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Frankenstein (Penguin Classics) by Mary…
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Frankenstein (Penguin Classics) (original 1818; edition 2003)

by Mary Shelley

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29,63853753 (3.81)1 / 1566
Member:razorhack
Title:Frankenstein (Penguin Classics)
Authors:Mary Shelley
Info:Penguin Classics (2003), Edition: Reissue, 352 pages
Collections:Ebooks
Rating:*****
Tags:None

Work details

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)

  1. 354
    The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (SanctiSpiritus, ghr4)
  2. 243
    The Island of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells (Liondancer, artturnerjr)
    Liondancer: another scientist whose creatures get out of control
    artturnerjr: Both books share a similar blend of science fiction and horror.
  3. 212
    Dracula by Bram Stoker (MarcusBrutus, Cecilturtle, LitPeejster)
  4. 103
    The Golem by Gustav Meyrink (Kolbkarlsson)
  5. 82
    The Journals of Mary Shelley by Professor Paula R. Feldman (JessamyJane)
  6. 51
    Grendel by John Gardner (sturlington)
    sturlington: Both books attempt to get into the mind of a monster.
  7. 42
    The Sand Man / The Deserted House by E. T. A. Hoffmann (Nickelini)
    Nickelini: Written within a year of each other, Hoffmann's The Sandman and Shelley's Frankenstein both feature man-made beings. And both have been adapted beyond recognition.
  8. 42
    The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells (Morteana)
  9. 64
    Dracula [Norton Critical Edition] by Bram Stoker (Nubiannut)
  10. 42
    Frankenstein: A Cultural History by Susan Tyler Hitchcock (FFortuna)
  11. 31
    Monster: A Novel of Frankenstein by Dave Zeltserman (Crypto-Willobie)
    Crypto-Willobie: A decadent noirish retelling of the Frankenstein story from the monster's point of view.
  12. 32
    Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus (thecoroner)
  13. 21
    Sielun pimeä puoli : Mary Shelley ja Frankenstein by Merete Mazzarella (GoST)
  14. 21
    The Hidden by Richard Sala (Michael.Rimmer)
  15. 11
    The Mysterious Stranger and Other Stories (Dover Thrift Edition) by Mark Twain (JolieLouise)
    JolieLouise: The Mysterious Stranger is about a creator's treatment of his creation.
  16. 11
    The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (leigonj)
    leigonj: The romantic elements of Frankenstein are clearly influenced by Goethe's classic of the genre. I was not in the least surprised when it was referred to directly in the text.
  17. 33
    The Diamond Lens by Fitz-James O'Brien (Anonymous user)
  18. 12
    Mary Shelley's Frankenstein [1994 film] by Kenneth Branagh (Waldstein)
    Waldstein: Nowhere near as bad as many silly reviews would have you believe. Countless changes of the novel, but the spirit, the basic story and the essence of the characters are retained. Actually improved. The movie's more Gothic and more horror, for one (or two) thing(s). More dramatic and more tightly plotted, too. Excellent cast and production design.… (more)
  19. 01
    Seven Masterpieces of Gothic Horror: The Castle of Otranto; The Old English Baron; Mistrust; The White Old Maid; The Heir of Mondolfo; The Fall of the House of Usher; Carmilla by Robert Donald Spector (FrankNstein)
  20. 12
    Poor Things by Alisdair Gray (bertilak)

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What strikes me is how selfish Victor Frankenstein was - he created the monster but abandoned him upon seeing how hideous he was. Only when the monster killed his loved ones did he endeavor to face up to him, and prevent him from further destruction. To me, it speaks of how we should always face up to our mistakes, or things will just get worse. ( )
  siok | Jun 1, 2019 |
Mary Shelley

Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus

Penguin Popular Classics, Paperback [1994].

12mo. 215 pp. Author’s Introduction to the Standard Novels Edition, 1831 [5-10]. Preface by P. B. Shelley, 1818 [11-12]. Cover: detail from Gross Clinic by Thomas Eakins (1844–1916).

First published, 1818.

=======================================

I wonder what brought me here. For one thing, Kenneth Branagh’s movie (1994), which I (still) happen to like more than most people. Mostly pure curiosity, though. I was curious about the granddad of Jekyll and Hyde (1886) and Dracula (1897). Aren’t these the Holy Trinity of horror classics? So the horror buffs tell me. I was also curious about misusing science, a subject of great interest to me which this novel seems to address.

