Frankenstein: Or the Modern Prometheus

by Lynd Ward Mary Shelley

Hardcover, 2010

Status

Available

Publication

LIMITED EDITIONS CLUB (2010)

Description

A monster assembled by a scientist from parts of dead bodies develops a mind of his own as he learns to loathe himself and hate his creator.

User reviews

LibraryThing member elliepotten
I've had this book sitting on my shelf for years, meaning to start it every October as a Halloween read and somehow never quite getting round to it. As it happens, I'm glad I didn't, because I don't think I'd have appreciated it nearly as much a few years back.

Let me start by saying that it was nothing like I expected. Having never seen a movie version of Frankenstein, my only exposure to the story has been through the general references that have been adopted into our culture. The crazed scientist, the twisted assistant, the sweet little girl, the lightning bolts and electricity. None of which actually appear in the book! Not that it really matters, because this is a beautiful story.

Victor Frankenstein is an ambitious young man obsessed with 'natural philosophy' - the natural sciences. When his interest turns to theories on reanimation and 'the spark of life', his devotion pays off and he builds a being, a giant of sorts, and succeeds in giving him life. But as this huge creature stirs for the first time, Victor awakens from his single-minded working frenzy, and flees in horror from this primitive monster he's created. What follows is a battle for freedom, happiness - and vengeance. The Creature, left to develop alone, outcast despite his capacity for love, becomes bitter in the face of his loneliness and the hostility of society. He blames Victor for his woes, for deserting him so cruelly - but Victor, in turn, is terrified of the 'demon' he fears he has unleashed. It becomes an all-out war which can only lead to tragedy...

For the reader, there can be no winner in this battle for dominance. Frankenstein, chasing his monster through the bleak landscape of the North, tells his story to the captain of a ship that has rescued him from the ice. The Creature, in turn, tells his own sorry tale to Victor within this narrative. Frankenstein is self-obsessed and blind to his responsibilities, yet perhaps he is right to condemn a being who has caused so much destruction. At the same time, the 'monster' has acted in vengeance against what he perceives to be great injustice, but underneath he is just a man, albeit an outwardly frightening one, looking for companionship and happiness.

The themes are deeply complex and very much of their time. There is the question of scientific ethics, of balancing progress against negative consequences, of setting morality against ambition. This is, of course, still relevant today in the ongoing debates on topics like cloning, GM foods and artificial intelligence. The book also explores the futility of revenge, as each man's growing obsession with destroying the other ultimately becomes their undoing. It discusses what it means to be human, and the effects of rejection on a fragile mind. It combines ideas on the responsibility of parenting and the development and wellbeing of an infant - essentially, Victor is the Creature's father - bringing together the theories of popular thinkers such as Locke (a personality is born of experience, not innate qualities) and Rousseau (a child is innocent until corrupted by society).

The Romantic origin of Shelley's novel is apparent in the beautifully descriptive prose, particularly regarding the natural world. The mountains of Geneva come alive under Shelley's pen, the glaciers and pools and rock faces taking on a life of their own. There are numerous references to the work of other Romantic poets - the reader can almost feel the influence of Mary's husband and friends shining through - and the whole novel is filled with life-threatening fevers, dramatic encounters and passionate madness. Sometimes there was a little too much melodrama for my taste - hence the dropping of one star - but all in all I found this to be a moving and thoughtful story that will definitely be a keeper for me. Highly recommended!
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LibraryThing member theokester
I think I bought my copy of Frankenstein when I was a Sophomore in High School. Pretty sad that it took me until now to finally get around to reading it (I won't tell you how many years it's been *grin*).

Based on my experiences with the multiple Frankenstein movies as well as appearances in cartoons like Scooby Doo and parody's like Young Frankenstein, I thought I had a pretty good feel for exactly what I could expect from the novel. I was rather surprised with the widespread differences I encountered. Looking back on my experience with Victorian literature in general and the Gothic literature of the era in particular, I should have expected what I found, but I had let myself be tainted by the mass media translation of Frankenstein.

Now that I've sufficiently digressed, let me just say that even though the novel was different than I expected, I was far from disappointed by it. I expected a terrifying horror novel filled with invigorating suspense, perilous adventure and chaotic frenzy filled action. What I got was a slower paced exploration of the soul of man, the virtues and vices of science, passion, compassion and revenge.

Initially I was very confused as the first many letters (the book had a LOT of 'correspondence' sections) had nothing to do with Frankenstein, his family or his creation. Instead, I found myself growing attached to a lonely adventure seeker sailing to the far ends of the world in search of something to ignite and maintain his passion. When our good Dr. Frankenstein does enter the story, we then get his very detailed narration of his life from childhood to present.

The novel is laid out with a narrative structure intended to be highly conversational either through letters or through the orally delivered story of the narrator to the listener (who then transcribes it for us, the reader). However, the language used seemed overly detailed and pretentious for a simple conversation, even from a speaker as highly educated as Victor Frankenstein. It had all the flowery and ornate elements of Victorian prose, which feels natural as far as writing goes, but whenever I was reminded that nearly the entire narrative was to have been spoken, I was taken somewhat aback.

