Author: Mary Shelley
Genre: Science Fiction / Gothic / Classics
Date: 2008 (1818)
Publisher: Oxford Univeristy Press
Started: 10th April 2016
Completed: 14th April 2016
Summary: Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, is a novel written by English author Mary Shelley about eccentric scientist Victor Frankenstein, who creates a grotesque creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment. Shelley started writing the story when she was eighteen, and the novel was published when she was twenty. The first edition was published anonymously in London in 1818.
I own the 2008 Oxford World’s Classics edition of this book since OWC usually print the 1818 text instead of the 1831 revised text. OWC released a new edition of Frankenstein last year and I’m not sure how it differs to the one I own.
Frankenstein is an incredibly famous novel by Mary Shelley and it’s considered to be the first example of modern science fiction. Mary Shelley broke boundaries with another novel, The Last Man, which is considered to be the first post-apocalyptic novel. Shelley first published Frankenstein when she was just 18, two years after she first told the story to a group of friends during a trip to Geneva. John Polidori’s The Vampyre was also thought up during this trip and I have written a review of that story which you can read here.
There’s so much that I love about Frankenstein and it’s one of my favourite books of all time. The novel is written in epistolary form which documents a fictional correspondence between Captain Robert Walton and his sister. Walton tells Victor’s story to his sister and their letters frame the novel at both the beginning and the end. However, the novel’s perspective does shift from Walton’s to Victor’s. I really like that the novel is framed as a recounted story rather than a direct narrative.
The plot is incredible. I’m sure that most people know the plot of Frankenstein but Victor Frankenstein studies at the University of Ingolstadt in Germany where he excels at chemistry. He plans to replicate the human body and impart life on to non-living matter through his experiments. Thus, he creates the Creature. The Creature is huge because Victor couldn’t make a body as intricate as the natural human body. He imagined that the Creature would be a beautiful creation but instead it has yellow eyes and skin that barely conceals the Creature’s muscles and blood vessels. He’s repulsed by his work and abandons the Creature. One thing that I really love about the plot in this novel is the mixture of art and science. This was a popular idea during the Romantic era as poets such as John Keats were also doctors and Erasmus Darwin (the grandfather of Charles Darwin) was both a botanist and a poet. Mixing science and art in Frankenstein doesn’t work because Victor doesn’t create a work of art in the Creature.
The characters are fantastic too. I love that the Creature is able to learn as humans do and he becomes well verse in authors such as Milton. I also really like the scene when the Creature sees his reflection in a pool of water. It’s also heart breaking to read as he becomes repulsed by his own appearance. It proves that humans are incredibly shallow as we judge ourselves and other people solely by their looks.
I also loved that Shelley engaged with the scientific discovery of the time. This book includes so many references to scientific process and it even references England’s obsession with the Arctic during this time. Shelley does greatly exaggerate scientific discovery in the novel but it proves that she was interested in science.
I disliked the relationship between Elizabeth and Victor. I thought that it was weird. I also didn’t like the way Shelley changes from ‘Creature’ to ‘Monster’ half way through the novel. The Creature does terrible things but calling it a Monster just isn’t right in my opinion. I do think that Frankenstein himself is the real monster of the story for creating life and abandoning it because it wasn’t what he expected. I have almost no sympathy for Victor at all.
If you haven’t read Frankenstein then you should! I love this novel so much and I’m glad that I was introduced to it while I was doing my GCSEs. The UK’s high school curriculum can be decent sometimes. I really think that everyone should read this novel because it’s such a classic.