March 29th, 2012


Books and Movies: Frankenstein, by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, is a classic that is more compelling historically than it is for its literary value.


Originally published in 1818, approximately 75,000 words. Available free at Project Gutenberg.

Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only 18. 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. However, 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 best seller 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? And how far can we go in tampering with Nature?

Collapse )

Verdict: A great if improbable story with hamhanded morality, told by an immature writer, Frankenstein is dramatic and as timeless as the archetypes Mary Shelley borrowed. It deserves to be read, though Shelley's prose and storytelling can best be described as "florid." Do read the original, as like most classics, there are interesting details and plot twists that the many, many adaptations have left out. It's far from the best Victorian (okay, technically, Regency) novel I've ever read, but it's kind of fun if a little head-banging at time.

Also, see the movies. But not Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl.

Frankenstein is on the list of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, though I did not read it for the books1001 challenge.

My complete list of book reviews.