The book portrayed very well the details of the exultation and triumph felt by Victor throughout his studies and his discovery of a method to create life. His educational cycle was interesting in terms of his relation with his father and his professors. When the realization of his action finally came about, Victor's agony, fear and despair were equally well realized.

I kept waiting for the mob with torches and pitchforks to appear, led by Victor once he recovered from his initial shock. Instead, the arc of the story presented itself to me and I felt compassion for the poor hated creature even before the novel presented him again for our sympathies. I was certain that Frankenstein had falsely judged the fiend and that we would surely get a type of morality text casting a spotlight on society and our lack of compassion for those less fortunate for whatever reason.

My next surprise came when Frankenstein came face-to-face with his creation and had a lengthy conversation. I never expected an articulate monster, but what I had was a self-educated creature who had a huge wealth of knowledge at his disposal. At that point, it was very clear that his only disadvantage was his ghastly appearance and we were obviously supposed to feel sympathy towards him. Even when his crimes were laid bare, it was a struggle to completely condemn him.

In addition to the commentary on human compassion, I enjoyed the dynamic between creator and creation. Looking at Victor as a god-like person provided an intriguing perspective. As the creator, what should his responsibilities be to his creation? What should his involvement be? I didn't necessarily go down a religious path with my thoughts, but I was curious about the concept of the creator as a provider of compassion, mercy and forgiveness.

Instead, Victor looks "to the good of humanity" and rejects his own creation. The result of which spirals into disaster and makes for a fun-filled ride filled with some degree of the action and suspense that I was expecting from the book (still no villagers with pitchforks, sorry). When the novel finally drew near to its conclusion, I was a little confused as to how it was going to wrap itself up.

The ending was actually strangely satisfying. As it unfolded, we once again gain some compassion for the creature and in a sense look upon Victor as a type of monster. As with anything dealing with humanity, it's not that simple. For Victor was acting in the best interests of the greater good as he perceived them and his logic was sound. Thus, as the novel ends, we can't fully condemn either creator or creation. At the same time, we can't wholly condone the actions of either.

Which is why I was surprised that the ending satisfied me…because it left things unsettled and confused. But after all, that's the way humanity is…a teetering house of cards, balanced precariously on a precipice, just waiting for something to turn emotions and values to chaos.

Overall, I really enjoyed Frankenstein and my only regret is that it took me so long to finally get around to it.

4 out of 5 stars
****
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LibraryThing member ctpress
“I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel…”

The most tragic thing in this gothic horror-story is the monsters vain longing for love, for a friendly soul. He doesn’t find it - not even in his creator, the young science student, Victor Frankenstein. And in stead the monster turns to a destructive path of vengeance.

19 year old Mary Shelley takes us on an emotional charged roller coater ride. I like this theatrical, supercharged atmosphere Shelley creates - also the philosophical questions it raises - the conflicts between creator and creature, the danger of scientific experimentation with the building blocks of life. It is indeed a tragedy.

Frankenstein has a loving family and the love of his life waiting for him, but he runs away from it. The monster longs for love and belonging - bus has no way of getting it.
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LibraryThing member frazier193
Mary Shelly's Frankenstein can be read as a critique of child rearing. Victor's monster longs for companionship after being abandoned by his creator. His attempts of human interaction are unsuccessful, and the reader discovers that this causes the monster to commit horrible sins. While the monster was born grotesque, he was not necessarily innately evil. It was society that caused this change. Shelley also makes a comment on the parent's feelings of having children. Victor tears up the female monster half way through creation because of his fear that she might also be evil. It is also possible Shelley is commenting on the rapid increase of technology and the potential negative consequences that may arise.

The book is driven successfully which makes for a wonderful read. The employment of a frame story is also effective.
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LibraryThing member justabookreader
There are books that make me feel very sad; Frankenstein is one of those books. It was a strangely profound sadness that for whatever reason, made me wish the book wouldn’t end because I wanted to find a morsel of light in this dark, lonely tale. It was not to happen.

Having been encouraged early on by loving, generous parents, Victor Frankenstein grows up in a happy household in Geneva surrounded by the comforts of home and family. While as a child he was mildly obsessed with old scientific theories, his father encourages him to broaden his thoughts. Right before he is to leave for school in Germany, the first of his life’s tragedies happen --- his mother, a beloved figure to him, passes away after nursing his much loved adopted sister, Elizabeth, back to health. He leaves for Germany with a heavy heart. While there, he throws himself into the sciences, exceeds all his expectation with his interest in chemistry and like sciences. It’s this interest though that causes his second tragedy --- the creation of a monster with parts culled from places unmentioned. When the monster escapes, his fears all become real and death follows wherever he goes. He falls into a deep depression knowing that whatever he has to do to stop the monster of his creation, he will never be happy and there will never be any solace.

