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Frankenstein (Norton Critical Editions) (1818)

by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,959268,386 (3.95)22
James Whale's Frankenstein (1931) spawned a phenomenon that has been rooted in world culture for decades. This cinematic Prometheus has generated countless sequels, remakes, rip-offs, and parodies in every media, and this granddaddy of cult movies constantly renews its followers in each generation. Along with an in-depth critical reading of the original 1931 film, this book tracks Frankenstein the monster's heavy cultural tread from Mary Shelley's source novel to today's Internet chat rooms.… (more)
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» See also 22 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
Heartbreaking and sublime and terrific! I forgot just how good this story is, and I think everyone should read it at least once in their life. ( )
  deborahee | Feb 23, 2024 |
Technically I didn´t read the entire Norton Critical edition, but I read the intro and the footnotes in it. The notes were very helpful, since I was reading it for the first time (for a college class). I really enjoyed the Romantic-era language, but it definitely was not what I was expecting. It is not a super scary 1800s horror novel, but it does ask some interesting questions about identity, perception, and human nature. ( )
  Dances_with_Words | Jan 6, 2024 |
org 1818
  betty_s | Oct 16, 2023 |
I didn't love this the way I was hoping to. It was okay. I'm not going to run out and get the leather bound version of this. Once was enough. ( )
  MsTera | Oct 10, 2023 |
Frankenstein is a classic horror novel, first published in 1818. There are two major editions, one the original and one revised by the author many years later. This edition features the original text, along with annotations that, among other things, show where some typos had later been corrected. It also included a full explanation of the differences between one edition and the next. I very much enjoyed this compromise and would recommend it to anyone trying to decide which version to go with.

As for the writing itself, I found it to be of excellent quality, although of course it will require some careful attention from the modern reader due to the older form of English it makes use of. Stylistically it also uses a number of techniques more popular in the past than in the present. One of these is that the story is told in the epistolary form, meaning that it consists of a series of letters from one character to another. It's easy to lose track of this partway through the story, however, since the content of these letters ends up consisting almost entirely of Victor Frankenstein's first-person narrative, as transcribed by the letter writer. The novel also uses slower pacing than most modern novels, although I found it fast compared to others I've read of the time period. The horror elements also tend to take place "off page", and many violent or gory details are omitted or glossed over.

This perfectly suited me personally, since I have so much empathy for fictional characters that I can't stand more graphic depictions. It truly was upsetting for me when characters met their fates, I truly was afraid for the ones remaining, and I even had a feeling of almost not wanting to continue out of dread.

I don't know if that would be every reader's experience, but I can say that I feel Mary Shelley did a great job developing her characters in a way that made me care about them. I particularly loved seeing her depiction of male characters who take care of each other in times of need, who cry over misfortunes or the deaths of those they love, and who are as susceptible to fear and illness as the female characters are. This isn't a book where the women scream and faint while the men jump to acts of unbelievable heroism. The female characters, while limited by the standards of the time in terms of what they are allowed to do and accomplish, take charge of their destinies as much as they are able and are so capable that I believed they would do so much more if only they could. And the male characters are allowed to be human, making mistakes, feeling emotions, and being entirely susceptible to death. All of that combines into a formula of likeable characters a reader can legitimately fear for.

The depiction of "the monster" is also a highlight, and when he gains the ability to speak, his dialogue forms my favorite part of the book. I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't read, but I will say he's a full character in his own right and not at all a cardboard cutout of evil.

I could have done without some of the travelogue aspects of the narrative, which I believe to be another aspect of the novel that would have been more popular during the time it was written. It also must be said that Frankenstein's betrothal to his cousin, who was raised as basically his sister, will never not be at least somewhat disturbing to a modern reader. But for me the positives far outweigh the negatives on this one, especially for someone with a taste for classic literature.

If you're a fan of modern horror, you may not find it as enjoyable as I did. You're likely to be disappointed if you do want to see those details of Frankenstein out grave robbing or stitching body parts together in his lab, or the monster making an attack. But if you want a classic that's about as feminist as classics get (for this time period, anyway), with excellent writing, a fascinating villain, and a compelling plot, this is the one for you.
  dste | Sep 9, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelleyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hunter, J. PaulEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
To William Godwin, Author of Political Justice, Caleb Williams, THESE VOLUMES Are respectfully inscribed by THE AUTHOR.
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Preface:  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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Do Not Combine: This is a "Norton Critical Edition", it is a unique work with significant added material, including essays and background materials. Do not combine with other editions of the work. Please maintain the phrase "Norton Critical Edition" in the Canonical Title and Series fields.
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James Whale's Frankenstein (1931) spawned a phenomenon that has been rooted in world culture for decades. This cinematic Prometheus has generated countless sequels, remakes, rip-offs, and parodies in every media, and this granddaddy of cult movies constantly renews its followers in each generation. Along with an in-depth critical reading of the original 1931 film, this book tracks Frankenstein the monster's heavy cultural tread from Mary Shelley's source novel to today's Internet chat rooms.

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