Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus
Dent, 1869 - 242 pages
Frankenstein was published in 1818, the work of a 21-year-old genius named Mary Shelley. Hundreds of movies, adaptations, and monster masks later, its reputation remains so lively that the title has become its own word in the English language. Victor Frankenstein, a scientist, discovers the secret of reanimating the dead. After he rejects his hideous creation, not even the farthest poles of the earth will keep his bitter monster from seeking an inhuman revenge. Inspired by a uniquely Romantic view of science’s possibilities, Shelley’s masterpiece ultimately wrestles with the hidden shadows of the human mind.
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It is a subject also of additional interest to the author, that this story was begun in
the majestic region where the scene is principally laid, and in society which
cannot cease to be regretted. I passed the summer of 1816 in the environs of
Elizabeth was not incited to apply herself to drawing, that her companions might
not outstrip her; but through the desire of pleasing her aunt by the representation
of some favorite scene done by her own hand. We learned Latin and English, ...
It was very different, when the masters of the science sought immortality and
power; such views, although futile, were grand; but now the scene was changed.
The ambition of the inquirer seemed to limit itself to the annihilation of those
Not that, like a magic scene, it all opened upon me at once: the information I had
obtained was of a nature rather to direct my endeavors so soon as I should point
them towards the object of my search, than to exhibit that object already ...
... but my eyes were insensible to the charms of nature. And the same feelings
which made me neglect the scenes around me caused me also to forget those
friends who were so many miles absent, and whom I had not seen for so long a
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“Frankenstein”: Mary Shelley
Fundamentally, the problem with this book is the narrator, Victor. He is thoroughly detestable. A selfish, cowardly, irresponsible, excuse ridden, narcissistic d****e-bag of the highest order. And unfortunately, it is Victor Frankenstein’s POV that we are forced into for the majority of the novel. My hatred for and frustration with the self-pitying, feckless behaviour of the (pseudo) protagonist made this an irritating read for me- and to an extent I think this was Shelley’s intention. Victor isn’t designed to be the likable, affable, morally “good” man fallen from grace he believes himself to be, and the horrific events that befall those around him are of his making. However, this doesn’t make him any less grating!
The "monster" (to me reminiscent of Caliban with his lyrical speech and enforced isolation, being neither man nor not man) is eloquent and persuasive when he asks his creator to account for his misdoings. So, you’ve got to ask yourself, if an infanticidal, demonic, bag of sewn together corpses is actually more engaging than the main storyteller, is that storyteller really the right character to be telling the story?
Now, with all that said, it is an important book. A work by a female author with strong female characters (albeit background characters) who was only nineteen when she wrote the initial draft. Very impressive. But, for me her youth is evident. When we teach secondary school pupils to write creatively, we often give them the ambiguous instruction “show don’t tell”, and for me the book is more of a list of horrible and horrific events told in a Chinese puzzle box style story within a story, rather than an engaging and “complete” narrative. It feels like she chooses to place focus on the wrong “bits”- for example the whole of chapter nineteen where Victor travels the British Isles, comments briefly on the local architecture of each town and city and then repetitively reminds us that he couldn’t enjoy the surroundings because of his angst. And I would have at least like to have seen some of the courtroom drama when Victor is tried for the death of Clerval...
So, I hate to be “that” gal, who poo-poos these fantastic works of fiction (we know they’re great because some clever-britches told us they were) but in all honesty, the novel ain’t that good, and I’ll maintain that stance no matter how clever the britches of the opposing schools of thought. I think the continuing appeal is in it’s universal themes: parenting, nature versus nurture; morality and scientific advancement- and the whole idea of stitching a creature out of corpse-parts and electrocuting it to life is pretty darn cool. And there are some really effective horror scenes, such as the vignette of Victor ripping apart project lady-monster (I kind wish she had a name- a working title- but given he can’t even be bothered to name monster number one I guess this was all too much to hope for).
It’s readable, but it’s value, for me at any rate, lies in the offshoots and creativity it has spawned, rather than the work itself.
This is probably a great book, but the audio player skips section 5 and 6. And the people who monitor feedback don't respond. If I don't get the whole book, I believe I am entitled to a refund.