This is not my first time reading this book but parts felt completely new to me. I love when this happens to me while re-reading. It’s like discovering something that you want to share with everyone. That said, Frankenstein is not an easy read. The words flow easily enough but it’s the emotional toll that got me this time. I really, truly, felt so sad while reading that at one point I burst out crying for no reason. To be affected like this by a book I’ve experienced before surprised me.

There is so much to this book but for the sake of those that don’t like spoilers, I won’t mention all that happens. There are moments when reading though that you wonder how much one person can take and if it’s fair for Frankenstein to heap all the blame on himself. While, yes, he created a monster that has crossed the line and taken life, and has held over him another life if he didn’t comply with his wishes, sometimes things in life are not meant to be. The monster is a physical manifestation for everything that has gone wrong for him. The loneliness that comes with the realization for Frankenstein made me want to put the book down. I couldn’t though because I was waiting for some kind of resolution. When it happens, it’s not satisfying at all. There is remorse, for Frankenstein, and in some way for the monster as well, but it didn’t make me feel any better. It only brings on more grief.

Now that I’ve sufficiently depressed you, let’s talk about something else. The monster has no name; he is simply the monster. Frankenstein is the scientist. Why did I need a reminder of that? Huh, the things we forget. I didn’t remember much from the first reading of this (it may well have been shortly after high school) and my memory faded. I was happy to renew it though. Of course, now each time I see a movie based on the book I’m going to be looking for mistakes.

Glad I finally found an excuse to pick this one up again. If you like horror, fantasy, and science fiction, read this one. If you shy away from this one because you think I might be gruesome, it’s not. It’s worth a read.
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LibraryThing member SamuelW
The tale of Victor Frankenstein may be nearly two hundred years old, but as science continues to advance, its material only becomes more relevant. As a biblical and philosophical thought experiment, the essence of this novel makes for fascinating reading. What better way to experience it than to return to the original text? If only the writing lived up to the material . . .

Shelley opens in epistolary format; a sure-fire way to begin a plot-driven novel on the back foot. The letters from Walton to his sister require a not-inconsiderable measure of padding to maintain their authenticity, which nonetheless remains punctured by unrealistic exposition of obvious information. Readers should be able to plough through to the start of the real story without too much trouble, and will be relieved to find the plot moving along more quickly – until the idyllic perfection of Frankenstein’s childhood begins to wear irritatingly thin. The writing style, while always eloquent, is incredibly overblown, and careers without rest from nauseating utopia to risible melodrama.

It is in the dialogue of the creature itself that the novel reveals its strongest writing; not only thought provoking, but deliciously quotable as well. When the book switches to the creature’s point of view, we dare to hope that his more tempered narration may do his fascinating and emotive tale justice – and for a while, it does. Before long, however, Shelley’s melodramatic routine is re-established: one paragraph of substance is followed by three paragraphs of Victor’s feelings about it, and perhaps a description or two of the weather, which, infuriatingly, commands enough attention to be considered a minor character. Since there are only so many ways one can feel morose or woebegone or depressed, we find ourselves treading the same ground over and over, while the parts of the story that might make for the most interesting narrative meat – the creature’s construction, the saving of a drowning girl, Victor and Elizabeth’s wedding – are reduced to a few lines each. The realism, though thin in places, manages to stay intact, until Victor, out of the blue, decides to take a nap in his sailboat four miles off the Scottish coast at three in the morning when the breeze is rising, and winds up in Ireland.

Why has this story been adapted so endlessly? Because if you unwrap the essence of Frankenstein and throw away the prose, you are left with something truly special. In its original form, however, this story is bearable at best. Read at your own peril.
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LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
In the edition I read an Afterword by literary critic Harold Bloom states the book "affords a unique introduction to the archetypal world of the Romantics" and it's amazing how many of the movement's hallmarks I found. The book famously was the result of a rainy day challenge that included the poets Lord Byron and the author's husband, Shelly, it mentions Coleridge and quotes Wordsworth and includes encomiums to nature.

Framed as a letter by a ship's captain to his sister about his guest, this is mostly the first person narration of Victor Frankenstein about how his scientific ambitions led to the creation of his monster and his ruin. I find Victor Frankenstein a rather despicable character. He abandons his creation at it's "birth" simply because it's ugly. He keeps evading responsibility, even allowing an innocent women to be executed rather than try to own up to what he had done, and even at the end calls himself "guiltless" and not "blamable."

The surprise for someone whose impression of the story comes from popular culture is the monster himself. This isn't some shambling animal, but an articulate creature who formed his view of life from Werther, Plutarch's Lives and especially Paradise Lost. He's capable of kindness and craves love--despite his acts, I have much more sympathy for this unnamed, lonely creature than I have for Frankenstein. It seems the sin of the scientist in this tale, isn't creation, but abandoning it.

