I came to a literary epiphany yesterday. I’m attending this year’s Readercon, which deals with science fiction and fantasy. There are panels and discussions about the genre, looking at it from an academic and analytical perspective. Now I love literature and particularly love analyzing it and seeing why it works the way it does. It’s one of the reasons I love being an English teacher, and would love to be a professor someday. In a sense, Readercon feels like a weekend of classes just on the literature I love. Yesterday I went to a panel about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I’ve spent the last fifteen years of my life in a love/hate relationship with the novel.
I love the book; the story is interesting, the structure of the frame narrative is well-done, and the themes and motifs are timeless. Shelley’s discussion of pushing scientific boundaries and the ethical issues that then arise are as pertinent today as they were in 1818, if not more so. But I realized a few years back that I hate the characters with a fiery, burning passion. This dichotomy of feeling doesn’t confuse or trouble me at all; I find it really interesting and a tad amusing that I can love a story so much, but hate its characters equally much. I usually tend toward stories (in books, games, and movies alike) that are driven by characters. Most of the characters who drive stories, I find I like. But Frankenstein is driven by characters whom I intensely and profoundly dislike, which is why I think I enjoy the story so much.