5.0 out of 5 stars misunderstood monstrosity
Mary Shelley, her husband the poet Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and his physician Doctor Polidori were staying at Byron's country villa. It was a stormy night of orgies, opium, and ghost stories. The men also liked to discuss the theory of galvanism--scientifically bringing a dead body back to life. It was this that gave Mary Shelley the central idea for her main character,...
Published on July 2 2004 by I ain't no porn writer
3.0 out of 5 stars "Cursed, cursed creator."
Victor grew up reading the works of Paracelsus, Agrippa, and Albertus Magnus, the alchemists of the time. Toss in a little natural philosophy (sciences) and you have the making of a monster. Or at least a being that after being spurned for looking ugly becomes ugly. So for revenge the creature decides unless Victor makes another (female this time) creature, that Victor...
Published on Dec 5 2004 by bernie
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5.0 out of 5 stars misunderstood monstrosity,
This review is from: Frankenstein (Paperback)Mary Shelley, her husband the poet Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and his physician Doctor Polidori were staying at Byron's country villa. It was a stormy night of orgies, opium, and ghost stories. The men also liked to discuss the theory of galvanism--scientifically bringing a dead body back to life. It was this that gave Mary Shelley the central idea for her main character, a creature created and brought to life by a mad science. And it was out of these nightmare-inducing, drug-induced, spine-chilling elements that Mary Shelley was struck with the idea to write her masterpiece about Frankenstein, a misunderstood and persecuted but otherwise good and gentle "noble savage" and freak creation of science. This book will teach you a thing or two about how people treat the outsider, and about how it's important to judge people from the inside, not the outside.
5.0 out of 5 stars Very thorough look at Mary Shelley's original work.,
This review is from: Frankenstein (Paperback)This Norton Critical Edition makes an excellent value in literature. If you are a student of literature, this volume will help you gain a thorough knowledge of Mary Shelley's original text (lots of context and critical essays included), as well as editions that followed. It contains her original preface (supposedly much influenced by Percy) as well as her 1830 preface. If you do not know, Mary's monster is not the monster one finds in the movies, nor is Dr. Frankenstein. Further, if you have not read an edition other than the first, you don't know about the incest issue that is in the first edition, but not later editions. As you will find in reviews below, this is not a flawless novel, but it is a must read for any well-read person. What is rarely discussed is the influence of John Locke, whose Essay Concerning Human Understanding Mary Shelley read closely just prior to writing the novel. The influence of his work on hers is substantial. Read in the light of Romanticism's reaction to the Enlightenment and Locke et al gives one a completely different perspective for understanding the work. I think you'll find Mary's philosophy appropriately and interestingly feminine, without being feminist; another surprise, considering her lineage. Definitely a good read!
3.0 out of 5 stars "Cursed, cursed creator.",
This review is from: Frankenstein (Paperback)Victor grew up reading the works of Paracelsus, Agrippa, and Albertus Magnus, the alchemists of the time. Toss in a little natural philosophy (sciences) and you have the making of a monster. Or at least a being that after being spurned for looking ugly becomes ugly. So for revenge the creature decides unless Victor makes another (female this time) creature, that Victor will also suffer the loss of friends and relatives. What is victor to do? Bow to the wishes and needs of his creation? Or challenge it to the death? What would you do?
Although the concept of the monster is good, and the conflicts of the story well thought out, Shelly suffers from the writing style of the time. Many people do not finish the book as the language is stilted and verbose for example when was the last time you said, "Little did I then expect the calamity that was in a few moments to overwhelm me and extinguish in horror and despair all fear of ignominy of death."
Much of the book seems like travel log filler. More time describing the surroundings of Europe than the reason for traveling or just traveling. Many writers use traveling to reflect time passing or the character growing in stature or knowledge. In this story they just travel a lot.