I don't feel Shelley achieved her purpose "to make the reader dread to look around, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart" and the flowery, melodramatic style sometimes made me roll my eyes, but this novel that can claim to be one of the first science fiction stories is a thought-provoking, disturbing tale worth a read.
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LibraryThing member Helenliz
This isn't what films and popular culture might have you expecting.
Frankenstein is the creator of the creature, he heads off to university to become a student of natural philosophy. Along the way he gets the idea of creating life into his head. He then spends (if I read this right) approaching 2 years putting together the creature is his attic. How is not made clear. The scale of the creature as well as the time to construct makes it unlikely that it was made up of dead body parts. The creature was also made larger than life size, in order to make construction easier. Then the manner in which life is introduced is not described either, at this point or anywhere in the text. The scientist in me wants to know HOW he did it, but that is never made clear.… (more)
LibraryThing member sturlington
Some might argue that Frankenstein, which depicts a scientist using technology to play god and reanimate a corpse, is the first science fiction novel. I have trouble coming up with an earlier example of science fiction than Frankenstein, published in 1818. So the first science fiction writer, Mary Shelley, is actually a woman, and her creation endures as a true classic of the genre.

Those who take the time to read the book may be surprised to find that Frankenstein’s monster is not a green bolt-head with a limited vocabulary. Although larger and stronger than most men, he is actually intelligent and an eloquent speaker. After trying to interact with people and being rejected because of his hideous appearance, the monster realizes that no human will accept him and he is doomed to isolation. He becomes obsessed with seeking vengeance from his creator by murdering members of his family. Frankenstein vows to destroy the monster, and the two engage in a chase that finishes in the Arctic.

Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was just 18, and it was published anonymously when she was 21. The story of the novel’s composition is almost as legendary as the novel itself. When Percy and Mary Shelley were visiting the poet Lord Byron one rainy summer, they amused themselves by each writing a ghost story. There, Mary Shelley had a dream that gave her the idea for the story:

"I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion. Frightful must it be; for SUPREMELY frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world."

(Another guest, Dr. Polidori, wrote a vampire story, so two classic horror figures were born from the same game.)

The classic theme, and warning, explored in Frankenstein is that man should not play god. The dawn of the Industrial Age brought with it fear of what man and machines could accomplish, and the unforeseen consequences they could have. There is also a theme of the monster as isolated, without an identity, adrift in a world where he can make no connections and life has no meaning for him. Again, this poses a warning of the dehumanization that technology can bring. These themes resonate throughout the science fiction genre even today.

Of course Shelley’s creation endures in films, plays and popular culture. Frankenstein also spawned several science fiction tropes, including the mad scientist and the monstrous reanimated corpse. Frankenstein represents our continuing fears of meddling with technologies we do not understand. Writer Isaac Asimov coined the term “Frankenstein complex” to describe the fear of robots. Even the term “frankenfood” has been used to refer to genetically manipulated food.

As familiar as Frankenstein is, it is worth it to return to the original novel, which remains an entertaining and relevant work.
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LibraryThing member melydia
Forget all the Frankenstein stereotypes you know. Forget Igor, grave robbing, neck bolts, electricity, and mobs of angry villagers carrying torches. Victor Frankenstein is a student of natural philosophy (what science was evidently called back then) who plays with chemicals in order to create life from dead tissue. The monster, which remains nameless throughout the story, so frightens Victor that he runs away and tries to forget about it. The monster, initially gentle but driven to cruelty by the repeated condemnation by mankind, vows to ruin Victor's life in return for creating his misery. It's an interesting story, one that touches less obviously on the ethics of scientific experimentation, but says quite a lot about the unfortunate importance of beauty in society. Victor is more naive and pitiful than evil or mad. Definitely one worth reading, but don't go in expecting anything like those famous old movies.… (more)
LibraryThing member benjamin.duffy
This was a tough one for me to get through. Not only was it completely lacking in horror, it was fairly dry of emotion in general. Oh, they were feeling emotion, all right - most of the book is breathlessly melodramatic correspondence and conversation between various characters - but very little of it made its way off the page to me. It didn't help that Victor Frankenstein was an emo-riddled, maudlin, whining, constantly fainting idiot. (Were men really like this in the late 18th century? The guy gets the vapors for months at a time.) Much of the plot of the book hinges on him doing foolish things, keeping impossible secrets, and continually failing to grasp the situation; I couldn't help but wonder how differently the book might have turned out if someone had grabbed Frankenstein by the collar halfway through Act II and said "He just told you, in so many words, that HE IS GOING TO KILL EVERYONE YOU LOVE, and he means it!" We might have been spared 150 pages of Victor's family and friends being picked off one by one like counselors at Camp Crystal Lake. Nothing kills my suspension of disbelief faster than a plot that only works if the characters keep doing stupid things.

I was also frustrated with Shelley's pre-Victorian squeamishness about action and violence. I'm not a bloodthirsty reader (I don't think!), but I got really tired of Frankenstein arriving on the scene to find yet another person dead "with the monster's hand print on [his/her] neck." Maybe it's my desensitized 20th/21st century sensibilities, but I come from the generation that grew up on Stephen King; I can handle someone dying onstage, and if you want me to feel terror, you'll probably need them to die onstage. In addition, Shelley glosses over the actual creation and animation of the monster so quickly that I had to flip back and make sure I hadn't accidentally skipped a page. Everything popular culture associates with Frankenstein's monster - stitching, bolt neck, Igor, even electricity - it's all been added after the fact. It's shocking how sparsely described he is, especially in light of how exhaustively described everything else is (but more on that later).

