Adventures in Reading

R.I.P. Challenge: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

“You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings.”

I reread Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein using the same Dover edition from my sophomore year in high school that I originally read from. It’s a green and read marbled cover that looks very much like cellular globules drifting. I also discovered the very likely reason why I’ve disliked this book for so long: my teacher at the time, though I loved the woman, had us highlighting and underlining nearly every thing on every page. Fortunately, this time around I really enjoyed the novel.

Victor Frankenstein is an astute, curious, and persistent man and his eventual chemical expertise, attached with some early philosophies, develops a desire in him to recreate life. He brings forth his monster or his dæmon, which he immediately abandons. The monster, now alone and wretched, haunts and begins to manipulate and destroy those around Victor. The book is written with an interesting frame structure with letters from R. Walton to his sister, within this is Victor’s own narrative of events, and within this is the monster’s telling of his life.

I read the 1831 republication of the novel rather than the original 1818 version (which I am quite interested in reading too). While “the core and substance of it [is] untouched,” according to Shelley, section dividers have lapsed and some more aggressive plot points have been removed, or so I’ve read.

Frankenstein is an easy book to read for the simple enjoyment of reading. Film adaptations have over-glamorized the monster and scientific aspects of the book as Shelley deals with these on a much more emotional and internal level. Victor always appears on the edge of sanity. Despite being an interesting narrative, Shelley’s complex themes and questions are equally potent: When does science go too far? Where does responsibility begin and end?

Conclusion: Keeper.

Other thoughts: marireads, Becky’s Book Reviews, Hidden Side of the Leaf, Pardon My French, just what you want…, Raising Pennsylvania, and Book Nut.


Frankenstein: A Cultural History by Susan Tyler Hitchcock

“‘He would have an enormous schwanzstucker!’”

While I do enjoy non-fiction, I have never been an avid reader and much of my blog will testify to my preference for fiction. However, trying to break my recent reading slump I turned to non-fiction and borrowed a copy of Frankenstein: A Cultural History by Susan Tyler Hitchcock. I have read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein only once in high school and found it dreadful though I am fascinated by early horror movies portraying Frankenstein’s monster. Hitchcock’s book is an illuminating history from page to screen to iconic archetype that will please any Frankenstein fan.

Hitchcock begins with the birth of Frankenstein by exploring the relationship of Mary and Percy Shelley as well as Lord Byron. These three people’s biographies are extraordinarily fascinating and outrageous. This was also my first opportunity to realize that the commonly sold Frankenstein is actually a revised version and I am now on a mission to borrow a version of the original 1818 story. I had given up on the idea of ever returning to Shelley’s work but the first third of this book has given me a great deal of motivation.

In the coming of age section, Hitchcock primarily focuses on the many, many film adaptations and spin-offs based on (some only in name) Shelley’s book. It goes a long way in explaining why Frankenstein is relatively such common nomenclature but so few people really have a grasp on the literary aspect of it. The movies (and censors) continued to reinvent Vincent and the monster for the modern audience.

The third part of the book, our monster, takes a particular look at the Frankenstein mania of the 70s ranging from Rocky Horror to Young Frankenstein to Dean Koontz’s recent Frankenstein series (the third book in this trilogy still with an unknown release date). If nothing else, Hitchcock’s wealth of information substantiates that the Frankenstein myth remains strong.

Hitchcock, a thorough writer and researcher, has provided an enticing portrayal of the evolution of Frankenstein. Frankenstein: A Cultural History that looks at the multiple interpretations that plagued Shelley’s creation over the years. A tale of moral ambiguity used to represent Hitler to comic book appearances has become an icon almost any small child within America can describe. My only warning: Hitchcock’s Frankenstein is not exactly light reading and has an academic taste to it, but excepting this word of caution it was an enjoyable read that has got my finger’s itching to try Mary Shelley’s prodigy once more.