I know a lot of people get very emotional about criticism of this book, because it is a classic so beloved by so many. If poiInternet troll disclaimer
I know a lot of people get very emotional about criticism of this book, because it is a classic so beloved by so many. If pointing out perceived flaws (which are merely my personal opinion) are going to offend you like I'm defiling your religious text, please stop reading this now. I'm not declaring any truths here, this is all just my experience. I'm happy to receive respectful and constructive criticism, anything less will not be tolerated whatsoever.
I don't know much about British lit from this time period, but it is my impression that it was known for being much more verbose and emotive than contemporary literature in English typically is. This is definitely both of those things. Sociolinguistically it's interesting (at least to me) to think about why English writing became more concise and stoic (unlike present-day Spanish lit which carries with it a lot of pasión). I enjoyed the emotional characters, and wasn't bothered by the long-windedness of the prose, but the hyperbole got to me a little. When everything is the best thing ever or the worst thing ever, everything kinda loses meaning. Importance is relative, so with everything constantly being so extreme I found myself not caring about much, somewhat counterintuitively. No one had friends; they had kindred spirits cut from the same cloth. No one had loved-ones; they had flawless manifestations of angelic compassion enriching their lives. No one had enemies; they had wretched nemeses of unadulterated evil. Ok, we get it Mary Shelley, everything is a really big deal because there's no gray in the world. Maybe part of this is due to her being a teenager when she started writing this, and maybe also a prevalent writing style of the time? But kudos to her, all I could summon up at that age was some malt-liquor-inspired emo poetry--so no disrespect Mary, R.I.P..
She uses the word "countenance" A LOT. I counted 48 times in a book with around 200 pages. The word "face" was used only 29 times comparatively. Peculiar. Looks like the use of "countenance" in English peaked in 1827 (per Google's Ngram viewer), merely 9 years after the publication of this book. I wonder how much her prevalent use of the word in this book helped boost it to its max usage in history--food for thought.
There are a ton of beautiful quotes in this book, one of my favorites deals with the sense of guilt one feels when one ceases mourning a lost loved-one:
"The time at length arrives when grief is rather an indulgence than a necessity; and the smile that plays upon the lips, although it may be deemed a sacrilege, is not banished."
Plot and character development
I have a couple of issues with the plot. These are things that I think could have been addressed with a couple of choice paragraphs, but weren't. Had these things been tied together a bit more tidily, I would have squeezed-out another star for this review:
1) A major problem:
Victor Frankenstein is a very intelligent, analytical young man who comes from an affluent and emotionally healthy upbringing--yet he never seems to fully understand or admit that whatever evil exists within the monster (which, it is debatable whether there is any at all) was put there by his own abhorrent neglect and abuse. Frankenstein feels endlessly guilty because he had "turned loose into the world a depraved wretch*," but at no point does he articulate that the monster was not evil by nature (I really wanted to say "naughty by nature" here). It seems inconsistent with his character that he would not have come to this conclusion; he was not an emotionally-stunted and ignorant man.
*Mary Shelley also liked the word "wretch" and its variations, totaling 64 times. "Wretch" peaked in English usage in 1799.
2) Another major problem:
Long before the monster commits any crimes, he is already branded as an evil abomination. Uh, why? Does Frankenstein think that there is an absolute correlation between being ugly and being evil. This simply does not make any sense. Oh yeah, and the monster looks the way he does because Frankenstein designed him to look that way, so... *turns head like a confused dog*
3) Yet another major problem:
Frankenstein spends months piecing together the monster in a manic frenzy, driven by a scientific obsession for dominance over nature that involves a lot of grave-digging and gore, but the moment the monster comes to life (which was the ultimate goal) Frankenstein basically unravels as if he had the most genteel and delicate of sensibilities, and is just incapable of stomaching such a ghastly visage (or should I say, "ghastly countenance" *winky face*). Uh, what? All of that corpse surgery didn't desensitize him even a little?
Throughout the book Frankenstein makes a habit of collapsing on the nearest fainting couch and falling into a "nervous fever" for months each time he faces a tragedy. How can someone who is so dramatically fragile be the same person who slogged through all of the carnage necessary to create the monster? More inconsistent character development is how.