The one saving grace of the book was the monster himself - he was the only character with a believable motivation and conflict, and the story he tells of his short life is truly sad and moving. To me, the conversations between Frankenstein and his creation are the most readable parts of the book.

In spite of all these things, I would have given this book three stars for its significance and influence, except for one simple fact: it was a chore for me to read. I admit I haven't read very much pre-Victorian literature, but the language was like a wet blanket thrown over the story. Mary Shelley takes five sentences to convey what a modern writer would get across in two, and Mary's sentences too often look like this 48-word jawbreaker: My father observed with pain the alteration perceptible in my disposition and habits and endeavoured by arguments deduced from the feelings of his serene conscience and guiltless life to inspire me with fortitude and awaken in me the courage to dispel the dark cloud which brooded over me. Sure, I understood what she meant, but it's so needlessly wordy that any feeling is squeezed out. It made the book boring and annoying when it could have been pretty entertaining. Another jarring problem is that everyone in this story talks EXACTLY THE SAME: everyone from the supposedly spottily self-educated ship's captain, to the very well-educated Frankenstein and his family, to a house full of peasants, to the monster who only learned to talk a year ago, speaks and writes with the same eloquent vocabulary and deeply nested compound/complex sentences. It made for a suffocating, dreary read, and not in a good way.

I haven't read any of Mary Shelley's other work, but at this point in her career I simply don't think she was a very good writer. I know that much is made of the fact that she was 19 when she wrote this, but I think it shows: she has an outstanding vocabulary, but just doesn't know when to scale it back and let her story breathe.
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LibraryThing member DeltaQueen50
The story of Victor Frankenstein as told by Mary Shelley in Frankenstein was a very familiar one having seen so many different versions on film and television over the years, and although the film “Young Frankenstein” starring Gene Wilder will always be my favourite, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the original.

This classic story, originally published in 1818 about a young scientist who discovers a method to reanimate the dead and creates a grotesque creature who then inadvertently causes trouble isn’t the horror story that I was expecting. Instead this is a story that examines what it is to be human. Although Victor sees this creature as a brute it is in fact, his own arrogance and his treatment of this living being that makes him the monster rather than the creature he created.

Written in rather flowery and somewhat dated prose nevertheless this is a book to admire for many reasons. Written when she was only 18, this particular novel has inspired generations and Frankenstein has become a familiar legend to all. This book is also one of the first science fiction books ever written and it’s themes of a science project gone wrong and the ethical issues of advancing technology beyond known limits are still a mainstay of that genre. Frankenstein is a story that deserves to be read for it’s emotion and imagery and although classed as horror what I will take away from this book is the feeling of sadness and rejection that being “different” brings.
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LibraryThing member brokenangelkisses
Few who pick up this book will be unfamiliar with the back story: as a young girl, Mary Shelley created this gothic tale after experiencing a vivid dream and writing the opening as part of a ghost story competition between literary friends. We know this because the writer felt compelled to add a preface explaining how such a young girl was able to create such a horrible tale. So, when I finally settled down to read this famous story, I was expecting a fairly gruesome and horrific story – especially after glimpsing parts of various film adaptations. Could the ‘hideous monster’ still shock after nearly two hundred years?

Young Victor Frankenstein, a naturally talented scientist, plays God in spectacular fashion by creating a living creature. This is an act that he immediately regrets: he spends the remainder of his life trying to cope with his actions and their seemingly unstoppable consequences. As the story continues, the body count rises and Frankenstein becomes increasingly disturbed by what he has set in motion.

The story has three main sections: the framing device, Frankenstein’s story, and his creation’s story. I found the framing device exceedingly dull, partly because I wanted to get to the main story, but also because it is so uneventful. A captain sets out on a mission across the ocean towards the pole. He writes to his sister about how he has organised the voyage and eventually about a stranger he meets. It is a relief when the mysterious stranger, who is, of course, Frankenstein, takes over the narration – although there is still a lot of narrative exposition regarding his education before the creature is designed and animated. Personally, I also found this section very dull, but it is ultimately useful in establishing the importance of the limited close relationships that Frankenstein possesses.

I was anticipating the ‘making of the monster’ section so much that I almost couldn’t believe my eyes when I realised that it was encapsulated into a few bare lines. Watching extracts from the various films, and reading Philip Pullman’s excellent adaptation for children, had led me to expect a dramatic, atmospheric scene which would live in my memory for weeks. Instead, the whole focus is on Frankenstein’s horrified response to the monster and subsequent extended illness. I had to reread the relevant paragraph to ensure that I had not missed some lines of importance. Frankenstein’s explanation for this scarcity of detail is that he does not want anyone else to be able to duplicate his work. Shelley’s reason is harder to fathom, but presumably is connected to her desire to focus on the consequences rather than the act itself. I did find this section disappointing because it was so different to my expectations, but the logic is sound. For me, the story lacked any real interest until the third section, when the creature’s story is told.

