Frankensteinby Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Charlotte Gordon Published 08 Mar 2018
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Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only eighteen. At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature's hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.
Frankenstein, an instant bestseller and an important ancestor of both the horror and science fiction genres, not only tells a terrifying story, but also raises profound, disturbing questions about the very nature of life and the place of humankind within the cosmos: What does it mean to be human? What responsibilities do we have to each other? How far can we go in tampering with Nature? In our age, filled with news of organ donation genetic engineering, and bio-terrorism, these questions are more relevant than ever.
"My food is not that of man; I do not destroy the lamb and the kid, to glut my appetite; acorns and berries afford me sufficient nourishment. My companion will be of the same nature as myself, and will be content with the same fare. We shall make our bed of dried leaves; the sun will shine on us as on man, and will ripen our food. The picture I present to you is peaceful and human.”
The Creature’s diet is unmistakably vegetarian. Vegetarianism becomes a way for the creature to renounce his creator by demonstrating his more inclusive ethics. Indeed, he includes within his moral code animals as well as man, but learns through his experience with the world that both he and animals are excluded from the moral compass of humanity: they are not on the same level.
I find this entire representation fascinating, that much so I wanted to add to my review here. I spent a very long time last year researching Percy Shelley’s poetry and how his politics are ultimately shaped by his diet choice. Some of that content is latent in Mary’s work; it does not take the forefront of the narrative, but it is certainly there for a reader who is willing to look for it. There’s much here to use for a proper developed argument, arguments I am eventually going to explore fully in my eventual PhD project. One of my chapters will be a critical address of Frankenstein and The Last Man in conjunction with politics and diet.
Indeed, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein mirrors her husband’s discourse in A Vindication of a Natural Diet. In the essay Percy Shelley directly references the promethean myth; he states that it is a prime allegory for man’s lost nature (his fall from the golden age), as when Prometheus applied fire (for culinary purposes- Percy Shelley states) he created a disgusting horror. His liver was wrecked by the “vulture of disease” and all tyrannical vice, this unnaturalness, was born from the despoiling of innocence as it “consumed his being in every shape of its loathsome and infinite variety.” The Creature, after trying cooked offal left by a campfire in Frankenstein, decides to adhere to his own diet; he rejects the promethean fire that humanity has taken, and instead develops a mode of morality separate to the norms of humanity; he wishes for the opportunity to live this peaceful picture away from the corruptions of human company: he wishes to be better.
Orginal Review from 2015
Let’s have a party Victor. Let’s get together and celebrate all things Gothic, and dark, and wonderful. Let’s have it in an attic in an old house in the middle of a thunderstorm, and then afterwards let’s go to the graveyard with our shovels and our body bags. Sounds good doesn’t it Victor? We could then create our own doppelgängers from the corpses of criminals and geniuses. Then we can abandon our marvellous creation to fend for itself with his childlike innocence, and then wonder why it goes so horribly wrong and blows up in our faces.
Ahh..Victor you silly, brilliant, man. On second thought we probably shouldn’t have that party.
Because if we did it would end in blood
Yes, lots of blood: the blood of everyone you love, the blood of all your family Victor. You blame the monster, but you are his creator. You should have taught him the ways of the world and guided his first steps. The things you two could have accomplished together. So I ask you this Victor, who is the real monster? Is it the creature that has gone on a murderous rampage or it you? You are the man who played at god and was horrified at the consequence. You judged your creation by his physical appearance, which was more a reflection of your vain soul. Ahh..Victor you silly, brilliant, man. Surely you don’t wonder why the monster revenged himself upon you?
“I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel...”
Indeed, the real monster of this novel is Victor Frankenstein, and not his monstrous creation. The creature is a monster on the outside but Victor is on the inside, which is a form much worse. By abandoning the creature he has taught him to become what his appearance is. The first human experience he receives is rejection based upon his physicality. His own creator recoils in disgust from him. He cannot be blamed for his actions if all he has been taught is negative emotion, he will only respond in one way. He is innocent and childlike but also a savage brute. These are two things that should never be put together. Woe to Victor Frankenstein’s family.
“There is love in me the likes of which you've never seen. There is rage in me the likes of which should never escape. If I am not satisfied in the one, I will indulge the other.”
Mary Shelley raises questions of the danger of knowledge, and shows a probable consequence of trying to play god; the novel portrays nineteen century fears for the rising field of science and knowledge and questions how far it could go. Indeed, in this case Victor takes on the role of a God by creating new life. She also shows us what can happen to a man if he so driven by this thirst for knowledge and how it will ultimately lead to a fall. Victor reminds me somewhat of Doctor Faustus (The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus) in this regard. Faustus is a man who sold his soul to Lucifer for unlimited knowledge in the form of arcane magic. Victor, like Faustus, has stopped at nothing to gain his goal, but in the end is ultimately dissatisfied with the result.