The beginning was agreeable. Mary Shelley’s introduction offers a fascinating explanation “how I, then a young girl, came to think of and dilate upon so very hideous an idea”. In truly Romantic style (note the capital), this story is set against the sublime background of the Swiss Alps. In 1816, Mary and Shelley, not yet newlyweds, spent the summer near Geneva in the company of Lord Byron who was writing the third canto of Childe Harold at the time. He proposed that each of them should write a ghost story by way of diversion. Stimulated by the philosophical discussions of her husband and Byron, “to which I was a devout but nearly silent listener”, Mary contemplated the profound subject of life and death and, just like that, came up with a classic story that has entered the popular consciousness during the last two centuries. Romantic to the bone, the essence first came to her in a half-dream, half-hallucination:

Night waned upon this talk, and even the witching hour had gone by before we retired to rest. When I placed my head on my pillow, I did not sleep, nor could I be said to think. My imagination, unbidden, possessed and guided me, gifting the successive images that arose in my mind with a vividness far beyond the usual bounds of reverie. I saw – with shut eyes, but acute mental vision – 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. His success would terrify the artist; he would rush away from his odious handiwork, horror-stricken. He would hope that, left to itself, the slight spark of life which he had communicated would fade; that this thing which had received such imperfect animation would subside into dead matter, and he might sleep in the belief that the silence of the grave would quench forever the transient existence of the hideous corpse which he had looked upon as the cradle of life. He sleeps; but he is awakened; he opens his eyes; behold, the horrid thing stands at his bedside, opening his curtains and looking on him with yellow, watery, but speculative eyes.

Can you get any more Romantic than that? Hardly. It is good to keep in mind the Romantic (mind the capital R!) background of the novel. It explains a lot that otherwise might seem strange, for instance the extravagant praise of nature’s sublimity by brooding individuals roaming through the mountains. There are some fine examples of this famous Romantic image in Frankenstein, but nothing on par with Byron, Schubert or Caspar David Friedrich.

As you can see from the introduction, the style is florid and ponderous; but lucid enough to be readable. The tone is more of a problem. Extremely overwrought and melodramatic, it does become tiresome. Except for a few letters in the beginning and some concluding remarks by Walton, an intrepid arctic explorer, the whole book is told in the first person by Frankenstein himself. He is positively hysterical. Chance for him is “rather the evil influence, the Angel of Destruction, which asserted omnipotent sway over me”. Guilty conscience is like “the fangs of remorse [that] tore my bosom and would not forgo their hold”. You can imagine the rest, can you? The Creature takes up the narrative for six chapters (11-16), but that brings little change of tone. It is not unsuitable to the subject. But some variety would have been welcome.

The brevity is impressive. In this edition, the whole novel takes only 200 pages; printed, it is true, in smallish font (even smaller when letters are quoted), but nothing eye-killing. The storytelling is brisk and to the point, if sometimes straying into blind alleys. For all of their melodramatic excess, the main characters are not without individuality and power. Frankenstein, for all of his whining ineptitude, is a memorable creature, though more compelling for what he stands for rather than for what he is. The Creature improves on that by mixing the personal with the philosophical element in equal amounts. Mary Shelley even has time to take some random shots at the inhuman treatment of servants (outside humane Switzerland) and the blackmailing fanaticism of priests (inside freethinking Switzerland):

A servant in Geneva does not mean the same thing as a servant in France and England. Justine, thus received in our family, learned the duties of a servant, a condition which, in our fortunate country, does not include the idea of ignorance and a sacrifice of the dignity of a human being.

“I did confess, but I confessed a lie. I confessed, that I might obtain absolution; but now that falsehood lies heavier at my heart than all my other sins. The God of heaven forgive me! Ever since I was condemned, my confessor has besieged me; he threatened and menaced, until I almost began to think that I was the monster that he said I was. He threatened excommunication and hell fire in my last moments if I continued obdurate.”


You can easily tell this novel was written by a rather inexperienced novelist. The switch from Walton to Frankenstein is crude, to say the least, and the crucial moment of the Creature coming to life is perfunctory (and less vivid than the introduction). A more experienced writer would have made the former less jarring and the latter longer – and the Creature’s story within the story shorter. Indeed, it is entirely implausible that “the modern Prometheus” should be so horrified from his creature and run away so fast. Whatever he is, however spineless and criminally irresponsible he may be, Frankenstein is first and foremost a scientist par excellence. He would never abandon a successful experiment, whatever horrors it may lead him to, especially an experiment like this which opens infinite possibilities for further research.