This book is definitely worth plodding through for moviegoers. The record needs to be set strait. First shock is that the creator is named Victor Frankenstein; the creature is just "monster" not Frankenstein. And it is Victor that is backwards which added in him doing the impossible by not knowing any better. The monster is well read in "Sorrows of a Young Werther," "Paradise Lost," and Plutarch's "Lives." The debate (mixed with a few murders) rages on as to whether the monster was doing evil because of his nature or because he was spurned?
4.0 out of 5 stars Frankenstein: A Norton Critical Edicition,
By A Customer
This review is from: Frankenstein (Paperback)This book is based on the original 1818 version of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, but is geared toward the reader who wants a more in-depth knowledge and understanding of this work of fiction and the writings of Mary Shelley, her husband Percy Shelley, Lord Byron and Dr. John William Polidori, Byron's friend. The reader will find abundant annotations which help to explain the context in which it was written. A map is provided which helps to locate many of the settings described in the book. It also includes a section of reactions to various versions that have been published. Twelve contemporary authors have submitted essays which supply a variety of perspectives on Frankenstein. The book offers an authoritative text, contextual and source materials, and a wide range of interpretations in addition to a bibliography of other works on the topics.
4.0 out of 5 stars Not What You Think!,
This review is from: Frankenstein (Paperback)If you think you know Frankenstein because you have seen the classic 1930's Hollywood movie, then you really don't know Frankenstein. The short novel upon which the movie is loosely based (so loosely as to be almost a different story)is a morality tale on the creation of life and the obligations of the creator and the created. Mary Shelley was only twenty when she wrote the novel, begun when a house party attended by the poet Byron and Shelley's husband, the poet Percy Shelley decided to swap "ghost" stories one evening. Only Mary Shelley completed her story and this is the 1818 text presented in this book.
One main objection I have about this book (and the only reason that kept it from getting 5 stars) is basically the plot itself. If you think that a tight plausible plot is needed, then this is not the book for you. There are too many holes and too many times I found myself asking, Why would the character do this? But if you read for language and philosophical thought, then Frankenstein is a perfect short read. The monster is very erudite and able to express his emotions perfectly. Why was he created and how can he endure if all he receives is the scorn and hatred of those around him? What is the obligation of the creator-to please his creation or keep him from doing harm to others? This is the true core of the story and the contrasting feelings between Victor Frankenstein, the creator and the monster fill the pages.
While not a difficult read, it is one that is totally unexpected if you have no prior knowledge of the novel's difference with the movie. While the movie is rightfully a classic, the book delves more into the spiritual and emotional realms of creation and its affect on all. I would highly recommend this book for those who are intrigued by the beauty of language and thought. J
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing!,
By A Customer
This review is from: Frankenstein (Paperback)Two things are amazing. This book and the reviewer who says "Despite many strengths, Frankenstein has fatal flaws". I find it grotesque when "critics" pick apart a masterpiece, a work that the critic themselves couldn't create in their wildest dreams. A work that they couldn't match with anything in their boring lives.
Yes, you can find something "wrong" in any work of art or science. But when something is so amazing as is this book (one of the greatest of all time, including the future), one should temper their criticism with praise. Point out all the good points , the amazing points, and the "flaws" will disappear as unimportant.
Critics are so pitiful.
5.0 out of 5 stars A story greatly superior to stereotyped Frankenstien,
This review is from: Frankenstein (Paperback)I've never seen the movie nor have I heard descriptions of the movie. I just assumed from the clips that I had seen that Dr. Frankenstein went to the cemetary, stole body parts, created a monster, the monster escapted and the story climaxed as a group of townsmen find the monster and lynch it. How happily wrong I was and what a sad mockery the story has become. Instead of finding a plodding flat-headed creature with an IQ of 3, the monster is actually something worse--he's still 9', but he's agile, possesses superhuman strength and agility and worse of all, he's much superior in intelligence to his creator. He is witty, is accomlished in persuasive speaking, quotes poetry and is determined to spend his horrible existance (he has nothing better to do--none can bare to look upon him as he is so horribly disfigured) stalking Dr. Frankenstien and making him suffer if he does not create another companion. This Monster is much scarier and worthy of a great story than Hollywood's plodding oaf. Shelly does an excellent job of pulling this reader in and struggling along with Victor Frankenstein as he debates the options in this lose-lose situation (slow destruction of his family vs creating a potentially more evil companion for his evil creation). I had no problem suspending my disbelief and greatly enjoyed the characters (I especially enjoyed slowly watching Victor Frankenstein grow sick and insane with worry) that Shelly creates. Aside from the Bible, if I could recommend any book, right now it would be Frankenstein.