Suffice to say, I simply adore this book as you may have gathered from my ramblings. I think this, alongside Dracula, are amongst the strongest representations of Gothic literature. Furthermore, I have a real soft spot for epistolary means of storytelling. I’m not sure why, perhaps it’s the stronger sense of intimacy you fell with the characters as you see their words on the page rather than an impartial narrators. You see inside their heads more and understand their motifs and feelings.
My favourite quote:
"This was then the reward of my benevolence! I had saved a human being from destruction, and as a recompense I now writhed under the miserable pain of a wound which shattered the flesh and bone. The feelings of kindness and gentleness which I had entertained but a few moments before gave place to hellish rage and gnashing of teeth. Inflamed by pain, I vowed eternal hatred and vengeance to all mankind.
Listen to the passion, to the intellect and witness such a wasted opportunity. Victor, you’re a silly, silly, man.
“I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.”
I was walking along earlier today with Jacquie and discussing the important things like, you know... books. And the subject of our top favourite books of all time came up. Oddly enough, two of our top three were the same - Wuthering Heights and Crime and Punishment. Then Jacquie said her third was a book that I hadn't thought about in a very long time. That book was Frankenstein. It hit me like a shot of good literature: I had forgotten all about this classic that had so affected me, made me think and completely torn my heart out multiple times.
Frankenstein? I said. I must go review that right now.
You see, though, the best and worst thing about this novel is how distorted it has become by constant movie adaptations and misinformed ideas about the nature of Frankenstein and his "monster". For years I thought Frankenstein was the name of that slightly green dude with the bolts in his neck. Nuh-uh.
Did Frankenstein scare me? Did it have me staying awake and sleeping with the light on, jumping at every slight creak in the house? Was I terrified of the monster and technology and the dangers of playing God? No. Because the beauty of this story is that it isn't the one so many people think it is. Which is almost my favourite thing about it. This book is not a Halloween kind of story with Halloween kind of monsters. This story is nothing short of heartbreakingly sad.
“...once I falsely hoped to meet the beings who, pardoning my outward form, would love me for the excellent qualities which I was capable of unfolding.”
The book offers many interesting avenues of philosophical exploration if one is so inclined to ponder such things; for example, allusions to religion and Genesis, possible criticisms of using science to "play God", the relationship between creator and creation. All of these things interest me, yes, but it is the painfully human part of this book that has always so deeply affected me.
Because the sad thing, the really sad thing, is that pretty much everyone has heard of Frankenstein's monster... but so many don't know how human the character is. Created as a scientific experiment by an overly ambitious man, he comes into a frightening and hostile world that immediately rejects him on sight. Even the man who made him cannot look upon his creation without feeling horror. It's that same thing that gets me in books every time: things could have been so different. If people had just been a little less judgmental, a little less scared, and a little more understanding.
This being, created from different parts of corpses, seeks love and finds hatred, so he instead decides to embrace it. Fuelled by his own rage at the unfairness of the world, he gradually turns towards evil. Everyone knows him as "the monster" so it's hard for me to call him anything else, but I basically always saw him like this:
He belongs in my own little mind category with the likes of Heathcliff and Erik (aka The Phantom of the Opera). Scared, angry villains who were made so by their own unfortunate circumstances that plunged them into worlds where they couldn't find a place. The kind of characters you simultaneously hate and love, but most of all hope they find some kind of peace.
So call it science-fiction, if you will. Call it horror, if you must. But this story is brimming with some of the most realistic and almost unbearably moving human emotion that I have ever read.
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It's been fifty years since I had read Frankenstein, and, now—after a recent second reading—I am pleased to know that the pleasures of that first reading have been revived. Once again--just as it was in my teens--I was thrilled by the first glimpse of the immense figure of the monster, driving his sled across the arctic ice, and marveled at the artful use of narrative frames within frame, each subsequent frame leading us closer to the heart of the novel, until we hear the alienated yet articulate voice of the creature himself. In addition, I admired the equally artful way the novel moves backward through the same frames until we again reach the arctic landscape which is the scene of the novel's beginning...and its end.
This time through, I was particularly struck with how Mary must have been influenced by the novels of her father. The relentless hounding of one man by another who feels his life has been poisoned by that man's irresponsible curiosity is a theme taken straight out of Godwin's Caleb Williams, and the cautionary account of a monomaniac who gradually deprives himself of the satisfactions of family, friends and love in pursuit of an intellectual ideal is reminiscent of the alchemist of St. Leon. Her prose also is like her father's in her ability to make delicate philosophical distinctions and express abstract ideas, but she is a much better writer than he: her sentences are more elegant and disciplined, and her descriptive details more aptly chosen and her scenes more effectively realized.