I found Frankenstein to be a largely unsympathetic character, primarily because he appeared so incapable of recognising any genuine responsibility to his creation. He blames the creature entirely, which may seem acceptable until the middle third of the book where the creature tells his own story and humanity’s – and Frankenstein’s – shameful rejection of him becomes apparent. Indeed, the creature’s story is genuinely compelling: I wished that the young family he helped would be able to see past his deformity to the goodness nestling in his heart. This was the only part of the story that captivated me, as I learned how the creature had survived and struggled to find a way to live with humanity. The creature’s sophisticated grasp of language seems unrealistic when considering his history, but fits with his subtle understanding of culture and morality. Although his creator has rejected him as evil, Shelley makes clear to the reader that the creature’s motivations are not intrinsically awful, and this is what finally gives the story its complexity.

After this interruption, the account of Frankenstein’s final efforts to outwit his tormentor seemed quite dull to me, presumably because I am used to reading more active, less reflective writing styles. No matter how often the characters stated that they were horrified or terrified or felt similar emotions, the lack of description meant that I could never sense their terror, and so I was always listening to the story rather than imagining it. For me, this meant the story was a bit of a failure in terms of enjoyment. I had to really concentrate to keep reading and found the book easy to put down.

However, the ideas in it are still highly relevant today. The creature’s account of his failure to find empathy in mankind is a damning indictment of the kind of communities we tend to live in: insular, cold, making clear divisions between insiders and outsiders, the physically attractive and the less desirable. Frankenstein’s thoughtless creation and helpless repentance encourage us to consider carefully the choices we make too easily in today’s world, always favouring progress above caution. I did enjoy the way the storyline made me consider these issues and feel that this made it worth reading.

I would recommend this story to anyone with an interest in these issues, but would advise potential readers to be aware that such an incredibly dramatic premise is presented in almost stately prose, reducing horror to melodrama. Of course, this is one of the inaugural ‘gothic’ tales, which were originally conceived as melodramatic, Romantic tales, rather than the kind of horror stories we are more familiar with today. Perhaps more empathic readers will still feel a chill down their spine as they read about Frankenstein’s terror and remorse.
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LibraryThing member snat
While I did not enjoy this book, I am glad that I read it because it was interesting to see how different Frankenstein's monster has become after Hollywood and pop culture reinvented Shelley's creation. If you were to watch the film version of the movie and then read the book, you might be shocked to find that they're supposedly the same story. Despite this, I did not enjoy the book for the following reasons:

A) Ugh, Romanticism. Yes, yes. The trees, the mountains, the flowers are beautiful, but I don't need redundant reminders of the glory that is nature.

B) Not only did Frankenstein create a monster, but apparently an intellectual prodigy as well. Despite being dead gray matter, the monster's brain sure is remarkably intact and capable of learning at a rapid rate.

C) Didactic in the utmost. I could practically hear Shelley dragging out her soapbox everytime the monster appeared on the page to speak about the injustice done to him, man is the real monster, etc., etc., etc.
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LibraryThing member michaeldwebb
This was actually quite a surprise really, as all I knew about Frankenstein came from half-watched films in my childhood. This is beautifully written, with poetic prose and an elegant story with an a story (sometimes within a story) narrative.

Without wanting to spoil things, the original Frankenstein's monster turns out to be extremely eloquent and agile, not a lumbering, grunting Boris Karloff, and story still feels modern now.… (more)
LibraryThing member atimco
I'm glad I finally picked this up. For the uninitiated like myself, here's a tip: the monster's name isn't Frankenstein. Shocking, I know. Victor Frankenstein is the scientist; the monster is never given a proper name.

This is verrrrry nineteenth-century Romantic, dramatic and melancholy and doomed destiny, played out over beautiful scenery without and horrible scenery within. Murder is done; a small child is the first victim. The reader can sense from the first that there will be no happy ending here.

The main points of the plot are well known: Frankenstein creates a monster and then refuses to fulfill the monster's needs, and the monster takes a terrible revenge. It's fascinating how the monster is presented throughout as the more reasonable of the two. When he and Frankenstein finally meet, he keeps his temper and speaks calmly when Frankenstein is overcome with passion. The monster seems extremely literate, beyond what his his paltry education could have taught him.

If Frankenstein and his monster are a picture of God and His creatures, it's breathtakingly insolent. And this is precisely what Mary Shelley intended, as she apparently called her monster "Adam." But despite all the supposed culpability of Frankenstein for the monster's crimes, consider... when the monster succeeds in destroying his creator, he realizes he has destroyed all his own chances for happiness. Instead of freeing him, his evil deeds have sealed his separation from humanity, and he cannot live with the desolation he has made. He has killed his god, and disappears into the darkness to kill himself.

What really struck me as I read is how Shelley is able to create compassion in the reader for her monster. During the monster's narration, I kept thinking of people who are outcasts from society as a result of some mental (or criminal) "deformity." The monster's desire to be part of the human family is not so very different from theirs. And yet he commits horrible acts that irrevocably alienate him from human beings. He is his own destruction. But is it his fault? Or Frankenstein's?

