Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: A Comprehensive Review

Book cover of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein"

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: A Comprehensive Review

Book cover of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein"Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus,” first published in 1818, is a foundational work in the science fiction and horror genres. It presents a compelling narrative that intertwines ambition, ethics, and the consequences of playing God. This review offers an in-depth analysis of Shelley’s masterpiece, which is suitable for a reading age of 15 and above due to its complex themes and older language style.

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Overview and Thesis

“Frankenstein” is not just a tale of horror but a profound exploration of human nature and the boundaries of scientific pursuit. It raises questions about creation, responsibility, and the moral limits of knowledge, making it as relevant today as it was in the 19th century.

Plot Summary of Frankenstein

The novel begins with Captain Robert Walton’s letters to his sister detailing his voyage to the North Pole. Here, he encounters Victor Frankenstein, a scientist obsessed with creating life. Frankenstein recounts his story to Walton, forming the novel’s main narrative.

Victor grew up in Geneva with a deep interest in science. At university, he becomes fascinated with reanimating life and secretly constructs a creature from body parts. Upon bringing it to life, he is horrified by its appearance and abandons it. The creature, intelligent and sensitive, seeks companionship but faces universal rejection and hatred. Its loneliness and suffering turn to vengeance against Victor, leading to a tragic chain of events that includes the deaths of Victor’s loved ones.

The creature demands Victor create a companion for him. Victor initially agrees but then destroys the female creature, fearing the consequences. The creature vows revenge, leading to the deaths of Victor’s bride and best friend. Victor pursues the creature to the Arctic, where he meets Walton and concludes his story. Victor dies, and the creature, remorseful, disappears into the cold wilderness, presumably to die.

Book Themes

  • Creation and Responsibility: Victor’s attempt to create life raises questions about the ethical limits of scientific pursuit and the responsibilities that come with creation.
  • Isolation and Companionship: The novel explores the pain of loneliness, both in Victor and his creature, highlighting the need for companionship and understanding.
  • Revenge and Justice: The cycle of revenge between Victor and the creature underscores the destructive nature of vengeance.
  • The Sublime Nature: Shelley vividly describes natural landscapes, reflecting the romantic era’s fascination with the sublime and its power over human emotions.

 

Dr. Victor Frankenstein in the process of reviving his creation, 'the creature', in a gothic-style laboratory set in the early 19th centuryCharacter Descriptions

  • Victor Frankenstein: A brilliant scientist whose ambition leads him to create life, only to be horrified by the result.
  • The Creature: Victor’s creation, intelligent and emotional, but shunned for its appearance. Its desire for companionship and acceptance turns to a vengeful wrath.
  • Robert Walton: The captain whose letters frame the narrative, sharing similarities with Victor in ambition and isolation.

Analysis

Strengths

  • Narrative Structure: Shelley’s use of framed narratives adds depth and perspective to the story.
  • Language and Imagery: The novel’s eloquent language and vivid descriptions enhance its themes and emotional impact.

Weaknesses

  • Pacing: Modern readers may find the pacing slow in parts, with extensive introspection and description.
  • Character Development: Some characters, especially female ones, are less developed and serve more as plot devices.

Literary Devices

  • Symbolism: The creature symbolizes the consequences of unchecked ambition and the alienation of those who are different.
  • Foreshadowing: Shelley uses foreshadowing to build tension and hint at future tragedies.

Evaluation

Audience Suitability

  • Ideal for readers interested in classic literature, science fiction, classic horror, and philosophical themes.

Comparisons

  • Comparable to works like “Dracula” by Bram Stoker in its gothic elements and to Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” in exploring scientific ethics.

Recommendation

  • Highly recommended for its timeless themes and contribution to literature.

 

Frankenstein's creature walking alone through cobblestone streets at nightPotential Test Questions and Answers

  1. What is the significance of the novel’s subtitle, “The Modern Prometheus”?
    • It draws a parallel between Victor’s overreaching ambition and Prometheus, who defied the gods by giving fire to humanity.
  2. How does the creature’s development challenge the notion of inherent evil or goodness?
    • The creature begins as a blank slate, but its experiences of rejection and cruelty shape its actions, suggesting that behavior is influenced by treatment and environment, not inherent nature.

