenstein wouldn’t go off and murder her in an act of revenge first.
Frankenstein groaned heart-rendingly. “But DAD,” he said, “I WANT a GIRLFRIEND! WHY won’t you MAKE ME ONE?!?!”
“Because,” I said, “you don’t have enough emotional intelligence to be in a relationship yet. Now, as time goes on, we might think about taking you out to masquerade and balls and such, where you could commiserate with the ladies, but now is the not the time for that. You’ve just got to work on you right now, and not expect another person to be beholden for your many shortcomings. Also, you just need to dial it back with the melodramatics. You won’t die if you don’t have a lady friend. I should know. The only lady friend I’ve ever had is my cousin, who isn’t even really my cousin. It’s a weird situation,” I said soberly. “And more than you want on your plate right now. Take it from your old man.”
“But I don’t want to have just one friend,” Frankenstein complained. “I have a LOT of love to give! Some might say too much, in fact!”
“You can have a lot of friends, though,” I encouraged him. “They might just be cat friends.” Frankenstein frowned confusedly at this juncture, but I pressed on. “Now are you going to be sensible and accept my counter-proposal or not? The options, at this point, are accept my counter-proposal, or be a completely miserable wretch hell-bent on my destruction. Of course, that’s your prerogative. But I just want you to know if you continue down that path, it will be your own fault and you’re going to die alone and unloved without health insurance.” At the mention of a possible lack of health insurance, Frankenstein sobbed outright in stark fear and moral outrage, but I was inexorably relentless. These were the cold, hard facts of life and he just had to hear them, whether he liked them or not. “However, if you choose my option, you will be covered by Blue Cross until the day you die, and on your deathbed you will be surrounded by your loved ones. Which will be me, and your many cats. And maybe we could find a few blind friends for you as well. I’m sure there’s a meet-up group for that. They oughtn’t to mind your harsh dialect.”
Frankenstein, shocked into submission, vaguely nodded his assent. He seemed as if he had not much to say.
The years passed by in the manner described above. I brought out several books on the enneagram for him, and we both realized right away that he was obviously a type four. As this was the case, he would fall into fits of melancholy and in fact seemed to enjoy doing so. I had no patience for it. I never forgave him for murdering my brother. But, in time, he grew on me, much like a wart or some kind of unremovable fungus. Eventually I introduced him to my family. They were more annoyed with me for creating him than they were with him for existing. Of course, they all screamed bloody murder when they first laid eyes upon him, and screeched about the devils of hell and etc., but I had the tranquilizer darts ready until they learned to calm down. In time they grew to accept him, though he was quite often the brunt of their jokes without knowing it. As he approached his 16th year, he grew rather knowledgeable in the art of psychology, and began taking university courses by correspondence. Of course, as he would unsettle patients by meeting them in person, once he attained his degree he only did psychiatric support by way of letter writing. Bit more of a lengthier process, but not ineffective.
As the aging process was advanced in his case, he did not live very long. He had two cats, whom he had named Boo Radley and Ham Gathering. Me, my family, Boo Radley and Ham Gathering presided on his deathbed, and he passed away in our loving arms.
The Life Aquatic (Or, I lost my girlfriend and gained a boat)
I trembled and my heart failed within me, when, on looking up, I saw by the light of the moon the demon at the casement. A ghastly grin wrinkled his lips as he gazed on me, where I sat fulfilling the task which he had allotted to me. Yes, he had followed me in my travels; he had loitered in forests, hid himself in caves, or taken refuge in wide and desert heaths; and he now came to mark my progress and claim the fulfillment of my promise. As I looked on him, his countenance expressed the utmost extent of malice and treachery. I thought with a sensation of madness on my promise of creating another like to him, and trembling with passion, tore to pieces the thing on which I was engaged. The wretch saw me destroy the creature on whose future existence he depended for happiness, and with a howl of devilish despair and revenge, withdrew.
In a few minutes after, I heard the creaking of my door, as if some one endeavoured to open it softly. I trembled from head to foot; I felt a presentiment of who it was. Shutting the door, he approached me and said in a smothered voice, ‘You have destroyed the work which you began; what is it that you intend? Do you dare to break your promise? I have endured toil and misery; I left Switzerland with you; I crept along the shores of the Rhine, among its willow islands and over the summits of its hills. I have dwelt many months in the heaths of England and among the deserts of Scotland. I have endured incalculable fatigue, and cold, and hunger; and I also stole a boat, but that’s neither here nor there. Do you dare destroy my hopes?’
‘Begone! I do break my promise; never will I create another like yourself, equal in deformity and wickedness.’ I paused. “Wait a second, did you say that you stole a boat?”
‘Slave, I before reasoned with you, but you have proved yourself unworthy of my condescension. Remember that I have power; I can steal boats willy-nilly and you can’t! You believe yourself miserable, but I can make you so wretched that the light of day will be hateful to you. You are my creator, but I am your master; obey!’
“First of all,” I said, “You are literally being so rude right now. It’s driving me insane and I’m ready to shove a taco up your ass. Secondly, you can’t just go around stealing boats. Thirdly, the hour of my irresolution is past, and the period of your power is arrived. Your threats cannot move me to do an act of wickedness; but they confirm me in a determination of not creating you a companion in vice. Shall I, in cool blood, set loose upon the earth a daemon whose delight is in death and wretchedness? Begone! I am firm, and your words will only exasperate my rage.’ The monster saw my determination in my face and gnashed his teeth in the impotence of anger. ‘Shall each man,’ cried he, ‘find a wife for his bosom, and each beast have his mate, and I be alone with only my boat? It’s a wonderful boat, but I had feelings of affection, and they were requited by detestation and scorn. Man! You may hate, but beware! Your hours will pass in dread and misery, and soon the bolt will fall which must ravish from you your happiness forever, and you will NEVER have a boat as cool as mine! Are you to be happy while I grovel in the intensity of my wretchedness? You can blast my other passions, but revenge and boatlessness remains—revenge, henceforth dearer than light or food OR my boat! I may die, but first you, my tyrant and tormentor, shall curse the sun that gazes on your misery. Beware, for I am fearless and therefore powerful. I will watch you from my boat with the wiliness of a snake, that I may sting with its venom. Man, you shall repent of the injuries you inflict.’
I started forward and exclaimed, ‘Villain! Nobody cares about your stupid boat! Before you sign my death-warrant, be sure that you are yourself safe.’ I would have seized him, except there was no way that I could have seized him, because he was a thousand times more stronger than me, but he eluded me (quite expectedly, it was really idiotic to think I could have seized him myself) and quitted the house with precipitation. In a few moments I saw him in his boat. A motorboat. Advanced for the 18th century. I turned green with ardent jealousy. Did his depravity know no bounds? “See you later, ASSHOLE!” he shrieked.
“Well, sorry I’m NOT SORRY!” I yelled back. “BY THE WAY, THAT IS A GREAT FUCKING BOAT! WHERE DID YOU GET IT, JACKASS?!”
“IT’S PART OF MY NAUTICAL ADVENTURES INITIATIVE!” He hollered. Then he shot across the waters with an arrowy swiftness and was soon lost amidst the waves.
I scowled. Typical. Nothing to do now but call the coast guard.