But these are just quibbles, not to say a rather misguided search for realism. It is realistic presentation of truth that matters. Here Mary Shelley does have something to say, if not as much as I expected.

The Creature is a most fascinating plot convention. He fulfils plenty of functions. Sometimes he is full of reading recommendations: Goethe’s Werther, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Plutarch’s Lives and Volney’s Ruins of Empires. Nice taste for a monster! Sometimes he is the conscience Frankenstein obviously lacks: “How dare you sport thus with life?” Sometimes he articulates the universality of Frankenstein’s driving passion: “Of what a strange nature is knowledge! It clings to the mind when it has once seized on it like a lichen on the rock.” Perhaps most of all the Creature is a symbolic summing-up of humanity: uneasily swinging between vice and virtue, cursed by consciousness and knowledge, terrified of loneliness.

The Creature is certainly more admirable than the creator. I admire Frankenstein’s scientific passion, but all the same he consistently behaves like a coward or a moron. (The modern Prometheus, indeed!) Forgive the rude language when a simple truth is spoken. Walton’s fulsome eulogy in the end (“glorious creature”, “admirable being”, “noble and godlike in ruin”, etc.) is extremely hilarious, and I’m pretty sure that was not intentional.

The Creature is a different matter. He turns vengeful and cruel only when he is cruelly rejected, first by the people for entirely superficial reasons like his appearance, and then by Frankenstein for even stupider reasons. Who wouldn’t turn criminal under such circumstances? “I am malicious because I am miserable”, as the Creature puts it succinctly, and that is not a bleak conclusion about human nature for it does imply its essential goodness. It is the Creature who, in the very end, acquires at least the outlines of a tragic character. He realises with perfect clarity his downfall and the reasons for it. The language is absurdly overdone, but the sentiments are worth considering and, if you are sufficiently moved, tragic:

Yet I seek not a fellow feeling in my misery. No sympathy may I ever find. When I first sought it, it was the love of virtue, the feelings of happiness and affection with which my whole being overflowed, that I wished to be participated. But now that virtue has become to me a shadow, and that happiness and affection are turned into bitter and loathing despair, in what should I seek for sympathy?

For while I destroyed his hopes, I did not satisfy my own desires. They were forever ardent and craving; still I desired love and fellowship, and I was still spurned. Was there no injustice in this? Am I to be thought the only criminal, when all humankind sinned against me?

Some years ago, when the images which this world affords first opened upon me, when I felt the cheering warmth of summer and heard the rustling of the leaves and the warbling of the birds, and these were all to me, I should have wept to die; now it is my only consolation. Polluted by crimes and torn by the bitterest remorse, where can I find rest but in death?

Victor Frankenstein is a fine example of that convenient stock character that becomes more and more relevant, the Mad Scientist: a grand cautionary tale that even the “fervent longing to penetrate the secrets of nature”, one of the noblest and at the same time most useful desires, can be misused in a horrifying way. Quite an advanced thought for 1818, not to mention for an authoress not yet 21 and with no scientific background!

We of the 21st century, having seen nuclear weapons, internet, the Human Genome Project and the Shanghai skyline, are quite blasé about Man playing God. But one question must continue to haunt us. It has been best expressed by Arthur Clarke: “Where is this going to lead, as our powers over nature, but not over ourselves, continue to increase?” Mary Shelley was by no means the first author to address the issue. So did Jonathan Swift almost a century earlier in Gulliver’s Travels (1726), a book of depth and power, not to mention excellence of style, to which Mary cannot aspire.

Truth to tell, the novel never really fulfilled its promise. For my own part, the best parts remain the early chapters describing Frankenstein’s frantic immersion in the science of life, or “natural philosophy” as they called it in the eighteenth century. There is some poetry in prose of genuine power here. It can still be read with profit by scientists who are not too arrogant to learn from a colleague more than two centuries old. “Learn from me,” says Frankenstein, “if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.” And he continues (Chapter 4):

When I found so astonishing a power placed within my hands, I hesitated a long time concerning the manner in which I should employ it. Although I possessed the capacity of bestowing animation, yet to prepare a frame for the reception of it, with all its intricacies of fibres, muscles, and veins, still remained a work of inconceivable difficulty and labour. I doubted at first whether I should attempt the creation of a being like myself, or one of simpler organization; but my imagination was too much exalted by my first success to permit me to doubt of my ability to give life to an animal as complex and wonderful as man. The materials at present within my command hardly appeared adequate to so arduous an undertaking, but I doubted not that I should ultimately succeed. I prepared myself for a multitude of reverses; my operations might be incessantly baffled, and at last my work be imperfect: yet when I considered the improvement which every day takes place in science and mechanics, I was encouraged to hope my present attempts would at least lay the foundations of future success. Nor could I consider the magnitude and complexity of my plan as any argument of its impracticability. It was with these feelings that I began the creation of a human being.

