Have you read Frankenstein? If you haven’t, the first thing you need to know is that the movie portrayal of his “monster” (an unfortunate term, but we’ll use it here) is very different from in Shelley’s book.
In the movie version (and all the following knock-offs), the monster is lumbering and barely coherent. In the book, he is agile, strong, and grows to be extremely intelligent.
But here is what both versions agree on:
- Frankenstein created a monster, for reasons that may have been partly noble and partly not.
- However that monster came to exist, the monster became dangerous.
(Because the book — which I read on a suggestion from Art of Manliness — is fresh on my mind, I’ll mostly be referring that version of the story in this post.)
I’m no expert in literary analysis, but I could not help but see how much Frankenstein spoke about our culture and our innate human nature.
The Mess of Our Culture
“I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed. Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous.”
Speaking generally, all of life’s ills began at the Fall of Adam (Genesis 3). From this point, chaos and shame and sin entered our world. All issues like abuse, injustice, hatred, etc, can be traced back to this point.
We know the origin. And we know the ultimate hope — that Jesus is actively working to redeem this world, and that one day He will restore all things to perfection (Romans 8:19-25).
But in between the Fall and the Restoration, we have a lot of questions. And we may not know the answers to our specific problems. And it’s ok to not have all the answers, according to both Shakespeare (“The fool doth think himself wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”) and Brett McKay (“Actual experts usually don’t refer to themselves as experts.”)
Here’s what we have to admit: that the problems in our society are complicated. It’s not as simple as saying: “Parents need to do better.” Or, “More (or fewer) programs are needed.” Or, “It’s the fault of _________.” For any example we give, someone can find a counter argument.
Poverty and justice are complicated and multifaceted. They are spiritual, emotional, social, and mental issues. (For more on this, see Poverty: A Simple Problem and No Solution?)
“I am malicious because I am miserable.”
“For while I destroyed his hopes, I did not satisfy my own desires. They were forever ardent and craving; still I desired love and fellowship, and I was still spurned.”
Hurt people hurt other people.
Frankenstein created a mess, and he was passive in his response to it. Even when he worked on a solution, he let others suffer and die, while he remained silent and ashamed. And the exhaustive pursuit of Frakenstein’s own solution . . . it killed him.
Frankenstein wanted the power of creating life, and it led to his own demise. Frankenstein’s monster wanted acceptance, and when he didn’t get that companionship, he robbed others of it.
We are driven to satisfy our own wants and desires, but we sooner or later realize that we will never be satisfied in worldly pleasures like money, sex, and status. It just doesn’t happen.
The unanswered question in the book is, “Could the damage inflicted by Frankenstein’s monster have been prevented or stopped, if he only got what he want?”
Jesus answers this question in our own lives, and in our society. But the answer is not what we expect.
Jesus says He wants us to have an abundant life (John 10:10), but to gain life, we have to give it up (Matthew 16:25). He taught this and modeled it by His own life of service and sacrifice (Mark 10:45).
The chaos and pain and injustices of the world are monsters. In Adam, we are to blame (individually and collectively) for creating this mayhem. And while Jesus will ultimately deal with it, we are called to be a part of the solution.
We must accept our responsibility, and we must bear the burdens of others. We must move forward in confidence that we can make a difference, and in the humility that we can’t know and do everything to fix it.
This will cost us. We will sacrifice our lives and our pride. And we will trust that Jesus will fill us with a life that surpasses anything we give up.
Note: For a great crash course on this book, check out this video: Don’t Reanimate Corpses.