Tuesday, September 6, 2011
The Value of a Re-Read: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Here's my deal. The first time I read Frankenstein was actually not long after graduating from grad school, just over four years ago. At the time, I was coming out of a four year relationship that I didn't want to see end, but knew was necessary. In short, I was bitter, sad, and angry. So there I was reading Frankenstein, about this monster who keeps getting rejected by any human being he came in contact with, including his creator. Not only that, but his big resolution was to ask for Victor Frankenstein (his creator) to make him a mate so that he wouldn't be alone?!? Bah! Even now, when I put myself in the mindset I was in at the time, I know exactly why I hated that stupid monster and the novel altogether. The monster was justified in feeling kicked around and derided by everyone he knew, but thinking that a girl monster as a companion would just solve everything made me annoyed to no end! Yes, I 100% read myself into the story. Yes, I saw myself as that monster, as continually kicked around by life. The difference was that I saw the reality of needing to suck it up and move on! Poor monster. I was guilty of reading myself into the text way too much.
This led me to question other books that I might have read myself into or even misunderstood at a different time. For instance, I know that I didn't get all the nuances of The Glass Menagerie when I first read it in high school. That didn't, however, eliminate me from seeing many different themes from the beginning. I can't say that I would just not read a book or dissuade someone from reading a novel or play because they couldn't directly connect with it, because there is still a lot to get out of them. Although, on the other hand, I would say that I've learned that you just might have to give novels you've had a strong reaction to a second chance. In some cases an experience or two, or year or two, can change your entire perspective on a novel and its themes.
Now, where can we get the extra time we need so we can re-read?
What books have you read again and had a different response to the second time around?