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Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 11 Aug 2003
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Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is one of the masterpieces of nineteenth-century Gothicism. While stay-ing in the Swiss Alps in 1816 with her lover Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and others, Mary, then eighteen, began to concoct the story of Dr. Victor Frankenstein and the monster he brings to life by electricity. Written in a time of great personal tragedy, it is a subversive and morbid story warning against the dehumanization of art and the corrupting influence of science. Packed with allusions and literary references, it is also one of the best thrillers ever written. Frankenstein; Or, the Modern Prometheus was an instant bestseller on publication in 1818. The prototype of the science fiction novel, it has spawned countless imitations and adaptations but retains its original power.
This Modern Library edition includes a new Introduction by Wendy Steiner, the chair of the English department at the University of Pennsylvania and author of The Scandal of Pleasure.
From the Inside Flap
A terrifying vision of scientific progress without moral limits, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein leads the reader on an unsettling journey from the sublime beauty of the Swiss alps to the desolate waste of the arctic circle. This Penguin Classics edition is edited with an introduction and notes by Maurice Hindle.
Obsessed with the idea of creating life itself, Victor Frankenstein plunders graveyards for the material with which to fashion a new being, shocking his creation to life with electricity. But this botched creature, rejected by its creator and denied human companionship, sets out to destroy Frankenstein and all that he holds dear. Mary Shelley's chilling gothic tale was conceived when she was only eighteen, living with her lover Percy Shelley near Lord Byron's villa on Lake Geneva. It would become the world's most famous work of Gothic horror, and Frankenstein's monster an instantly-recognisable symbol of the limits of human creativity.
Based on the third edition of 1831, this volume contains all the revisions Mary Shelley made to her story, as well as her 1831 introduction and Percy Shelley's preface to the first edition. This revised edition includes as appendices a select collation of the texts of 1818 and 1831 together with 'A Fragment' by Lord Byron and Dr John Polidori's 'The Vampyre: A Tale'.
Mary Shelley (1797-1851) was the only daughter of the author and political philosopher William Godwin, and Mary Wollstonecraft, author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. In 1814 she eloped with poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, whom she married when his first wife died in 1816. She is best remembered as the author of Frankenstein, but she wrote several other works, including Valperga and The Last Man.
If you liked Frankenstein, you might enjoy Bram Stoker's Dracula, also available in Penguin Classics.
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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!!
Without spoiling it too much, the monster was not given a name and Frankenstein was the name of the scientist who made the monster. Another mistake that some people make is in giving Victor Frankenstein the title of Dr. Frankenstein, as he never completed his studies. As for the monster itself, it was yellow, moved with immense speed & grace and was extremely well-spoken, having learned English from, amongst other thing, Paradise Lost.
The book begins very slowly. There is a lot of background detail given that doesn't really add much to the story and by a quarter of the way through the book, I was considering abandoning the book. Thankfully I didn't, for as the story continued I was drawn in to Shelley's world.
The tale touches on themes of ethics in science, love, rejection, denial and a huge dose of revenge. Undoubtedly the best section is the first prolonged conversation that Frankenstein has with his creation. While some sections are tough-going, I would highly recommend this as a classic of literature, and the best antidote to considering Frankenstein as anything like Fred Munster.
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