Thursday, September 28, 2006

Dracula vs. Frankenstein

Doesn't it seem like there were more thunderstorms when you were a kid?

When I was growing up my father told me that I should only read Frankenstein or Dracula during a thunderstorm. Mood was everything and the way books like those could leave their eternal marks on your psyche it was best to read them either by candle light in an old spooky house with plenty of creaks or during a storm with all of the electricity and beating of God's big bass drum in the sky that you could muster. Dad told me to wait, so I waited.

First I read Dracula and it filled my teen dreams with images of women in frilly night gowns and Eastern Eurpean Nobility with a distate for sun light and red wine. It thrilled me with its overt sense of sexuality and its need to tell the story that there was in fact an ultimate evil in the world and it had to be hunted down and destroyed. But that evil came from without, it was not the natural but the supernatural that we must fear. As a kid who read comic books that was a message I could understand.

Then I read Frankenstein and things became a little murkier. Who was evil in this book? Victor wanted to re-animate the dead. The Monster wanted to have explination of why he was brought back to suffer. Victor's creation is the very thing that destorys all that he loves and all the Creature wants is someone to love him and to keep him company. There is no black and white in Frankenstein, just deeper and darker shades of not quite white. Who is right and who is wrong? It is Victor's experiments that bring the Monster to life not the supernatural forces at work in Dracula. It is science itself that creates the problems in this book. The same science that has cured disease and has also created disease.

I think at one point or another growing up every child imagines himself fighting vampires. Slowly opening the door to your grandparents basement or crawl space and carefully taking each creaking step down into the darkness, almost as a test of whether you were brave enough to battle all the evil that exists in the world. But how many of us I wonder ever imagines ourselves as great scientists faced with the moral question of just because we can do something does that mean we should?

So sitting somewhere on my book shelves at home are two oft read copies of the greatest horror stories ever written. Waiting for the first hint of lightening to see which of them I will take off the shelf. One tells of the strength of man to slay his demons and the other tells of man's ability to create them.

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