Once the Creature comes to life, however, it’s a downhill. Not a very steep downhill, for the most part, but a downhill nonetheless. An ordinary adventure story with contrived elements of horror (sort of), soap opera, murder mystery, court drama and travelogue: rather superficial on the whole. Lots of rhetoric, little substance. I had some hopes that the Creature’s female companion might be an invention of the screenwriters. Not so, alas. It comes straight from the novel. Thus a profound philosophical concept is reduced to an ordinary melodrama.

There is some shameless padding, too. Victor’s European travels (Chapters 18-19) and the background of the cottagers (Chapter 14) are the most annoying examples. One must conclude that Frankenstein, among other things, is a masochist. He is fond of holding eloquent discourses on his own wretchedness, but he is not fond of doing something about it. This is a common Romantic conceit, of course. It sounds quaint to us today. It takes a great writer and a great mind to make it compelling. Byron can do it. Mary Shelley can’t. According to the authoress, it was her husband’s idea to expand the original short story into a novel. I’m not sure it was a good idea.

On the whole, Frankenstein was a quick and pleasant read, interesting for all sorts of historical, literary and even philosophical reasons. But it didn’t live up to its iconic fame. I expected more. Erwin Schrödinger, well over a century after Mary Shelley, defined life in a profound but strictly scientific way as the most unnatural thing in the universe. I expected to find something similarly deep and stirring in this novel, only not from scientific but from a philosophical point of view. Mary Shelley didn’t deliver it. The subject was too big for her. ( )
1 vote Waldstein | Jun 1, 2019 |
This is another one I'd just never gotten around to reading. The story is far from what popular culture has made of it (I confess I was most familiar with the Young Frankenstein version) The monster is much more vocal and interesting. Victor is kind of a weenie and it's all a bit overwrought. I listened to the audiobook from the classic tales podcast and the narrator was pretty good, obviously enjoying all the "begone!s" and "wretchs" ( )
1 vote cindywho | May 27, 2019 |
I have thought, but this being a classic piece of literature, I'm not going to write them down for posterity. That never served me well in lit classes, and I don't foresee it going well on the internet. ( )
  ladypembroke | May 17, 2019 |
I love this book so much more than any of the movie adaptations I've ever seen (actually, for anyone seeking horror and thrill in a story, this may be a huge disappointment), but in comparison to other novels of that genre and time period it's far from being flawless.

I love the ideas in this story - the idea that one has to take responsibility for their creations, the idea that a being can be as gentle and good as a lamb, it will inevitably become a monster if it experiences nothing but rejection, the idea that just because something is scientifically possible doesn't mean that it should be done. Despite all the Romantic dressing up in this novel that makes it very clearly a product of its age, these premises are still modern and relevant.

My gripe is with the characters. I'm aware that this is probably the 21st century reader in me, but - gods almighty, that Victor is a pathetic, self-absorbed piece of selfpity, full of "woe is me", much more fixated on his own emotions and tragic history than on the danger he has released carelessly on the world and without much reflection about his own role in this disaster. All his relationships seem shallow and superficial, and the only woman with a meaningful role in the story gets classically fridged to give him the final push.

One day I'll have to read an adaptation from the wretch's point of view. His actions, reactions and justifications seem so much more interesting than Victor's. ( )
  DeusXMachina | May 15, 2019 |
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» Add other authors (290 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Shelley, Maryprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bloom, HaroldAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brockway, HarryIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Casaletto, TomNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Casaletto, TomNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Couturiau, PaulTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Deaver, JefferyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guidall, GeorgeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hindle, MauriceIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hunter, J. PaulEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johnson, DianeIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Karbiener, KarenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lehtonen, PaavoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miller, Walter JamesForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Monzó, QuimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moser, BarryIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Munch, PhilippeIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pechmann, AlexanderTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Polakovics, FriedrichTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rennerfelt, MonicaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ruiz, AristedesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Seymour, MirandaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ward, LyndIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wrightson, BernieIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Frankenstein [Great Illustrated Classics] (Adapted by Malvina G. Vogel) by Malvina G. Vogel

