Book Review: Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley

Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein is clever through its attempts to build character, plot, and atmosphere. Though classics are known for their rigorous word choice, Frankenstein is in fact in the middle of this type of spectrum. For the most part, language is simple to grasp, and does not shy away from the necessities of detail and plotline. In other words, it’s easier to follow than most classics you’ll encounter.

The story is set up as though the narrator were the author, recounting a tale a stranger tells him while on an expedition as captain. He, the stranger, is Victor Frankenstein, the inventor who would come to create a monster. This knowledge, coupled with Shelly’s other efforts to foreshadow, attributes to the tension and intrigue the narration creates. It allows for readers to engage thoroughly with the text, as we’re eager to learn the origins behind Frankenstein and his reasons for the creation of the creature. The more you discover about the character, the more you question his morals and decisions throughout the chronicle. 

The establishment of themes early on in the book makes way for their progression and development. For example, the idea of creation and dangerous knowledge is implied early on, and therefore clears a path for further acknowledgement of the main character’s lack of responsibility and recognition of consequences. Another important aspect to take note of is Shelly’s usage of weather. To illustrate, when Frankenstien is at the pinnacle of his misery (I won’t say why – that’d be a spoiler!), the tone/mood shifts to storm grey, which is supported by the thunderstorm that comes soon after. It is reasonable to assume a connection between unhappiness and rain, as such weather is known for its implications. Season, too, has it’s significance. The start of Frankenstien’s biggest woe occurs in spring, which is usually associated with rebirth and renewal. However, the shock of this major contrast between the real situation and the symbolism we come to know of with season leaves room for irony, and possible implications of doom for our “protagonist.” 

Near the resolution of Frankenstein, an important question arises: who is the “hero?” As I went through the plot and reflected afterwards, I came to the result that the answer to this makes Shelly a master of her craft. There is no hero – it’s more of who, or what, is the lesser evil. To explain, Victor is the creator of the monster, and therefore is responsible for the beast’s actions. Thus, his neglect, or lack of management over the creature created a domino effect, which led to Victor’s ruination. The fact that the monster was miserable and melancholy wasn’t exactly his fault. In reality, it can almost be concluded that Victor is more of a monster than the daemon he brought to life … 

-Emilia D.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Most of us are familiar with the monster we’ve labelled as Frankenstein, a green, grotesque creature of Hollywood films. Before reading Mary Shelley’s acclaimed novel for a high school English class, I had similar mental perceptions of the monster (I’d been envisioning the essential, go-to costume for elementary school Monster Mashes for years). After finishing the book, however, I was moved by the complexities of Shelley’s characters, their philosophy, as well as her examination of prominent social and political issues throughout the carefully woven narrative, which are still relevant today.

I’d read Gris Grimley’s Frankenstein before in middle school. Pages of colored artwork and masterful graphic design rendered an excellent adaptation of Shelley’s novel. It provided me the foundations to easily understand the basic plot of Frankenstein, yet I was still skeptic about reading the novel itself. I don’t particularly love Shakespeare or Dickens, with their fanciful ways of speech that can get tiring after a long period of reading, and I feared the same for Shelley’s work. But she was different somehow, her writing distinctively unique; perhaps this was because she was a female amidst a world of male writers, someone who had created such a haunting and gripping story so uncharacteristic of a woman of her time.

The novel centers around a gifted scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who manages to breathe life into his creation, a monstrous being. Instead of a being presented as a gift to humanity, the glorious product of defying even Nature itself, the specimen is a hideous creature that is shunned by society and his creator alike. The narrative is told from various perspectives–explorer Robert Walton’s letters, Frankenstein’s first person narration, the monster’s collection of stories–which I appreciated greatly, because it gave the storyline a certain vivacity, turning it away from the tiresome monotony of the same narrator. As the novel progresses, the monster and his creator enter into a growing spiral of violence and tragedy, and I will say (spoiler alert!) the novel is not exactly a Hallmark movie with a happy ending.

By the time I had finished the book, the ending surprisingly emotional (I had been nonchalant all throughout Romeo and Juliet’s deaths, but this ending really ran me over for good measure…go figure), I continued to mull the story’s events over in my mind. Frankenstein is a philosophical breeding ground–are monsters created or made, a victim of the cruelties of society? What are the ethical implications of science and technology (this one I consider a lot, since we are at a teetering frontier of modern scientific discovery)? Who is the real monster, the creation or its creator?

Even if you aren’t called by philosophy, read Frankenstein for it’s ingenious storyline. I didn’t think I would ever call a book published in 1818 “thrilling,” but I was pleasantly surprised at the wide range of emotions Shelley, and most good writers, can evoke through their stories, her ability to make the reader view society through a new lens. Read it for Shelley’s diction, the way she stirs to life a melancholy madness, the vividness in which she allows us to experience it, as if the character’s lives were our own, and which left me awed. It was a book that stuck with me long after I finished it, a book that I regretted misjudging before I picked it up and read it grudgingly for school, but which took me into the depths of humanity and morality.

-Katharine L.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Transitioning from Young Adult Novels to the Classics

bookstack2The transition from young adult novels to classic novels can be difficult. I started reading classic novels when I was in eighth grade. However, I still read young adult novels. I love both genres!

The key to transitioning from reading young adult novels to reading classic novels lies in the plot. Many young adult novels are affiliated with the supernatural, be it vampires, werewolves, zombies, or magic. The common factor is an element of fantasy. Most teens dismiss classic literature as boring but what they might not know is that classic novels were catalysts for contemporary young adult novels. Examples include Dracula by, Bram Stoker and Frankenstein by, Mary Shelley. Dracula and Frankenstein are two of the oldest fantasy novels. Frankenstein is considered by some to be the first science-fiction novel and Dracula, of course, was the first novel to debut vampires. They are also two of the most famous classic novels– cult classics, even.

dracula_coverDracula was written in 1897 and Frankenstein was written in 1818. Dracula is the story of a vampire who moves from England to Romania. Jonathan Harker is in charge of Dracula’s move but after spending time in his castle, he starts to suspect that Dracula is a vampire. Once he comes to this realization, he also realizes that he’s trapped in the castle and barely escapes with his life. He makes his way back home but little does he know that Dracula is now terrorizing his fiancee Mina and her friend Lucy by drinking their blood. Lucy begins to become very sick and Mina calls Dr. Van Helsing for help and he realizes what is happening to her but does not reveal it. Mina then becomes sick herself and it is then when Van Helsing and others try and put a stop to Dracula and they follow him back to Transylvania for a final battle.

frankenstein_coverFrankenstein is the story of a mad scientist named Victor Frankenstein who creates a creature. Frankenstein is commonly mistaken as the monster when in fact, Frankenstein is the creator of the monster. Victor has been passionate about science since he was a child and gets the idea of reanimation from watching lighting strike a tree. He reanimates a creature with expectations of beauty and is disappointed with how the creature turns out and rejects him, so the creature flees. Victor sees his creature again framed for his brother’s death. The creature explains his innocence and says that if Victor would make him a female companion, he would leave him alone forever. Victor agrees and makes him a companion but kills her out of fear of them breeding and creating a race. The creature sees Victor kill his companion-to-be and the two fight for the last time.

While it is true that classic novels start off slow, it is worth it to read them until the end. It is easier to ease into classic literature with novels that include aspects of what you’re already used to reading. The familiarity is essential in transitioning!

-Sarah B., 12th grade