At this point Frankenstein has become so ingrained in our popular consciousness I think it’s difficult to read the novel without any kind of preconceived ideas. The green, flat-headed monster with bolts protruding from his neck has become such an iconic part of the horror canon (especially in cinema) that it’s sometimes difficult to reconcile pop-culture with the literary reality.
Viktor Frankenstein is a medical student during the early days of human dissection. Young and ambitious, Frankenstein takes science’s new-found understanding of the human body to the next level by bringing a corpse back to life. He stoops to robbing graves and descends into the realms of moral reprehensibility in the name of science and discovery. Horrified with his ultimate creation, Frankenstein abandons the newborn creature and fleas, falling sick with guilt and anxiety.
The creature – a hideous, seven-foot-tall man with long, greasy black hair – becomes quite articulate and thoughtful by listening at the window of a farmhouse, falling in love with the family that lives there. When they eventually discover and reject him, it sends him into a murderous spiral. He demands that Frankenstein make him a female mate to love, accept, and understand him. When the scientist aborts the project, he swears revenge against the scientist. And while Frankenstein worries he will die at the hands of his monster, he soon discovers the creature intends to make his creator suffer.
Notes from the Piebrary:
Mary Shelley very famously wrote Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus in her late teens. The story goes that during a summer in Geneva, a coterie of writers (Mary, her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Lord Byron, among others) started a competition to see who could write the best horror story. Shelley wrote Frankenstein, combining the frightening possibilities of emerging medicine and electricity with a previously unexplored Gothic setting: the human body. Forget haunted houses or creepy castles, with the birth of Frankenstein’s creature Shelley created the sub-genre of “body horror.”
The popular interpretation of Frankenstein is that it is a parable warning men never to play god. If you use science to transcend some divine natural order you will fail, spectacularly and violently. However, my preferred analysis comes (paraphrased) courtesy of my Gothic literature professor, Clive Bloom. The truth of Frankenstein is that there is no God to prevent you from breaking the laws of nature or to protect you from your own spectacular screw-ups. Everything that goes wrong for Viktor Frankenstein is due his own negligence, not divine providence. It is the irresponsibility of his execution and not the nature of the experiment itself that leads to his downfall. He spends a decent portion of the book sick and bedridden with guilt over the thing he’s created rather than seeking to stop its murderous rampage. Essentially: there is no God, so you might as well dig up some graves and do what you like. Woo, go scientific ambition!
Parsing this Pie:
For me a lot of this pie was about aesthetic. I wanted this pie to be ugly but delicious, a bit like our misunderstood creature friend. I have always found it very easy to sympathize with the monster, both his insecurity and his anger. I think everyone can sympathize with the monster on some level because everyone has felt like a monster themselves at one time or another. Of course most people never go on homicidal rampages, but regardless, this pie is less well-argued and rooted more in my personal interpretation of the character. I wanted the maple and oat chess to have a sort of sweet and homey flavor (symbolic of the creature during his time observing the farmhouse and living in the forest), but I wanted the outside to me rough, crispy, and scarred.
-1 cup flour
-1/3 cup butter
-4-6 tbs water
-1 1/4 cups sugar
-1/2cup butter (melted)
-3 eggs (beaten)
-1/4 cup maple syrup
-1/2 – 3/4 cup of old fashioned oats
-1 tsp cider vinegar
-1 tsp vanilla
-2 tbsp butter
-1 cup dark chocolate
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cube the cold butter and knead it into the flour, adding water at increments until the dough comes together. Since this is an open-faced pie, these measurements make just enough to line the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate.
Combine the sugar, butter, eggs, maple syrup, cider vinegar, and vanilla in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Then stir in the oats. Pour the mixture into the crust-lined pie plate and bake for approximately one hour. The top of the pie should look kind of sugared and crispy brown when it’s done, the center of the custard-like chess filling should feel firm when you poke it.
Melt butter and chocolate together for the topping (microwave will do), and stir until smooth. Drizzle over the fully cooled pie and allow those chocolate scars to harden (like your heart). Also, you may recall chess pie is also really good cold, so putting it in the fridge is also an option! The perfect pie for when you’re sad or angry; don’t murder your enemies or even their loved ones, reach for a slice of pie instead.