Frankenstein [Step-Up Classic Chillers] by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein: The Graphic Novel by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein [adapted - Treasury of Illustrated Classics] by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

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Epigraph
Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
To mould me man? Did I solicit thee
From darkness to promote me?
—Paradise Lost, x, 743-5
Dedication
TO
WILLIAM GODWIN
Author of Political Justice, Caleb Williams, &c.
THESE VOLUMES
Are respectfully inscribed
by
THE AUTHOR
First words
To Mrs Saville, England. St. Petersburgh, Dec. 11th, 17—. You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings.
The event on which this fiction is founded has been supposed, by Dr. Darwin, and some of the physiological writers of Germany, as not of impossible occurrence. - preface by P.B. Shelley
Mary Shelley: Though her life was fraught with personal tragedy, Mary Shelley was destined for literary greatness. (Barnes and Noble Edition)
Author's Introduction:  The publishers of the Standard Novels, in selecting Frankenstein for one of their series, expressed a wish that I should furnish them with some account of the origin on the story.  (Author's Introduction to the Standard Novels Edition (1831))
Quotations
“ I had admired the perfect form of my cottagers—their grace, beauty, and delicate complexions: but how was I terrified when I viewed myself in a transparent pool . . . and when I was convinced that I was in reality the monster that I am I was filled with the bitterest sensations of despondence and mortification.”
"I will be with you on your wedding night!"
It was the wretch, the filthy daemon to whom I had given life!
"I have lately been so engaged in one occupation that I have not allowed myself sufficient rest. But I hope that all those employments are now at an end, and that I am at length free."
I felt the bitterness of disappointment; dreams that had been my food and pleasant rest for so long a space were now become a hell to me.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This is the main work for Frankenstein. It should not be combined with any abridgement or adaptation.
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Book description
Frankenstein was published in 1818, the work of a 21-year-old genius named Mary Shelley. Hundreds of movies, adaptations, and monster masks later, its reputation remains so lively that the title has become its own word in the English language. Victor Frankenstein, a scientist, discovers the secret of reanimating the dead. After he rejects his hideous creation, not even the farthest poles of the earth will keep his bitter monster from seeking an inhuman revenge. Inspired by a uniquely Romantic view of science’s possibilities, Shelley’s masterpiece ultimately wrestles with the hidden shadows of the human mind.

About the author:

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was born in London in 1797, the daughter of well-known intellectuals. She married the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1816 and spent much of her adulthood in continental Europe, surrounded by her friends in the English Romantic Movement. Her tumultuous life included the loss of three children in infancy and her husband’s death by drowning in 1822. Nevertheless, her contributions to English literature continue to fascinate and inspire readers and artists alike.

Victor Frankenstein is just a college student who wants to figure out the technical details of how life works. Obsessed with chasing this discovery, he creates something unthinkable. And then things all go wrong. Read a Gothic horror classic easily with this modern English translation. But don't worry about missing anything, because the original unedited 1831 version is here too, along with a scholarly essay.
Haiku summary
The creature awakes,
Horrible yet innocent,
Abandonment scars.
(hillaryrose7)
It is dangerous,
To play God with life and death,
Horror the result.
(hillaryrose7)

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0141439475, Paperback)

Frankenstein, loved by many decades of readers and praised by such eminent literary critics as Harold Bloom, seems hardly to need a recommendation. If you haven't read it recently, though, you may not remember the sweeping force of the prose, the grotesque, surreal imagery, and the multilayered doppelgänger themes of Mary Shelley's masterpiece. As fantasy writer Jane Yolen writes of this (the reviewer's favorite) edition, "The strong black and whites of the main text [illustrations] are dark and brooding, with unremitting shadows and stark contrasts. But the central conversation with the monster--who owes nothing to the overused movie image … but is rather the novel's charnel-house composite--is where [Barry] Moser's illustrations show their greatest power ... The viewer can all but smell the powerful stench of the monster's breath as its words spill out across the page. Strong book-making for one of the world's strongest and most remarkable books." Includes an illuminating afterword by Joyce Carol Oates.

(retrieved from Amazon Wed, 01 Jul 2015 14:47:18 -0400)

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Presents the story of Dr. Frankenstein and his obsessive experiment that leads to the creation of a monstrous and deadly creature.

(summary from another edition)

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