5.0 out of 5 stars underestimated classic,
This review is from: Frankenstein (Paperback)The 19th Century bequeathed us four immediately recognizable, vibrant & enduring fictional icons: Shelley's Frankenstein; Stoker's Dracula; Melville's Moby Dick (& Ahab); and Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. Each of them has, I fear, suffered a horrible fate: they are so familiar to us, in their many modern incarnations & imitations, that too few people return to the original texts. This may be particularly true of Frankenstein, whose portrayals have been so frivolous and distorted. In fact, in addition to being written in luxuriant gothic prose, the original novel is one of the most profound meditations on Man and his purpose and relation to God that has exists in our literature.
Victor Frankenstein is a young man of Geneva who is fascinated by the sciences and the secrets of life and death:
My temper was sometimes violent, and my passions vehement; but by some law in my temperature they were turned not towards childish pursuits but to an eager desire to learn, and not to learn all things indiscriminately. I confess that neither the structure of languages, nor the code of governments, nor the politics of various states possessed attractions for me. It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn; and whether it was the outward substance of things or the inner spirit of nature and the mysterious soul of man that occupied me, still my inquiries were directed to the metaphysical, or in its highest sense, the physical secrets of the world.
While at University in Ingolstadt, his life course is set when he hears a professor lecture on modern chemistry:
'The ancient teachers of this science,'said he, 'promised impossibilities and performed nothing. The modern masters promise very little; they know that metals cannot be transmuted and that the elixir of life is a chimera. But these philosophers, whose hands seem only made to dabble in dirt, and their eyes to pore over the microscope or crucible, have indeed performed miracles. They penetrate into the recesses of nature and show how she works in her hiding-places. They ascend into the heavens; they have discovered how the blood circulates, and the nature of the air we breathe. They have acquired new and almost unlimited powers; they can command the thunders of heavens, mimic the earthquake, and even mock the invisible world with its own shadows.'
Such were the professor's words--rather let me say such were the words of the fate--enounced to destroy me.
Victor goes on to discover, through the study of chemistry, the secret of bringing dead flesh to life. Inevitably he tests his discovery and of viewing his creation cries:
How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavored to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.
And so, repelled by the mere appearance, the inevitable imperfection, of his work, Frankenstein rejects the creature utterly. However, unlike the mute stupid monster of the movies, Shelley's monster is articulate and sensitive and longs for companionship, but all of humankind reacts to him with horror. And so he demands that Frankenstein build him a mate. When Frankenstein refuses to provide him with a companion, the creature resolves to destroy those who Frankenstein loves.
Finally, Frankenstein determines that he must destroy the creature and pursues him into the frozen wastes of the North.
It all makes for a rousing adventure, but there is much more here. Frankenstein, through his work, has attempted to become a god, but his creation is a horrible disappointment & so, is banished from him. Meanwhile, his flawed creation, filled with ineffable longing and confusion, wanders in exile seeking the meaning of his existence. And what is the impulse that he settles upon, but another act of creation; a mate must be created for him. The Biblical parallels are obvious, but they work on us subtly as we read the novel. In the end, the uncontrollable urge to create, to imitate God, stands revealed as Man's driving force. And the inevitable disappointment of the creator in his creation, is revealed as the serpent in the garden.
If you've never read this book, read it now. If you've read it before, read it again.
