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Frankenstein, or, the Modern Prometheus, the 1818 Text Paperback – 14 Aug 2008
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'makes the original 1818 text easily available, and there are good reasons for welcoming it ... Butler's introduction is a rich essay in historical contextualisation, emphasising the Shelleys' early links with materialist physiology and showing how the 1831 edition reflected the broad intellectual changes of the intervening years.'The English Association
'this edition is worth a browse'Daily Telegraph
'The excellent introduction discusses the circumstances of its writing in the wider context of social and scientific controversy.'Good Book Guide, January 1995
All men hate the wretched; how, then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things! ... Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded... --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.See all Product description
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These minor gripes aside this is another beautifully presented volume from Barnes & Noble and will sit handsomely on any book lovers shelf - in my case beside the sumptuously blood red Barnes and Noble edition of Dracula - the natural companion.
The crux of the story is a big secret - but it's so subtly introduced that I had to reread several pages to figure out what it was!
On the whole, a really enjoyable read.. Until it goes into fantasy land! Page after page of utter bilge (I feel terrible using that word for such an esteemed author but I'm afraid it really is bilge!) which I could only skim-read as it was so incredibly unreadable.
Then - it ends. Mid-sentence! We leave fairy nonsense behind and it seems to be getting interesting again, then it stops! I only wish it was made clearer that it is an unfinished novel!
It tells a heated story of incestuous desire, guilt, exile and death, themes which constitute the standard materials of the Romantics. That P.B. Shelley was also writing a play about incest (The Cenci) adds another intertext.
What makes Shelley's story stand out is her beautiful conjuration of desolation in landscape and soul, and her attention to female interiority. As is the case with the 'creature' in Frankenstein, the sins of the father are, quite literally, appropriated by the 'child'. A short read, but a striking one.
The story is presented in epistolary form, within the frame of correspondence between Captain Robert Walton and his sister, Margaret. Captain Walton tells the tale of how his crew rescued Victor Frankenstein from what would undoubtedly have been a frozen death during their excursion toward the North Pole. From this chance rescue, Victor recounts to Captain Walton the story of how he ended up so far North, explaining to them precisely what was the creature the crew saw pass them a few hours before they rescued Frankenstein.
What follows is, in essence, Victor Frankenstein's life story. Beginning with his childhood we come to discover how Victor became acquainted with outdated ideas on Natural Philosophy and what led him to his fascination with life and how life can be created. He recounts the tale of his work in creating the monster that came to be his torturer and come to know of his revulsion of his creation once life was given to it. It is this revulsion of the creature and its subsequent rejection which sets in motion a chain of horrific events perpetrated by the monster which brings Victor to his current state; being rescued by the captain.
I won't go into much detail from what I have already said about the story as it is something that is best discovered yourself while reading the story. Many other reviewers have written about how different the book really is from the image of the Frankenstein's Monster we have come to know in popular culture. Most striking is the monster's acquired education and eloquence through his observance of a family over the course of a number of years. The crimes that are committed at the hands of the monster, through his acquired use of language, allow him to explain his motivations and his internal mental torments which thus make him a sympathetic creature. The crimes he has committed are ones of true abhorrence, so perhaps for some it may be difficult to feel that sympathy, but it is the rejection by his creator and his abject loneliness, brought on from being the first and only of his kind, that compels him to act the way he does.
The story is truly compelling and sometimes legitimately scary, yet the tale of Frankenstein's monster is perhaps allegorical of the way in which life, happiness and acceptance are viewed, especially in the classical world. Perhaps the monster is even a metaphor for our own pursuit of love, companionship and the struggle to come to terms with our creator (God). In fact, there is reference made to the Biblical 'Adam' in the story, to whom the monster seems to relate, in that Adam's existence was only really complete and satisfied when he had his 'Eve' and the monster's motivation was simply to gain his own 'Eve'.
The edition I bought was of the Clothbound Classics series and it has a look and feel to it that makes it a welcome and proud addition to any book shelf, so I would strongly recommend that you pick this up. It really is something to be enjoyed.
I can't imagine what life would be like without Mary Shelley having wrote such a book. I think it got GPs, specialists and scientists from when it got published not to fear going "over the boundaries" of surgery, biology, etc.. Neurology might have never existed as it does today. Thank You Mary!!
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