I get that you are supposed to sympathize with the monster and dislike Frankenstein, but that does not give license to have characters contradict themselves on a whim whenever necessitated by the plot.
4) A minor peeve:
At the insistence of the monster, Frankenstein embarks on creating another monster to serve as a companion. He states that in order to make another monster he must first travel to England where a philosopher has recently made some discoveries that are crucial for his success. Even though he has already created a monster, by himself, he needs something from an English philosopher to make another one? Why? This is never explained.
I like the intricate and imbedded format of the narrative. At one point the narrative is a manuscript of a story of a story. Somehow these different delivery mechanisms and layers are not at all confusing, but interesting.
The big obvious one here is mankind's fear of technology; playing God and disrupting a natural order via our arrogance. It's the same thing we see today with the popularity of dystopian themes (especially zombies) in science-fiction.
Another lesser undercurrent here may be the instinctive anxiety brought upon by parenthood. You can do everything right as a parent and still raise a serial killer (although unlikely). I think this fear strikes at the core of what it means to be human and create independent offspring for which one feels eternally liable and responsible, but cannot willingly design or predictably wield. There is a lot of this in classical Greek lit--your child is destined to be the one who displaces you, ruins you, kills you, etc. There's something dreadfully romantic about creating your own destruction with the sincerest intentions. ...more
Some amazingly powerful and beautiful woodcuts in this book! Some of my favorite Lynd Ward woodcuts, for sure. The story element was somewhat lackingSome amazingly powerful and beautiful woodcuts in this book! Some of my favorite Lynd Ward woodcuts, for sure. The story element was somewhat lacking though. For a wordless story this is too abstract and disjoined--making it hard to understand the story that ties the images together. After looking up the meaning of the story, I looked back through the images and was able to appreciate it much more. Feels incomplete in and of itself.
The image of starving children behind a barbed wire fence under a swastika is eerily prophetic considering this book was published prior to WW2.
Art is a 5, story is a 2, overall I give it a 4....more
-An introduction (spoiler alert) -The novella, "Metamorphosis" (55 pgs) -Various types of analysis concerning Kafka as a personThis collection contains:
-An introduction (spoiler alert) -The novella, "Metamorphosis" (55 pgs) -Various types of analysis concerning Kafka as a person, as a writer, and his works.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novella. Although it is a translation, I feel like Kafka's carefully-crafted literary style shone through. Kafka employs a surreal premise--a man awaking to find himself inexplicably transformed into a man-sized beetle-like insect--to expose the crippling potential of social and familial pressures. The portion of the analysis I read was enjoyable, revealing several parallels between Kafka's own life and that of the protagonist....more
This book is an unapologetic tour de force that examines what it means to be human, and what is capable of destroying that humanity. A must-read for eThis book is an unapologetic tour de force that examines what it means to be human, and what is capable of destroying that humanity. A must-read for everyone. The book I would hand to an extraterrestrial visitor who wanted to understand the spectrum of the human condition--from our instinct to strive towards the light and towards each other, to our unfathomable capacity for cruelty....more
The language is simple, not flowery, yet the descriptions of details give the characters a human pulse. Quick, short chapters that have a point and moThe language is simple, not flowery, yet the descriptions of details give the characters a human pulse. Quick, short chapters that have a point and move on, making it easy to get into. I would have given this 5 stars if there had been a little more back-story, or if the story lines were tied together a bit more tidily. Fairly gruesome horror, not for the faint of heart....more
A really short book about being different, being unemployed, trying to love, trying to be a better person, and getting closer to 30. The main characteA really short book about being different, being unemployed, trying to love, trying to be a better person, and getting closer to 30. The main character is made to be likable through his quirks, failures, and honesty. Highly recommend....more
A collection of The Oatmeal's cat-related comics. Some of the material has been posted on his website, some of it is new. This was moderately funny, bA collection of The Oatmeal's cat-related comics. Some of the material has been posted on his website, some of it is new. This was moderately funny, but not his best stuff....more