3.0 out of 5 stars A Hard Sell,
By A Customer
This review is from: Frankenstein (Paperback)Despite many strengths, Frankenstein has fatal flaws. Coleridge wrote that readers must approach a novel with "a willing suspension of disbelief," a willingness in turn nurtured by the novelist. Such suspension is required of readers because they must understand that a novelist cannot represent everything. Part of the novelist's art lies in the simulation of reality through selective withholding and revealing of various information. Conversely, novelists lose readers when they ask them to suspend disbelief too often, or to accept details or events that just do not logically seem to make sense. Such is the case of Mary Shelley and her creation, Victor Frankenstein.
Unlike its portrayal in the movies, which involves an assistant (Igor), various trips to the cemetery for body parts, and a lightning-filled climax in a laboratory, creation of Frankenstein's monster is anti-climactic. Shelley dispatches the entire incident in about three paragraphs. Just as quickly, Frankenstein is repulsed by his creation. The creature opens his eyes, Frankenstein sees its ugliness, and flees - all in the space of two or three sentences. Thus begins a slippery slope of disbelief.
Readers are expected to believe that the creature could evolve into a perfect example of cultured, Enlightened, rational thinking simply by observing a simple family and reading a handful of books. The monster's inner being is too perfect. It is inconceivable that his rhetoric, designed to make the reader sympathetic, cannot also appeal to Frankenstein. And Frankenstein himself is too blind. Once he is finally rebuked, the monster vows to avenge himself upon Frankenstein. He systematically murders members of Frankenstein's family and friends. The entire object of the murders is to make Frankenstein suffer as the monster has suffered. Thus, it is impossible that when the monster promises to be with Frankenstein on his wedding night, that Frankenstein takes extreme measures to protect himself while not even for a moment looking to his wife's safety. It's simply too much to believe.
2.0 out of 5 stars Shame on Norton,
By A Customer
This review is from: Frankenstein (Paperback)Traditionally, Norton Critical Editions reprint the best historical and contemporary criticism for their respective novels. But, it seems as though Norton has succumbed to the critical tide of multiculturalism and "studies" departments. Nowhere in this edition are essays attempting to provide readers with greater appreciation for the novel. Missing, too, are essays explicating traditional aesthetic aspects of novel construction, such as characterization, structure, etc.
Instead, readers are presented standard multicultural fair: "Frankenstein and a Critique of Imperialism"; "Women in Frankenstein"; "Mary Shelley's Monstrous Eve"; "Female Gothic: The Monster's Mother"; and psychobabble - "My Monster/My Self." Funny, my reading missed that Frankenstein's monster had a mother. But, surely I must have read from a culturally-conditioned male, imperialist perspective. (By the way--and I am not making this up--one essay, "Coming Unstrung: Women, Men, Narrative, and Principles of Pleasure" begins with this insightful jewel: "I would like to begin with the proposition that the female orgasm is unnecessary.")
As one essay notes: "There seems to be no critical consensus on Frankenstein. Various critical readings seldom take the time to read, let alone challenge, each other. They simply seem to keep adding one more perspective to the pile. Indeed, to them, interpreting Frankenstein is not a zero-sum game, in which each new hypothesis requires falsifying an old one."
To take one example, consider Ellen Moers's "Female Gothic: The Monster's Mother." According to Moers, the critical scene occurs when Frankenstein first perceives his filthy creature, "the hideous corpse which he had looked upon as the cradle of life." The language describes a stillbirth, and, to Moers, this is its strength: Shelley draws upon her own experiences of the death of her own infants. The problem is that this interpretation can not be tested from evidence in the novel. "If one objected that Victor Frankenstein is not a woman, that he does not give birth, that the creature is alive not dead and is not an infant but full grown, and that the horror arises precisely from the difference between this delivery and all others, Moers might reply that such literalmindedness misses the point."
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Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (Paperback - Dec 17 1995)
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