Mary Shelley creates a monster hideous enough to be frightening, but one we sympathize with because of his pathetic life. This monster quotes Milton aMary Shelley creates a monster hideous enough to be frightening, but one we sympathize with because of his pathetic life. This monster quotes Milton and Goethe. He is articulate and self-aware. He can understand and explain the reasons for his own fall from virtue to evil. He is sensitive and emotionally complex. And he does not have a name. Frankenstein, I was a little surprised to realize, is the creator of the monster, not the monster.
The contrast between the hero, who acts less than heroically in abandoning his duties, and the sympathetic villain, who has qualities we admire, even while we fear his malice, is striking and creates the major conflict in the story. Which is the evil character and which the good? Dr. Frankenstein has everything: a home in a beautiful country, kind family and friends, a woman who loves him and the prospect of happiness with her, a noble appearance, astounding intelligence and talents that amazed his professors, education, and money. The monster, on the other hand, has not one person to love or to love him, no home, no education, except the crumbs he can steal from the table of another. He lives with ugliness, isolation, and loneliness, spurned by everyone he comes into contact with.
This novel raises the question of the responsibility of a creator to his creation: When man plays God in creating something in the world, he takes on the responsibilities of a god. A creator is a father to his creation. He should take a father’s interest in his “child.” And when a scientist creates something, is he not responsible for the affect of that creation on the world? In a sense this novel shows that a scientist can never predict the ultimate results of his scientific discoveries and inventions. And if scientific knowledge and experiments advance to the level where science can supplant spirituality, what monsters will be unleashed?
Or, to look at the theme of the novel on a more cosmic level, is Shelley saying that her view of God’s relation to us is like Frankenstein’s relation to his monster? Did God unintentionally create a Monster in forming the human race through Adam? Is he as frightened of our powers and yet as disinterested in our progress as Frankenstein is in his monster? Shelley only briefly makes the comparison between Frankenstein the Heavenly Creator, but it is enough to raise these questions. ...more
This is a grim and disturbing book. I had a dark and despondent feeling after reading it, but I’m giving it a high rating because it is undeniably welThis is a grim and disturbing book. I had a dark and despondent feeling after reading it, but I’m giving it a high rating because it is undeniably well-written and because it gave me a great deal to think about and analyze, and I appreciate any book that can do that. The plot is compelling, not only because of the action-packed story-line, but because of the emotionally charged characters. It reminds me of the story “The Lottery,” in which one person from a village is stoned each year to appease the gods and bring a good harvest. It also has similarities to The Lord of the Flies, with children killing children.
Set in a futuristic North America, the novel makes double references to the past. Most obviously, the depravity of ancient Rome, with their gladiators and arenas and spectator events, is invoked, although the arena is wider and the spectators are watching on their own home television screens. The master of ceremonies is even named Caesar. The culture of the Capitol, with the citizenry’s preoccupation with dress and appearance, luxury, entertainment, and gourmet food, is more than shallow. It is debauched. These are people who enjoy watching children die for sport. They are spectators—no voyeurs—who feed on the emotions and images of the hunger game. Their own meaningless, self-satisfied lives seem more interesting and exciting as they vicariously experience the universally televised hunger games. When Katniss discusses the games with them afterwards, they are so self-absorbed that they speak only of where they were when each crisis of the game took place, how they felt, how they reacted, not about the slain and especially not about the immorality of the game itself. It reminds me of the way people talk about where they were when Kennedy was shot, how they felt when the twin towers came down, their reactions to the current war scene. We talk less of the fallen and even less about what these troubling events indicate about our society.
Like the ancient Roman Empire before its fall, this is a civilization in decline, although they do not even know it. The people and their leaders are self-deceived, maintaining the illusion of being prosperous and powerful, using the hunger games to create fear in the districts and keep their realm in subjection. But the general population of Palem is actually weak, soft, and dependent on the districts. The gamemakers are in a more vulnerable position than they realize, as Katniss and Peeta reveal in the end. Not one citizen of Palem could have done what Katniss did. They do not have the survival skills that hunger and lack have forced her to learn, let alone the courage. Their only real strength lies in their technology. “How despicable we must seem to you,” says Ceena to Katniss when he meets her. He is the only character in the Capitol who seems to have any self-awareness.
The book would not be as chilling if ancient Rome were the only culture the author were criticizing. The parallels to our own are too stark to miss. It’s as if the author put reality television, Hollywood stylists and publicists, contemporary politics, war games, talkshows, hidden surveylance cameras, day spas, spectator sports, celebrity hero worship, and the nightly news in a big pot and stirred them up a bit to make a stew. Like Katniss encountering the rich lamb stew when she first arrives in the capital, I’ve never seen this stew before. Yet it sure looks, tastes, and smells a lot like our own daily fare.
I noticed that food is a recurring motif in this book, which is interesting to me because I’ve been thinking and reading more about food in recent years. Many of the pivotal moments of the story are connected in some way to food. A loaf of bread is the initial contact between Katniss and Peeta. The final confrontation takes place on a giant cornucopia, the ancient symbol of food, harvest, and abundance. Poisonous berries bring the story to a climax. You can tell a lot about a society’s state by how they view food. Since this is one of the most basic resources that human beings need on a daily basis, the way people produce, hunt, distribute, share, hoard, or elevate food tells much about the state of their hearts. For the Capitol, food is power. By keeping people hungry, they keep them (supposedly) weak. Ironically, this tactic strengthens the districts in subtle ways. For Katniss food is a daily problem of survival and a daily motivator to serve her family. Learning to hunt and gather has sharpened her wits, her senses, her body, her skills, and even her conscience. For the residents of Palem, food is a delicacy, delivered at the touch of a button. They are completely out of touch with how their food is produced and far removed from the processes that bring it to their tables. This is their Achilles heel. As a title, The Hunger Games at first confused me, but now that I've finished the book and thought about it, the title makes perfect sense. Hunger can have many levels and objects, but the literal, primal, insistent, daily need for food is a vulnerability we all share. Hunger can be used as a weapon, as a teacher, and as one of the most powerful of motivators.
Strangely, “the audience” is one of the most important characters in this book. Their ever-watching, anonymous presence is a chief motivating factor for all the other characters. Playing to the audience is a primary concern. It wasn’t until I was three-fourth of the way through the book that I realized the sickening truth: I am part of that audience. By reading this book, I have become one of the spectators. I thought of setting this book aside many times, but I too felt the riveting, mesmerizing pull to watch this story unfold to the horrible end.
I found the godlessness of this book to be it’s most unrealistic feature. Although her father is dead, Katniss never imagines him still existing, still watching over her. Never, in her worst extremities, does Katniss pray, ask for guidance, or turn her thoughts to what might come after death. The tiny parachutes that arrive from the sky bearing miraculous gifts are almost a mockery of God, since they are sent by a drunken “mentor” in order to manipulate Katniss into playing her part in certain ways. Resurrection is portrayed by the dead tributes returning as horrible mutated beasts that seek the blood of the final tributes. I know this is fantasy and not meant to be realistic but the absence of any god or even a transcendent idea makes the story feel so hopeless. All we are allowed to hope for is that in this survival of the fittest, Katniss and the other characters we care about will come out on top. I just don’t think I have the stomach to read the other novels in the series to find out if and how they do. And I don't need to read the rest of the series to predict that Rome / Palem is certainly about to fall. ...more