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,┬ábe 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