I suppose a modern reader, in relentless pursuit of Relevance and Chilling Statements on the Dangers of Scientific Arrogance in the classics, could wrestle some warnings or licenses out of the text for whatever his particular stance happens to be on the ethical issues we face in the scientific world today. I was all ready to do this myself, but I didn't find anything particularly pointed in this direction. The scientific issues are nothing compared to the theological—because everything, even science, is theological in that it reflects a worldview in which God figures... or He doesn't. The author of Frankenstein is an atheist who, not content with denying God's existence, also wants to smear His (non-existent) character. How can you hate someone you don't believe exists? And yet it's not that simple either, because Frankenstein isn't wholly bad... just human.

I read this in one sitting. It's fairly short, but even so it could have been shorter. Mary Shelley should have kept it a short story instead of expanding it to a novel on her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley's advice. While I'm glad to have read this, there isn't really much that would ever make me return. It's supposed to be horror, but the descriptions of the horrific parts didn't haunt me. Stylistically, it's all right; there are a few memorable phrases here and there, but even at a mere two hundred pages it feels somewhat overdrawn, overdone. As a story, once you've read it, well, you've read it.
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LibraryThing member TooBusyReading
Like many people, despite frequently encountering references to, books and movies about Frankenstein, I had never until now read the original novel. Written by Mary Shelley at the urging (a contest of sorts) of Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, it was first published anonymously in 1818 when the author was only 20.

Oh my! How many exclamation points are needed to tell this story! To be fair, it is written in a style common for the period, and quite melodramatically. For me, the prose tends to be a little too purplish.
I had not known that the story starts not with Victor Frankenstein but with letters between Captain Walton, who is exploring the Arctic, and his sister. The captain saw a large figure racing across the ice with a sled team, and later, another man with the one remaining dog on his team. The man, Victor Frankenstein, is rescued although we never learn what happens to the remaining dog. Frankenstein tells his story to Walton.

Surprising to me, there is very little about the creation of the monster – poof – it's done. There was quite a bit about how Frankenstein felt about his horrible task, how it repulsed him yet he continued. I would have enjoyed the story more if I'd been able to like Frankenstein in any way. He created a monster only to abandon it when he saw what he created, he hid his complicity from everyone, even when an innocent girl was accused of one of the monster's crimes, and he whined...a lot. It seems that for a good part of the model, he was more concerned with his own sorrows, his own illnesses and state of mind, more than he cared about the monster's victims. Of course, this was also a cautionary tale about progress (as well as other moral issues), a weighty issue during the early industrial revolution.

This classic is a quick read, and I'm glad I read it, but it's not ever going to be one of my favorites.
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LibraryThing member reading_fox
Seminal fantasy work, one of the early defining books of fantasy genre. Shame it isn't more readable though I suspect that's just my more modern tastes.
LibraryThing member aschrader
I've been meaning to read this book for decades. I'm especially fascinated with the circumstances of when/why it was written: 1816, when "incessant rainfall" during that "wet, ungenial summer" forced Mary Shelley and her friends to stay indoors for much of their Swiss holiday. They decided to have a contest, seeing who could write the scariest story. And of course, many have already heard about the nightmare that gave Shelley the framework for the narrative.

This book blew me away. It's thought-provoking and heartbreaking. The landscape and events truly match the Romantic ideal of "sublime" (terror/awe). And I'll be mulling over the relationships and responsibilities of self/other and creator/creation for a long while. Plus, it was a true "page-turner". I stayed up way past my bedtime several nights in a row because I couldn't put it down.
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LibraryThing member eleanor_eader
What sad, splendid, emotionally fraught horror Mary Shelley wrote… from the plaintive cry for compassion to the instinctive cringe, as from an enemy, nothing that any character feels is less than real to the reader.

The beginning of the plot is well known: the brilliant and talented young Frankenstein, driven to the ultimate intellectual challenge of creating life, cobbles together a monster whose aspect and existence he cannot bear and which he immediately rejects. Consequences ensue.

The great thing about this classic – indeed, what I suspect makes it a classic - is that, while it is a well-paced, horribly eventful story, Shelley took the time to invoke and explore the different horrors of guilt, the pain of loneliness, to excite the reader’s pity and sympathy so that the emotional results, rather than any horrific acts depicted, are the substance of the story. It is a tour of the worst things a human can experience, and I was completely caught up in Frankenstein’s plight – and that of his monster. Shelley created quite the philosophical conundrum… was the monster inherently evil, or would it have understood and acted with compassion if it was taught such?

