My review of Frankenstein
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28-05-2017, 02:10 PM (This post was last modified: 28-05-2017 02:18 PM by ghostexorcist.)
My review of Frankenstein
Frankenstein Book Review

3/5 Stars

By Jim R. McClanahan

I just finished reading Frankenstein (1818) for the first time. The novel was nothing like I expected. The movies I’ve seen took great liberties with the actual storyline, and having read the novel, I can see why they did it. The book is for the most part boring fluff. It’s almost like Mary Shelley, the author, was running short on length and decided to beef the narrative up with overly long descriptions of geography paraphrased from travel guides. It honestly could have just been a short story.

The tale is presented as a story within a story within a story, which I found to be very convoluted in my honest opinion. The narrative starts off as a series of letters written by an English captain to his sister concerning the former’s exploration of the arctic in an effort to seek glory by finding a quicker sea passage to the other side of the globe. The second and longest story, which forms the body of the novel, is presented as a manuscript recorded by the Englishman based on what he was told by the main protagonist Victor Frankenstein, who was picked up by the man’s crew half frozen to death in that frozen wasteland. The third story is presented from the monster’s point of view during the two years following his creation. The latter tale appears in said manuscript.

The thing that annoyed me the most was that the authoress spent pages and pages describing Frankenstein’s entire childhood in Geneva, Switzerland and the places through which he traveled as a youngman in the minutest detail, yet the creation of the monster is simply an afterthought. He attends college for a short time, and after excelling in chemistry and anatomy, it’s basically: “I’ve got an idea on how to create life … AAAAAAAAAAND it’s done”. Granted, I realize Shelley was only nineteen when she wrote the book, so she most likely wasn’t acquainted with advanced science, or “natural philosophy” as it’s called in the book. But given her clearly advanced vocabulary and knowledge of literature and geography, she had the capacity to research the subject in order to present a far more plausible reason other than just “chemicals”. The concept of the creature being constructed from random body parts is only vaguely alluded to, [1] and no mention of threads or scars are ever made.

I’m at least glad that Shelley gave a decent, albeit inconsistent, description of the eight-foot beast:

Quote: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 luxuries only formed a more horrid contrast with his water eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shriveled complexion and straight black lips[/I] (Shelley (1991): 42).

This obviously differs from the common view of Frankenstein’s monster as a block head with bolts in his neck, which comes from the 1931 film starring Boris Karloff (fig. 1). Later portions of the novel describe the beast as “misshapen”, which contrasts with him being beautiful with a proportioned body. Although I’ve never seen it, the Hallmark Channel miniseries adaptation is said to present a far more faithful depiction of the monster, as played by Luke Goss (Prince Nuada from Hellboy 2) (fig. 2).

[Image: B0Tc9X.jpg]

Figure 1 - (Left) Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's monster (1931).
Figure 2 - (Right) Luke Goss
as a more faithful depiction of the fiend (2004).

Another difference from the movie monster is the fact that the creature, which is never given a name other than “demon”, “wretch”, or “fiend”, is actually very intelligent and eloquent in his speech. Implausible as it may seem, he learns how to speak and read, and about manners, world history, religion, geography, laws, criminal activity (etc.) by watching a poor French family through a crack in a wall. Oh, and he further educates himself by reading copies of Paradise Lost, Plutarch’s Lives, and The Sorrows of Werter that just so happened to be discarded in a forest. All of this takes place in about one year’s time. That’s right, just one year.

Don’t get me wrong, portions of the book are very good. I particularly enjoyed the last few chapters. Feeling rejected by humanity, the monster aims his bubbling hatred at his creator, the perceived source of his ills. After killing Victor’s younger brother and framing a family friend for the murder, the demon persuades Victor to create for him a female mate so that the two can live in harmony away from the world of man. However, when he’s half completed with his task, the young chemist destroys the second creation for fear that the two would spawn generations of monsters that would take over the planet.

