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  • Description: xiv, 242 p. ; 19 cm.
  • Language: English
  • Format: Book

Reading Level

  • Lexile: 1170

ISBN/Standard Number

  • 9780199537167 (Oxford)
  • 1587263815 (AAMG)
  • 0192834878 (Oxford)
  • 0679600590 (Modern Library) :
  • 0486282112 (Dover) :
  • 0451183770 (pbk.) (New American Lib) :
  • 0590486179 (Scholastic) :

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by Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, 1797-1851.

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Call number: Fiction

Community Reviews

Dense, poetic, ahead of its time.

Mary Shelley's classic is quite different from the famous James Whale film retelling. Victor Frankenstein is a gifted young achiever with a love of learning, not a wild-eyed mad scientist. The monster is not a lumbering mute who kills unintentionally, there are no neck-bolts, there is no lightning. It is not given a 'criminal brain'; the monster's mind could be any of ours. While initially sympathetic--an innocent, hopeful soul in search of simple camaraderie--he is transformed by rejection into an articulate, super-humanly strong, eight-foot-tall serial killer. (No, the rejection didn't make him strong or eight feet tall. You know what I mean. Smartass.) The novel tells the story of the monster's creation, its descent into rage and bitterness, and its campaign of vengeance against his horrified maker.

I have no idea how to critique such a masterpiece so I'm going to brain dump some thoughts. Things I want to remember.

--It was beautiful but difficult to read. Very poetic. It put me in mind of Tolkien, but then I don't have a lot of classic literature under my belt for comparison.

--People exclaimed an awful lot 200 years ago. Grand declarations of eternal affection and unshakable friendship. Vociferous recriminations and dramatic pronouncements of loathing. No feeling was experienced in moderation.

--At one point the stories were nested four deep. The monster recounts his first two years of life to Frankenstein, who gives his own story to a companion, who chronicles the whole tale in letters to his sister and which finally makes it to me, the reader.

--Much of the book was spent depicting tragic stories of injustice. Obviously there's the monster himself, initially guiltless but repeatedly shunned in horror. A Turkish merchant is arrested in France for the crime of being different. He promises his daughter as wife for the aid of a young French noble but has no intention of following through. A friend of the Frankenstein family is framed and executed for the murder of Frankenstein's brother. Frankenstein himself is arrested for a crime he did not commit.

--Victor Frankenstein to his betrothed: "I have one secret, Elizabeth, a dreadful one; when revealed to you it will chill your frame with horror, and then, far from being surprised at my misery, you will only wonder that I survive what I have endured. I will confide this tale of misery and terror to you the day after our marriage shall take place; for, my sweet cousin, there must be perfect confidence between us." Um. In the interest of "perfect confidence", shouldn't you confide your tale of misery and terror BEFORE she ties her life to yours 'til death do you part? Truly it was a different time.

--Victor Frankenstein has the constitution of a fainting goat. Any shock causes him to tip over "in a fever" and requires weeks or months of bedridden convalescence before he can continue. It happens five or six times.

--It strikes me that to a large extent the tragedies of "Frankenstein" all result from an extremely unlikely conspiracy of events, "Mystic River" style. Had Victor not passed out just as his creation awoke, perhaps he would have been the teacher and companion it craved. Had the old man's children returned an hour later than they did, the monster might have secured his friendship. Had the monster not encountered young William Frankenstein on the road to Geneva, he might well have met Victor without innocent blood on his hands. They could have reconciled. So many things had to go disastrously wrong for the story to unfold as it did.

--"Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change." As true today as it was in 1818

Best when you know about the author

This book is great on its own but even better when you know about the author, Mary Shelley. She was the daughter of one of the mothers of feminism and grew up in an environment full of famous intellectuals. This book is peppered with ideas that were revolutionary during her time.

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