Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books)'s Reviews > Frankenstein; Or, the Modern Prometheus

Frankenstein; Or, the Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
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Mary W. Shelley explored themes that still resonate today in her proto-science fiction work, Frankenstein. Themes of the relentless drive and search for ultimate (even forbidden) knowledge; intellectual arrogance; the desire to create something enduring; the need for love and recognition; and a study in how bitterness, hatred and rage can destroy a person. What separates men from God? What separates man from monster? Can a so-called monster have the heart (the humanity) and the accompanying needs and desires of a man? Does beauty or ugliness penetrate deeper than the skin? Can one expect good to come from an act of utter selfishness?

Frankenstein is very much a philosophical work. Although there are some primordial science fiction elements, they are merely the impetus--the laying of the groundwork for this story. For it is not about how Frankenstein makes his creation. It’s about the aftermath of that act. This is a moving work of fiction that skirts the edges of horror, but the horror is more of a psychological sort. The horror is that a man would take knowledge to create a man from unliving flesh. A man so hideous in visage that people turn away in horror. This man chases after his creator, demands his love and tender regard, to merely be noticed and acknowledged by his creator; and if not that, at least the right to have a companion in his lonely life. Many times, I was deeply affected emotionally by this story. I felt so much sympathy for the creature. To be brought to life and abandoned by his creator seemed so cruel. He couldn’t help that his external appearance was ugly and a constant reminder of the unspeakable act his maker had perpetrated. He had not been given the opportunity to prove that he was something more, something worthwhile; that he was capable of deep emotions, an ability to appreciate beauty in life, to love and to give to others. This made me so very sad. There were times when I truly felt disdain towards Frankenstein. For his arrogance, for his selfishness. Although Shelley couldn’t have known about the capabilities of science now, the caution about science and its ethical considerations couldn’t be more timely. Should we create something just because we have the knowledge and skill to do so? And how often do we truly count the cost of such an action before it’s too late? Although I felt great enmity towards Frankenstein at times, I certainly didn’t condone the creature’s actions. I felt a profound sense of horror when the created man committed acts of violence to innocents around him in vengeance against his creator. I was still angry at Frankenstein for bringing it on himself, but I also felt sad for him to lose everyone he valued in his life. Surely, he couldn’t have known how horrible the results his creation act would result in. When he is given the ultimatum to create a mate for the creature, I could understand his terrible dilemma, and I still question whether his final actions were the right ones. Finally, I was back to feeling pity for the creature, deeply empathizing with him in his loneliness, how his desire for love and understanding turned into selfish rage that he truly regretted and repented for in the end.

Mary Shelley doesn’t give the answers to these moral dilemmas. She merely presents these profound queries in this narrative. Where does it place the reader in the end? Deeply entrenched within this tumultuous, roiling cauldron of emotions—fear, love, rage, regret, hope, and despair. One simply cannot be detached when reading this book.

I found this to be very readable despite the fact that it was written about two hundred years ago. I only found my interest wavering in the moments of the somewhat excessive travelogues of the natural surroundings. In my opinion, this took up too prominent a role in the narrative, and it was distracting. Despite that small shortcoming, this was powerful reading, not comfortable, but deeply involving. No easy answers, but lots of questions for each reader to process and come up with their own conclusions. I won’t forget this book.

4.5 stars.
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Reading Progress

55.0% "Feeling really sorry for the 'monster.'" 5 comments
61.0% 8 comments
100.0% "Finished. Review to follow."
02/24/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-23)

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message 23: by Jan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jan I read this book long ago. I remember it being sad and philosophical.

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books) That's exactly the impression I'm getting, Jan.

message 21: by Pam (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pam I remember being frustrated with lengthy descriptions and I liked the monster better than the Dr.

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books) I definitely find the creature to be a much more sympathetic character, Pam. And some of the descriptions go on way too long.

Jonathan The description's not as bad as other books I've read. At least it's flowery and poetic.

message 18: by Lemon (new)

Lemon Wonderful review and clear summary of the Romantic ideas embodied in this book. Reading your review is a great refresher for this classic.

The Pirate Ghost (Formerly known as the Curmudgeon) Very good review. When you look up Mary Shelley and learn how difficult her life had been, then read how real and tortured the monster felt when he realized how alone he would always be. There is likely a connection. And to me, the most moving and sad writing and images come in the last chapters where Shelley describes the desloate Northern Wastes while the monster tells Frankesntien of his pain might be a glimpse inside Mary Shelly.

Anyway. Very good review, Lady D. Thank you.

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books) Thanks, Hugh.

I can definitely see a possible catharsis that Mary Shelley was exhibiting for her own pain in this novel.

The Pirate Ghost (Formerly known as the Curmudgeon) The record suggests it wasn't enough catharsis for healing, but there is something thereputic about being able to "tell people how you really feel inside." I'm sure she felt that.

Jonathan Very insightful review. I personally feel that Frankenstein is so powerful because of its ending. I mean it ends with the comment from the 'beast' that perhaps Frankenstein was equally a monster for creating and abandoning him. "he suffered not in the consummation of the deed -- oh! not the ten-thousandth portion of the anguish that was mine during the lingering detail of its execution."

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books) Thanks, Jonathan. I definitely see your point.

The Pirate Ghost (Formerly known as the Curmudgeon) Jonathan wrote: "Very insightful review. I personally feel that Frankenstein is so powerful because of its ending. I mean it ends with the comment from the 'beast' that perhaps Frankenstein was equally a monster fo..."

I'm with you, I remember the end more than the rest of it for the same reason. Since he lived a tormented life, he wanted so very badly to show what it was like to Victor so that Victor would understand.

message 10: by Sesana (new)

Sesana Great review. I was also struck by the sadness of the creature, and by how everything bad that happened is because Victor refused to take responsibility for his actions, and for his creation.

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books) Thanks, Sesana. This book made me feel so acutely for both the creature and towards Frankenstein.

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books) Thanks, Brian.

Yeah, you have to wonder if she could have realized how prescient the ideas in this story are.

Jonathan One thing I do know is that she was inspired by her dreams when she came to write her story. And sometimes in dreams ideas come to the mind that are very prescient.

message 5: by AgentScully (new)

AgentScully Great review Dr. D!

Tammy Love this! Had I not read the book before, this would encourage me to do so.

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books) Thanks, Tammy. I'm glad I finally got around to reading this. Have you read The Picture of Dorian Gray? I highly recommend it!

Tammy Lady Danielle "The Book Huntress" wrote: "Thanks, Tammy. I'm glad I finally got around to reading this. Have you read The Picture of Dorian Gray? I highly recommend it!"
Not yet, no. I will add it to my 'to read' shelf ( I love this option btw, in the past I wrote notes to myself on what I wanted to read in the future and promptly lost them).

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