The conclusion of the novel seems hasty and incomplete, but perhaps that is because the concept of Frankenstein is so revolutionary that no conclusion could have seemed satisfactory. At any rate, this fine novel has given birth to a host of descendants, and—unlike Victor Frankenstein—is a worthy parent of its many diverse creations.
I finished it.
If you are a fan of classic literature and/or are utterly devoid of a sense of humor, stop reading this review right now.
I've always wondered what the real Frankenstein story was like...and now I know.
Sadly, sometimes the fantasy is better than the reality.
And the reality is, this book is a big steaming pile of poo.
It's an old-timey horror story, right?
Not so much.
I mean, I wasn't expecting it to actually be scary, but I thought it might be slightly creepy. Unfortunately, the only horror in the story centered around me having to keep turning the pages.
Beware mortal! You will DIE of boredom! Oooga-Booga-Booga!
Yep. Truly frightening.
It starts like this:
An upper-crust guy sails off to the Arctic to make discoveries, and to pass the time he writes to his sister. Supposedly, he's been sailing around on whaling ships for several years. And he's been proven an invaluable resource by other captains.
So I'm assuming he's a pretty crusty ol' sailor at this point.
Pay attention, because this is where Shelly proves that she knows nothing about men...
So this guy goes on and on in these letters to his sister about how he wishes on every star that he could find a BFF at sea. After a few (too many) letters, they pull a half-frozen Frankensicle out of the water.
Aaaaand here's what our salty sea dog has to say about the waterlogged mad scientist...
"Blah,blah, blah...his full-toned voice swells in my ears; his lustrous eyes dwell on me with all their melancholy sweetness...blah, blah, blah..."
Lustrous eyes?! No (straight) sailor ever, in the history of the world, EVER referred to another dude's eyes as lustrous.
And I know what you're thinking.
Well, Anne, maybe this character was gay. Didn't think about that, didja?!
Actually, yes. Yes, I did.
The only problem with that theory is that NONE of the male characters in this book sounded remotely male.
Ladies, do you remember that time in your life (probably around middle or high school), when you thought that guys actually had the same sort of thought waves running through their heads that we do? You know, before you realized that the really don't care about...well, all of the things that we do? You thought that while they were laughing at the booger their idiot friend just flicked across the room, something deeper was stirring in their mind. It just had to be!
I'm not sure when it happens, but at some point, every woman finally realizes the (fairly obvious) truth.
Men aren't women.
That booger was the funniest thing ever, and nothing was stirring around in them other than maybe some gas.
And that's ok.
Fart-lighting and long distance loogie hawking contests aside, they can pretty darn cool.
But this author was too young to realize that.
My personal opinion is that Mary was probably fairly sheltered when it came to real men. She was a teenage girl apparently running around with a bunch of artsy-fartsy dudes. Much like today, I would imagine these junior emos were probably blowing poetic smoke up her young ass in the high hopes of getting into her pants.
Although it's possible I'm totally misreading the situation.
Anyway, Frank tells his story, and Sea Dog writes it all down for his sister.
In excruciating detail.
Rivers, flowers, rocks, mountain tops...agonizingly cataloged. And the weather? God forbid a breeze blows through the story without at least a paragraph devoted to the way it felt on his skin or affected his mood!
And speaking of Frankenstein's mood.
I don't think I've ever had the pleasure of reading about a character this spineless before. What a pussy! He didn't talk so much as he whined.
And the swooning!
He was like one of those freaking Fainting Goats!
I can't even count how many times he blacked out and fell over. Of course, then he would get feverish and need "a period of convalescence" to recover.
Again, every episode was recounted with incredible attention to detail.
I'm thrilled that I never had to miss a moment of his sweaty brow getting daubed with water!
Randomly Inserted Fun Fact:
The monster quoted Milton in Paradise Lost.
Shockingly, I only know this because it was in the appendix, and not because I have any real-life experience with reading that one.
Was this the most painfully unnecessary book I've read this year?
Is there a deeper moral to this story?
Some would say, that the monster is a product of a society that refuses to accept someone who is different. Or maybe that Victor Frankenstein was the real monster for not realizing that he had a duty to parent and care for his creation? Perhaps it is meant to point out our obsession with perfection, and our willingness to disregard people who don't meet the standards of beauty as non-human?
Some might say any of those things.
I , however, learned a far different lesson from Frankenstein.
And it's this...
Trust no one.
Not even someone who (just an example) has been your Best Friend for decades!
Let's read a classic, Anne. It'll be fun, Anne. We can call each other with updates, Anne. It'll be just like a book club, Anne. Tee-hee!
Liar, liar! Pants on fire!
I read this whole God-awful book, and you quit after 10 pages!
I'm telling your mom!
Here's the quote that sums up my experience with Frankenstein:
"Blah, blah, blah...in all the misery I imagined and dreaded, I did not conceive the hundredth part of the anguish I was destined to endure."