Book Details

  • ISBN: 978-0486282114
  • Page Count: 280 pages
  • Publication Date: 1818
  • Publisher: Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor & Jones
  • Genre: Gothic novel, Science fiction
  • Reading Age: 15 and above

Awards and Accolades for Frankenstein

  • Recognized as a pioneering work in science fiction.
  • Continues to be studied for its literary

 

Adaptations

“Frankenstein” has been adapted and released as a movie or series many times over. Most recently, or yet to be released, is the movie, “Lisa Frankenstein,” to be released in 2024. The movie details:

“Lisa Frankenstein” is an upcoming American horror comedy film, slated for release on February 9, 2024. The movie, written by Diablo Cody and marking Zelda Williams’ feature-length directorial debut, offers a unique twist on the classic Frankenstein story. The plot is set in 1989 and revolves around a misunderstood teenage goth girl, Lisa Swallows. In a lightning storm, Lisa accidentally reanimates a handsome corpse from the Victorian era using a broken tanning machine in her garage. This act leads to a playfully horrific transformation, after which Lisa and her resurrected companion embark on a journey in search of true love, happiness, and some missing body parts​​.

The film stars Kathryn Newton, Cole Sprouse, Liza Soberano, Henry Eikenberry, Joe Chrest, and Carla Gugino​​​​. The production of “Lisa Frankenstein” was completed in May 2023, and it is currently in post-production, with editing, music composition, and the addition of sound and visual effects underway​​.

Given the involvement of acclaimed talents like Diablo Cody and Zelda Williams, along with a promising cast, “Lisa Frankenstein” is anticipated to be a fresh and inventive addition to the Frankenstein adaptations, blending elements of horror and comedy with a modern twist on a timeless story.

More info on Frankenstein film adaptations are available on IMDB.com

Painting of Mary ShelleyAbout the Author, Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley, born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin in 1797 in London, was a prominent figure in the Romantic literary movement. She was the daughter of philosopher William Godwin and feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft, both of whom were well-known intellectuals of their time. This intellectual environment deeply influenced Shelley’s development and worldview.

Early Life and Influences

  • Born into a family of intellectuals, Shelley’s education was rich in literature and philosophy.
  • Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, who died shortly after her birth, was a famous advocate for women’s rights, and her father, William Godwin, was a political philosopher and novelist.
  • Shelley received an unconventional education, where she had access to her father’s intellectual circle, which included many prominent thinkers of the time.

Personal Life and Marriage

  • Shelley’s life was marked by both passion and tragedy. At the age of sixteen, she eloped with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who was already married. This caused a scandal and estrangement from her father.
  • The couple faced numerous hardships, including financial difficulties and the death of two of their children.
  • After Percy Shelley’s untimely death in 1822, Mary Shelley focused on her writing and on raising their son, Percy Florence Shelley.

Literary Career

  • Mary Shelley wrote “Frankenstein” when she was just eighteen, during a summer stay with Lord Byron and Percy Shelley in Geneva, where a challenge to write a ghost story led to the creation of this iconic work.
  • Besides “Frankenstein,” she wrote several other novels, including “The Last Man” (1826), a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel, and “Lodore” (1835), which focused on the experiences of women in society.
  • Her works often reflect her belief in the Romantic ideals of emotion and individualism, and they explore themes of social justice, particularly the status of women.

Legacy

  • Shelley’s work, particularly “Frankenstein,” has had a profound impact on literature and popular culture, inspiring countless adaptations and interpretations.
  • Her contributions to literature were not fully recognized during her lifetime, but she is now considered a pioneer in the genres of science fiction and horror, as well as an important figure in feminist literary history.

Other Best-Sellers and Awards

  • While none of Shelley’s other works achieved the fame of “Frankenstein,” several received critical acclaim.
  • “The Last Man” is considered a significant work in the science fiction genre.
  • “Mathilda,” though not published during her lifetime, has been recognized for its exploration of taboo subjects.

Mary Shelley’s life and work continue to be a subject of scholarly study and public interest, her narrative art and exploration of themes like creation, responsibility, and societal norms remaining relevant today.

Bookshop.org helps to support independent book sellers. Please purchase ‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley on Bookshop.org. https://bookshop.org/a/1289/9780486282114

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