The monster seeks vengeance by stalking Victor from country to country killing those closest to him, including his childhood friend and even his wife on their wedding night. He taunts Frankenstein into tracking him to the cold wasteland of the north were the harsh environment has little effect on his superhuman form, but will surely test the scientist’s endurance. This returns us to the Englishman’s ship at the present day. After relating his tale, Victor dies from exertion, leaving the monster to steal aboard the vessel and mourn over his body. The Englishman comes upon the scene, ready to combat the monster as promised, but curiosity stays his action. The two enter into a conversion, the last part of which is the best example of writing in the novel in my eyes:

Quote:"But it is true that I am a wretch. I have murdered the lovely and the helpless; I have strangled the innocent as they slept and grasped to death his throat who never injured me or any other living thing. I have devoted my creator, the select specimen of all that is worthy of love and admiration among men, to misery; I have pursued him even to that irremediable ruin. There he lies, white and cold in death. You hate me, but your abhorrence cannot equal that with which I regard myself. I look on the hands which executed the deed; I think on the heart in which the imagination of it was conceived and long for the moment when these hands will meet my eyes, when that imagination will haunt my thoughts no more.

"Fear not that I shall be the instrument of future mischief. My work is nearly complete. Neither yours nor any man’s death is needed to consummate the series of my being and accomplish that which must be done, but it requires my own. Do not think that I shall be slow to perform this sacrifice. I shall quit your vessel on the ice raft which brought me thither and shall seek the most northern extremity of the globe; I shall collect my funeral pile and consume to ashes this miserable frame, that its remains may afford no light to any curious and unhallowed wretch who would create such another as I have been. I shall die. I shall no longer feel the agonies which now consume me or be the prey of feelings unsatisfied, yet unquenched. He is dead who called me into being; and when I shall be no more, the very remembrance of us both will speedily vanish. I shall no longer see the sun or stars or feel the winds play on my cheeks. Light, feeling, and sense will pass away; and in this condition must I find my happiness. 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?

"Farewell! I leave you, and in you the last of humankind whom these eyes will ever behold. Farewell, Frankenstein! If thou wert yet alive and yet cherished a desire of revenge against me, it would be better satiated in my life than in my destruction. But it was not so; thou didst seek my extinction, that I might not cause greater wretchedness; and if yet, in some mode unknown to me, thou hadst not ceased to think and feel, thou wouldst not desire against me a vengeance greater than that which I feel. Blasted as thou wert, my agony was still superior to thine, for the bitter sting of remorse will not cease to rankle in my wounds until death shall close them forever.

“But soon,” he cried with sad and solemn enthusiasm, “I shall die, and what I now feel be no longer felt. Soon these burning miseries will be extinct. I shall ascend my funeral pile triumphantly and exult in the agony of the torturing flames. The light of that conflagration will fade away; my ashes will be swept into the sea by the winds. My spirit will sleep in peace, or if it thinks, it will not surely think thus. Farewell.”

He sprang from the cabin window as he said this, upon the ice raft which lay close to the vessel. He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance (Shelley (1991): 204-206).

For those who have read it, what are your views on the novel?


[1] There are two such allusions on the same page: "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"; and "As the minuteness of the parts formed a great hindrance to my speed, I resolved, contrary to my first intention, to make the being of a gigantic stature, that is to say, about eight feet in height, and proportionably large" (Shelley (1991): 38).


Shelley, M. W. (1991). Frankenstein. New York: Bantam Books.
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01-06-2017, 07:06 AM
RE: My review of Frankenstein
I have this waiting to go on my book shelf, I'll get around to it at some point Smile

I'm well aware the initial cinematic depictions aren't accurate to the book, (Have you seen the 90's Mary Shelly's Frankenstein movie? That may be more faithful), and otherwise look forward to reading the book.

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04-06-2017, 07:18 PM
RE: My review of Frankenstein
(01-06-2017 07:06 AM)OakTree500 Wrote:  I have this waiting to go on my book shelf, I'll get around to it at some point Smile

I'm well aware the initial cinematic depictions aren't accurate to the book, (Have you seen the 90's Mary Shelly's Frankenstein movie? That may be more faithful), and otherwise look forward to reading the book.

I love the 90s film. There are some loose similarities, but the movie is still quite different from the book.
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