I’m staggered, in retrospect, that it’s taken me this long to pick up this book, given that I went through an almost obligatory horror-reading phase in my teens, but I’m thrilled to say that it is utterly thought-provoking, emotion-inciting, eminently readable fiction. One of my favourite classic catch-ups this year
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LibraryThing member cathymoore
Although the change in pace and language from my usual diet of modern fiction took a bit of getting used to, I really enjoyed this. Shelley's descriptions of Frankenstein's descent into miserable madness and also that of the wretched and lonely existence of his creation are incredibly emotive. From the beginning I was sucked into the tale of Frankenstein's journey from naive young student through to the raving and hysterical individual he is towards the end of the book. When the story-telling his handed over to the monster itself, is when it becomes truly heart-breaking. The idea of an indivdual rejected by society purely because of his appearance has, I think great relevance still today. This is a true cautionary tale - perhaps we should all be careful what we wish for, and mindful of our selfish desires.… (more)
LibraryThing member AlCracka
This and Anna Karenina are as close as I know to perfect. The only thing that holds Frankenstein back is the writing style; at times you're reminded that Shelley was only 18 when she wrote it. The plot and pacing are perfect, and the scenes are terrific - particularly the exquisite first bit of the monster's story - but there are sometimes some minor rough patches in the sentences.

It's a warning, of course, about creating things we don't understand. Everyone knows that. What I'm interested by, though, and where I think some people misinterpret Frankenstein, is that Frankenstein's monster isn't a flawed creation. Some people think the warning is that we overreach and create...well, monsters, right? But Frankenstein's creation is instinctively good. He's smart, rational and kind, until he's irrevocably alienated. It's not in the creation that Frankenstein fails; it's in the raising of it.

So if Shelley is warning us against playing God, it's not because she thinks we can't create something wonderful. It's that she doesn't trust us to know what to do with it.
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LibraryThing member sunnie_jean
I know I am supposed to think this was a wonderful novel - but I don't. I honestly had a difficult time making myself finish the story - it was like forcing myself to read Grapes of Wrath my junior year all over again.... I think the the monster is vile and there is no room for any critic to say "oh he's really good and it's Frankenstein that makes him bad." I think Frankenstein is too weak and I have no sympathy for him or the monster. Yeah, in this instance the original is not better than the re-interpretations...… (more)
LibraryThing member Motherofthree
This is a marvelous book for themed discussions of: pride, passion, self-centeredness, creator and created, and consequences.
LibraryThing member FergusS
I admit I have never read this book, despite it being a classic that I'm sure I should have. When my son studied it last year in school, I thought I'd better get a copy and read it.

It was quite different from what I expected. Here's how. (BTW: spoiler alert.)

It was quite slow (and so was I at finishing it - it took 2 tries).

The writing was dated, but competent - I wasn't knocked off my feet by it, but I did want to know how it ended, being drawn into the story.

It is a travel book, in a sense - fitting in with the Switzerland and England of the author's experience? - and has a number of pages devoted to descriptions of scenic beauty and power.

It has next to no interest in the "how" of the monster's creation (nor in that of his mate)- we learn Frankenstein develops the knowledge to create life, and that he needed chemistry equipment, but learn absolutely nothing about anything that could be called technique. (I kept wondering how he refrigerated the parts during the weeks it took him to create! But Shelley's not even really interested in the moment of enlivening - it passes in a paragraph at the beginning of chapter 5.

It is incredible - the daemon's advanced linguistic powers developed while lying in a lean-to peering through a small hole in a hovel, his chance discoveries of Frankenstein's papers, his stumbling across William are among the most extreme (and extremely convenient) coincidences.

It has some good literary techniques - it features story within story (and at one point, story within story within story) - one good way to write in first person yet give a little relief to the reader. And the whole thing is a set of flash-backs. And I liked the ending - not slick in one sense, but still neatly done. In Hollywood, of course, it would have left room open for a sequel.

But my most interesting discovery was that it wasn't frightening in any sense I expected, not like more recent writing/film which is interested in fearful, violent/supernatural horror (and of which I'm no fan) - the main horror is, in fact, moral. And the clever part of the storytelling is to see the moral ambiguity - Frankenstein has moral conviction and regards the creation of the creature as an error - yet he has no compassion for it although it is a sentient being of his own making. He is prepared to cover up his creation, even as his family and friends fall around him, yet also to break his word and purpose to destroy it. The creature, given to fits of (pre?)Freudian murderous rage, none the less demonstrates huge intellectual ability and quite some moral insight to go along with it. A number of times he seems to be much more ethical than Frankenstein, yet he is capable of more barbarity, and understands the use of psychological torture to prolong and deepen the exaction of revenge. And both man and daemon are lonely individuals, unable to be happy in the world because of their nature and actions, and unable to find solace in each other due to a mix of horror and hubris, amongst other things. I enjoyed the portrayal of the mixed genius and corruption of man/monster because it resonated with my own Christian understanding. And I felt the sense of isolation of creature from creator that lies at the heart of sin's sorrow.

If you've a thought to read it - do so. But don't expect the writing itself to match the exalted reputation of the book; it is competent but no more than that. However, for stimulation re moral insight/blindness, the nature of humanity good and bad, and perhaps even self-reflection, it's got potential even now. I was glad to read it, glad to dispel the false ideas I had about it. And I think it will keep me thinking about its ideas for some time to come.
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