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on 2 January 2016
I am an English student and specifically bought this book as it says on the cover that it is the 1818 edition, which it is not. It is actually a later, revised version of the novel. I ordered this specifically as I needed the original edition and this has caused me a lot of trouble. The cover of this book is totally misleading and the publishers need to revise this issue.
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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?
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This is a review of the Oxford World's Classics edition, edited and introduced by Marilyn Butler of Exeter College, Oxford. She explains in her note on the text why the 1818 version is preferred - "it delivers an original, specific and profound fable about the modern world in conditions of social change" - rather than the usual published text of the amended 1831 edition. I agree that the original edition has a raw edge, a directness, and a refusal to concede to societal norms that is not so prominent in the later massaged text.

I came to the novel with an open mind, but with an appreciation that Hollywood had cemented the story as a classic of gothic horror. And yet the monsters tale of his `adventures' with the de Lacey family, for example, seemed worlds away from the `traditional' tale as told by American cinema. (Hence, presumably, Kenneth Branagh's 1994 adaptation bearing the conscious title "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein".)

The novel is very well-written and conceived. It is interesting for its literary-historical and scientific context, but of far more interest to me are the philosophical issues that it (unconsciously?) raises. It is geographically incoherent in places, as is the plot, but plot is not really the reason for this novel, is it?

The actual physical creation of the monster is, surprisingly, sparsely described, covering barely two paragraphs, and even then only a vague illustration is given. Throughout the novel, there are only indistinct allusions to his form. Captain Walton, for example, merely says that he was "gigantic in stature, yet uncouth and distorted in his proportions. ... his face was concealed by long locks of ragged hair; but one vast hand was extended, in colour and apparent texture like that of a mummy".

Frankenstein's rejection of his creation so soon after having given life to it - indeed, at the very point of giving life to it - after so determined and intense a devotion to the cause, seems to me to mirror the immense shame and repugnance that civilisation can inculcate at the moment of sexual orgasm in `inappropriate circumstances'. Or, given the gender of the book's author, perhaps a more relevant analogy would be giving birth to a child conceived in shameful circumstances. His rejection of his act is absolute and unyielding. He does not return to his studies to rectify his mistakes in the creation of another, or seek to modify the result that he has created. Instead, he turns his back and falls into a great depression.

Meanwhile the monster plays the part of an extraterrestrial. Initially completely alien to his surroundings, Mary Shelley uses this position to allow him to comment as an outsider on the nature of humanity. The monster says how the de Lacey cottage was "the school in which I studied human nature." Thus, he who was the experiment has now become the experimenter. "Perhaps [he remarks], if my first introduction to humanity had been made by a young soldier, burning for glory and slaughter, I should have been imbued with different sensations", than those provided by the de Laceys and their humanistic literature.

On one level the story is akin to `Beauty and the Beast', `Cyrano de Bergerac', the `Elephant Man', or `E.T.'. But why did not Frankenstein simply learn to accept his creation? He is the creator, he is the monster's god. Is this a metaphor on man's place in God's creation? (At one point, he compares his situation explicitly with Adam.) Is this a comment on the Christian religion, when the monster describes Frankenstein as "the author at once of my existence and of its unspeakable torments" in a time of upheaval and speculation in post-Enlightenment but pre-Darwinian educated circles, when deism was becoming a reputable opinion? The monster again: "The fallen angel becomes a malignant devil."

Marilyn Butler's 42-page introduction, is of the usual high standard that one comes to expect from this publisher. She details Mary Shelley's beginnings, her family and her relationship with her husband. She goes on to describe their relationship with the radical science of the period in which they lived. She explains the ghost-story competition context from which the novel arose. There then follows a critique of the novel itself.
There are three appendices to this Oxford World's Classics edition. The first is Mary Shelley's preface to the amended 1831 edition, where she gives details about the inspiration for the tale and the story behind its creation. The second details the changes made to the text, or rather denotes the additions thereto but not (for some reason) the omissions. ... lists these changes and the reasons for them. The third and final appendix is an extract from an 1820 edition of the Quarterly Review, a nineteenth-century Tory version of the London Review of Books. The extract is not a review of Mary Shelley's `Frankenstein', but is principally concerned with the lectures of William Lawrence FRS and whether the life-force and greater mental capacities of humans (compared to other animals) is inherited or `super-added'. It is these extras - and the use of the 1818 text - that make this edition superior to others.

As with all reprints of classic works of literature, I recommend that the so-called introduction (which is really more of a commentary) is best read after the novel.
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This is one of those classic novels, “The Great Gatsby” is another”, that I have never been able to love. Despite many readings and having taught both at various levels, the qualities that so many admire elude me. It is not a matter of style, at least not in the sense that some find the book hard to cope with. For me the great Victorian novels of Dickens, George Eliot, the Brontes, Elizabeth Gaskell, through to Henry James et al remain a source of almost unqualified delight. “Frankenstein” was published earlier, of course, but so too were the works of Jane Austen, whose novels are almost worth reading for the aesthetic rewards of style alone.

The book is grounded in a rich tradition of cultural and scientific thought and Mary Shelley could scarcely have enjoyed a more intellectually stimulating upbringing. Few books are so widely allusive. It is in fact first and foremost a novel of ideas and I suspect that most probably explains my personal difficulties in establishing a close affinity with it. It is rooted not in the rich detail of palpable actuality, but in social, political, scientific issues. That is admittedly a crude distinction, but a review here is not the place for a detailed thesis. “Brave New World” might offer some sort of more recent equivalent if the parallel is not pushed too far. Against these books I would place the likes of “Mansfield Park”, “Bleak House”, “Wuthering Heights” and much more recently the admirable work of Sarah Waters and Donna Tartt.

