Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

It’s a tale I thought I knew, and yet I didn’t know it at all. There’s no ‘It’s alive!’, the monster isn’t Frankenstein (just daemon, the ‘inventor’ is Frankenstein), there’s no lightning strike or metal rods in the head, no ‘mad scientist’ and the monster isn’t dumb and slow, quite the opposite, so in fact it’s not quite what I expected at all. And I was pleasantly surprised by what I found, because unlike some other classics I have read, it was an easy read. Now I’m not sure if there was just some choice editing in my edition to try to clear things up, or whether it was just the writing style, but I’m inclined to think the latter. Which is really great, and I definitely think that it makes Frankenstein reasonably accessible, especially if you get a copy with footnotes (that’s something I think is a must for reading a classic, as there’s often words/terms/references to things which make no sense anymore – though that does make it interesting to see how the meaning of words has changed over the years).

Frankenstein monster – modern interpretation

I found the structure quite odd, in a good way, since at one point there was a story (about the DeLacy family) within a story (the daemon’s to Frankenstein) within a story (Frankenstein to Robert) within a story (Robert relaying Frankenstein’s story and his own via letters to his sister) in THE story (the one we are reading). Yeah, that somewhat hurts my head, though reading it, it certainly doesn’t hurt. So, I liked it, the varying narrative styles was engaging, and the different stories were all interesting. The initial segments in letter format was surprising, but it does suit it.

I have to say that I didn’t find this story scary or horrifying at all. In one of the extra parts, the authors introduction perhaps, it says Mary wanted to write a story which terrified her readers, just as the dream the story was inspired by, did to her. Well, she failed on that front with me. Perhaps audiences in the 1800’s found it horrific, I didn’t. Nevertheless, I found it fascinating. I finally know the real story of Frankenstein, after knowing the book since I could remember. It, like Dracula (which I am planning to read at some point, but what point it turns out to be, we shall see) is one of those iconic, pervasively known stories, but more often than not people don’t know THE actual story.

It’s a wonderful story about the dangers of human curiosity and scientific advancement. I don’t think Shelley was trying to be that critical of science, but the story does send a warning message that our creations may be more than we can handle. Perhaps she was envisioning something akin to the technological singularity of Terminator? Obviously the story didn’t halt scientific progression. Of course there is towards the end the idea that humans have a choice (certainly a trope), and that maybe humans aren’t evil after a long passage of the monster ironically being the most humane of them all, but then being turned by the ‘evil’ humans. Before coming to terms (too late) and realising that he was now a monster.

I find it odd that in this book, and Pride and Prejudice the authors purposely obscure the date and location, so they’ll say it was 17–, or it was at Fort —, I don’t really get why that is. And I’m having difficulty trying to research that, so if you have an idea let me know. I mean, I get why she left out the method for creating the monster, to stop people trying to follow it, and because it would be hard to make it believable. But the date, does that really matter, or does it add to the mystery, by trying to say it was a real event, but to protect the identity of people they’ve changed the date? I’m not sure.

My experience with Frankenstein was a good one, and I thoroughly recommend giving it a go. A book worthy of the title of a classic! What are your thoughts? Have you read this book? Seen one of the movies or stage adaptations? Did you know what the story really entailed?

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3 thoughts on “Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

  1. No, I haven’t read it, but my mother did and she was shocked to see how different it was from what we conventionally think of the story as – like you said, “There’s no ‘It’s alive!’, the monster isn’t Frankenstein (just daemon, the ‘inventor’ is Frankenstein), there’s no lightning strike or metal rods in the head, no ‘mad scientist’ and the monster isn’t dumb and slow, quite the opposite”.

  2. I actually did have the opportunity to read this because it was on a shelf at my grandparents’ house when I was a very young child but I never had the nerve to actually read it. I did pick it up a few times to look at and skim through out of curioisty, though.

  3. Here is the excerpt from her blog post in 2010 “2010 book list so far…”

    “Frankenstein was a big and very pleasant surprise for me. I, like many, had only been exposed to Hollywood’s interpretation, and I was appalled to find what a bastardization of the story Hollywood’s version was. I did find parts of the book to be excessively saccharine and sentimental, and I found other parts to be unrealistic, or at least illogical, particularly in the actions taken by Victor, as well as the development of the “monster.” The structure of the book was also overdone and inorganic as it progressed into a story within a story within a story, delivered as first-person recounts that were wholly unnatural in their telling. Still, the story itself was much better than anything that’s been put on film in its name.

    Dracula I read before Frankenstein, and I found its first-person structure from the perspective of the various characters to come off as much more natural and realistic. In this story, Hollywood’s latest effort held closer to the book, and was a much more successful effort to convey the story as originally intended in the writing. Naturally, it strayed a good deal from the original story, but nowhere near the degree that the Frankenstein films did.

    I read The Road without the slightest inkling of what the story was about, on the mention of it by a friend. My understanding is that it has been hailed as a great piece of literature by critics, but in this case, I think it’s been overrated. I found the story to be well-written, but it was so unrelievedly depressing – without a single happy moment or even happy thought – to the point that it wasn’t even evocative. I’m an emotional reader, and I share the joys and sorrows of characters, but this book was such a one-note that I didn’t feel anything at all. I also saw seeds of possibility that, without exception, went nowhere. Every possibility for some advancement of the plot ended up exactly where it started, with no growth or progression at all. The story was completely linear, and every opportunity to add interest to the plot or develop the characters not only fell short but were never even attempted. “

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