Mucho se ha hablado de Frankenstein. Se interpreta como una crítica al desarrollo científico, cuando este sobrepasa el curso natural de las cosas; se interpreta como una crítica a la religión y nuestra relación con Dios; hasta se ha dicho que es una alegoría a los miedos que surgen durante un embarazo. Todas estas lecturas probablemente sean correctas, pero omiten lo más básico. Lo que hace a Frankenstein una obra atiborrada de humanidad, con interpolaciones que abordan la desventura a través de la complejidad de tres voces que derraman soledad y melancolía.
Si intentara tratar a Frankenstein desde lo más superficial, acabaría hablando sobre la profundidad del espíritu humano y los peligros que conlleva un uso desmedido de sus facultades cognitivas o la influencia del sentimiento en sus actos. No se puede discutir este título sin penetrar en lo más reflexivo de nuestra naturaleza. Frankenstein, en su perfil más somero, abarca temas que atraviesan la columna vertebral de lo que nos hace seres en constante conflicto de moralidades y en una interminable búsqueda por pertenecer y ser reconocidos, como asimismo incluye el derecho a ser amados por al menos alguien en la vida.
A partir de un análisis ligero, Frankenstein trata la venganza y el abandono. Son las dos cuestiones principales que hacen esta historia una historia con movimiento. La venganza desde el arrebato y la venganza desde el rechazo. También cabe destacar que es admirable la caracterización del Creador y su Criatura, y sus interminables pugnas por quién posee la más dañina amenaza; ya que, si lo vemos de esa forma, y teniendo en cuenta la completa implicación de las circunstancias en la novela, ¿qué es más nocivo, el rechazo injustificado o el asesinato como consecuencia de una iniquidad anterior?
La denominada Criatura, Demonio, Engendro o Monstruo es de los personajes más humanos con los que me he topado. Es suntuosa la carga emotiva, el abigarramiento en el interior de un ser que fue engendrado por ciencia mal utilizada. Un vínculo irónico entre un hombre que quería ser dios y un ser que siempre quiso ser hombre. Para mí esta es la crítica más punzante de Mary Shelley. Repudia que nos dejemos llevar por las apariencias en vez de detenernos a pensar en lo que estamos haciendo. La egolatría, la soberbia y el prejuicio son lo más lamentable de nuestra conducta como humanidad, y esas condiciones danzaron alrededor del llamado Monstruo y acabaron destruyendo la bondad más pura, que, prácticamente, ni había llegado a florecer.
No voy a omitir la prosa, que acompaña a la perfección la calidad de este libro. No hay mejor pluma que la que te abraza y te lleva consigo en un viaje por el tiempo y el espacio hacia su historia. Mientras leía Frankenstein, me sentía allí, junto a Víctor y a su Criatura, percibía la realidad que me rodeaba como falsa, como un pobre bosquejo de lo que estaba leyendo, y creía que mi pertenencia radicaba en el siglo XVII. La ambientación de Shelley es tan estupenda que fue capaz de sobrepasar los límites de la narrativa e invadir el mundo real. Excelente trabajo de la autora. Su estilo de escritura es de los puntos más fuertes del texto.
Frankenstein se ha transformado en una de mis obras favoritas. Su retrato de la soledad, el aislamiento forzado, la pérdida y la derrota es sublime. Un relato que se construye sobre lo emocional y que tiene sus raíces en lo más hondo del alma humana.
This is definitely one of my favorite books I was required to read in High School. Also, it is my favorite of the classic horror novels. It is perfectly written, suspenseful, and is a bit more thought provoking than scary. One of the best ways I can compare it to other classic horror novels is to Dracula - which I read recently. Dracula has so much repetitive filler that you do not find in Frankenstein, which is the main reason I find Frankenstein to be a more enjoyable book.
Also, I would say that this is more a novel of the human condition than an actual horror novel. Some terrifying things happen, but it is the monster within all of us that may end up being more terrifying!
Funny side story: when I read this in High School, it was around the same time that the Kenneth Branaugh adaptation came out at the theaters. We were all encouraged to go see it and found it pretty close to the source material. What was amusing was that Time Magazine had a review of the movie bashing it as untrue to the source material and how disappointed Shelley would be that the Boris Karlovian depiction of a lurching, flattop monster with bolts in its neck was ignored for a more serious drama movie. WHAT!? Time Magazine, for goodness sakes, published an article that claims to know the content of the book but is completely wrong and does it while bashing a movie that did a pretty good job with it!? I mean, it it is okay if you prefer the old time movie version of Frankenstein - and it is a classic - but to make definitive statements that are completely wrong in what is supposed to be a well thought of publication (not your typical tabloid supermarket checkout fodder), that is just too much!
We need a copy editor over here!