Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

1818.  271 pages. Mass market paperback.

From: my roommate’s library

For the challenge: Read 19 books older than myself

In a nutshell:

Ambitious scholar and scientist Frankenstein creates life in the form of a large, misshapen being.  He regrets his action immediately, but little does he realize the compounding damage that will be wrought by his creation.


Well, through no particular design of mine, it’s been a week since I last posted.  Egads!  Never fear, though, a book review is here.  Though many people apparently had Frankenstein as an assigned book for school, I never did.  So bear with me as I obliviously and superficially name themes and concepts on which you may have written term papers.  Expound away in the comments!

So.  Frankenstein is essentially about two miserable beings, creator and created.  For the most part, the novel is told from the perspective of Frankenstein as he watches the destruction of his life and all he loves, knowing that it was his mistake that instigated this destruction.  There are a few chapters though that are told from the perspective of Frankenstein’s creature, who has no name.  And the entire narrative is bookended by passages written by a third narrator, an outsider to the main events who chances upon Frankenstein while on an Arctic exploration voyage.

I loved the passages from the perspective of Frankenstein’s monster, as he related his intense loneliness in the world as an immediate outcast from humanity.  I find his story more of a tragedy than that of Frankenstein.  I couldn’t really forgive Frankenstein for leaving his creature to fend for itself.  Frankenstein feels briefly bad for his abandonment, but by that time, the creature has murdered so it’s too late for the scientist’s repentance.  Later, Frankenstein insists that his past conduct was not blamable, and seems to forget that his desertion of his creation was a mistake too.  The greater tragedy is of course for Frankenstein’s family and friends who have to suffer for it.

One thing that kind of bothered me about the novel is that Mary Shelley doesn’t describe how the monster was created.  The reason given by Frankenstein is that he doesn’t want anyone to duplicate his efforts.  Fair enough.  Also, if Mary Shelley had described this impossible endeavor it might have sounded completely ludicrous, so in that sense, it was the smart thing to do.  What bugs me is where did Frankenstein get the parts??  The ‘monster’ appears to be basically human in function, so by what manner did Frankenstein get the human bits?  At one point, he is creating a second being, and he is on a remote island.  Did he rob their cemetery?  This point bugged me because his procurement of these parts would seem to have ethical implications in and of themselves.

*Mild spoiler in this paragraph*  For those who have read it, do you think that Frankenstein should have complied with his monster’s request for a companion of his own kind?  I think Frankenstein made the right choice not to do it, because there were too many variables that could have made that action disastrous.  But I still feel the unfairness of the monster’s loneliness.  The story is nicely complicated in that way. *Spoiler over*

One aspect I did not expect from Frankenstein was the travelogue elements.  Frankenstein has a great love for nature and curiosity about new places and describes the places of his visits in some detail, from Geneva to Ingolstadt, to England, and the Orkney Islands.  There’s a wildness to many of the places that suits the narrative.

I can definitely see why this book is a classic and am glad I included it on my list of older books to read this year.  I look forward to your thoughts on it!


Filed under Book Review

9 responses to “Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

  1. I enjoyed reading this book as an adult (never had to in school) but I must say I found myself wondering how the monster was able to travel without people noticing him.

  2. I never read this in school, either, but I’ve always wanted to and you’re review is causing it to move up my list!

    From things I’ve read in other books referencing Frankenstein, he does get the parts from a cemetery, but don’t take my word for it.

  3. Erin Leigh

    Well, I DID read this in school (twice actually). I seem to remember that the monster was created out of graveyard parts that had to be large in order to accomodate the chemical process used to resurrect him. Graverobbing was actually fairly common in those days. The monster moved at night through forests, hence the un-detection.

    I always always always felt sorry for the monster. Frankenstein made him a monster twice. First in appearance, and then when he abandoned the monster and refused to make a mate for him. The monster was never even humanized to the point of being given a name. He was abandoned so many times throughout the book and I think my heart broke when the monster’s adoptive family shunned him too. I wanted him to come to my house so I could be his friend 😦

  4. We read excerpts from this in at least one of my high school English classes and I wasn’t impressed enough with it to go on and read the whole thing. You’re making it sound so good though! Plus I’ve always felt like sort of a bad feminist for not loving Mary W Shelley. 😛

  5. Thomas: I had a similar wondering thought about how he was able to live in the hovel adjacent to his adoptive family’s home. How had they never seen him?

    Scott: I don’t remember him saying he took it from a cemetery but Erin confirms it in her comment. I must have missed it.

    Erin: Saying that Frankenstein made him a monster twice is a good way of putting it.

    Jenny: If the excerpts were from the beginning, then that would make sense. The beginning mostly consists of the Arctic explorer’s letters to his sister and then Frankenstein describing his family history and schooling with some sentiment. The trial of Justine the servant girl and the chapters from the monster’s point of view really put the kick in it.

  6. aisha beaver

    on like the 3 or 4th paragraph, u say that it does not tell where the parts of the body have been found here is where Frankenstein found them
    1)he dug at night in the cemetry
    2)got some from the university but they didn’t allow for him to have too much as he worked on this creature for 6 years
    hope this helps u cause i need help 4 my h/w 2

  7. aisha beaver

    i totally agree with u i was heartbroken
    eventhough i only just started having a look at it in school

  8. Aisha – Thanks – yeah, I clearly missed that part of the story. Good luck with your homework!

  9. Pingback: Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley – Frankenstein | Fyrefly's Book Blog

Join the Discussion!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s