I don’t know about you, but I was introduced to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein via the movies. As a kid I loved Frankenstein vs. the Wolfman, Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein and of course, my favorite; Young Frankenstein. In each of these movies, except YF, the doctor’s creation was treated as a monster. Something that garnered little sympathy with the audience.
It wasn’t until I was adult did I finally pick up Shelley’s book. One October a book club I belong to decided to give the book a try. It was only after reading the book did I learn that Shelley wasn’t writing about a monster, she was writing about monstrous behavior of 17th century scientists (at least this is how she saw it). The creature in Shelley’s book deserved sympathy, while those who encountered him did not. The book was a lesson on science gone too far; how man’s quest to conquer nature will lead to disaster. Had I not picked up Shelley’s book and only relied on movies, I would have never considered the creature’s point of view. He would have continued to be stuff of nightmares.
I wonder if Professor John Gardner had this discrepancy in mind when he decided to publish Grendal? The good professor had been teaching the text of Beowulf for years before picking up his pen. Gardner’s twist on the tale is in his choice to narrate the story from the monster’s point of view, transforming a snarling, dreadful creature into a isolated but intelligent outsider who bears a striking resemblance to his human adversaries. In his retelling of the Beowulf story, Gardner comments not only on the Anglo-Saxon civilization and moral code the original poem depicts, but also on the human condition.
But don’t just take my word on it. Listen to Professor
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Sweets as he entertains and explains why we should consider the beast.. You’ll might learn a thing or two!