There is virtually no dialogue in “Frankenstein”. What we have are extended monologues, often portentous in tone and style. The shifts from what seem to me to be rather stilted narrative to extravagantly hyperbolic emotional statements are both alien to expressive modern English. The novel is fertile ground for agenda–led critics, many of whom have had a field day in using the book to advance their own partialities. Whether a novel should be judged on the quality of what is written about it is another question, and one on which it seems wise to make my exit.
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on 27 April 2016
I’ve always been a little intimidated by this book and I’m not really sure why. Maybe it was because it is Gothic Horror and the language and vocabulary is quite refined? Maybe it was because the story didn’t really appeal to me and the extracts I’ve looked at in the past have been quite dreary and a bit gruesome? Also, originally I thought the book was going to be longer and more of an epic – something similar to Dracula. Whilst, these books do fall under the same genre, following a similar style and theme, they are drastically different.
Frankenstein seems to lack much description of the actual narrative of the story from the protagonist’s viewpoint. Instead, Shelley focuses more on the thoughts and feelings of the character concerning what is happening, instead of any action. I guess this isn’t helped by the style of narrative that is introduced: Frankenstein is re-telling the tale of his Prometheus to a willing listener at the end of his journey and pursuit of the monster, after his entire calamity has already taken place. Naturally, you would expect parts to be missing. Furthermore, the miss-adventures of ‘the creature’ are again told by the monster, which is then told by Frankenstein – a sort of recounted tale of a recounted tale. You would expect the action to be diluted… and it is.
Yes – I know it is a classic, and the language and phrasing is sophisticated. Yes – I know the genre was incredibly fashionable at the time and the story would have been controversial and shocking (which, in places, it still is). But, did I enjoy reading it? Whilst I did appreciate the moral issues brought to life, I found Frankenstein’s character to drone on a lot about his misfortunes. Shelley certainly did go a little overboard with his regalement and philosophical whining regarding what he had done – made a blasphemous creation/acted as God – and the consequences of it.
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on 6 January 2016
It is difficult to view a book as famous as Frankenstein other than through the prism of its cinematic legacy. The images conjured simply by mention of that name are almost inescapable. That is a shame because it is a marvellous book that has been poorly served by most of the screen adaptations it has spawned.

Not least among the many amazing aspects of the book is the fact that Mary Shelley was just eighteen when she started to write it. Her prose has an assurance and cadence of a master rather than a mere neophyte.

Frankenstein appeared very early on in the history of the novel as a prominent literary form, and it displays many traits that were common in the early nineteenth century. The first few chapters take the form of letters from Robert Walton, an English traveller who is not without his own psychological baggage, to his sister. These detail his attempts to hire a crew in the wilds of Northern Russia with a view to sailing in search of the North Pole. Having penetrated far into the pack ice of the Arctic Circle Walton encounters a wild, dishevelled man who has an amazing tale to tell. This is, of course, Victor Frankenstein. The tale is indeed disturbing but engrossing.

On screen, one of the key scenes is that in which Frankenstein's creation finally comes to life (usually with the help of a stereotypically contorted servant by the name of Igor), after lengthy scenes in which Frankenstein trawled through graveyards looking for suitable parts. In the book, this scene is condensed into a handful of paragraphs, without any lurid descriptions or prurient indulgence. Construction of the creature has been an academic quest, an exercise in scientific endeavour, conducted in a private laboratory rather than the gothic attics that so frequently occur in films. Even the moment at which the creature comes to life is described with delicious understatement. 'It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.'

Frankenstein's joy in his success is short lived, turning immediately to despair and self-loathing, fleeing from the sight of his awful creation. The remainder of the book is a beautifully woven tale of despair and tragedy, that remains remarkably fresh and accessible.
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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?
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The commentary tries to give depth and meaning to this poorly written story.

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?
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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?
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on 12 September 2014
Almost everybody I know has heard of Frankenstein. Maybe not its original story, but various adaptations and references either in movies, music songs, video clips, television, and video games involve Mary Shelley' storyline or its two characters; Victor Frankenstein and his unnamed creature which some people or movies have even named or confused with the title of the book's title/creator's name. For me, it wasn't until I saw Ken Russell's movie Gothic that I decided to read the original story.

In this 200 pages novel, we have a story within a story where Captain Walton, in an epistolary prose, narrates his sailing toward the North Pole and his rescue of Victor Frankenstein he found stranded on a block of ice. Saving the man's life, but also learning the misfortunes that the scientist experienced as he gave birth to a creature whose existence has destroyed his life. In a story about the quest for knowledge and power, but at the terrible cost of several losses.

Of the Arcturus Edition, this novel doesn't have any illustrations apart from the front cover. The text is transcribed in its entirety, along with a summary on Mary Shelly's life. The prose is easily readable, an fusion of both the Gothic and romanticism currents. Lots of descriptions regarding the emotions, torments, and joys of the characters. Making it a very expressive and emotional read.

As such, this novel was a wonderful opportunity to uncover the original story that inspired all those adaptations. Which some have called one of the first example of Science Fiction literature.
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