Frankenstein; Or, the Modern Prometheus

By Mary Shelley; Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.; @ 1818; my edition is 2004; 284 pages.

Believe it or not, Frankenstein shows up on many of the “to read” book lists.

I picked up Frankenstein because I’m tired of love stories. The story begins in Russia as our first narrator tells of his ambition to explore the North Pole. While in Archangel, he has a bit of boat and ice trouble and runs into Victor Frankenstein, a man who has a tragic story to tell. The rest of the story takes place in Switzerland.

Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was only 21.

And it appears she was quite scandalous for her time. She and Percy Shelley had an affair while he was still married. His wife, Harriet, not too long afterwards, committed suicide by drowning herself in a lake. Mary and Percy Shelley married soon thereafter. A few years later Percy Shelley also drowned in a boating accident. Quite a lot going on for a young female author of the early 1800s.

Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein as the result of a bet to see who out of Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and she could write the scariest story. Byron and Shelley never finished a book-length story, and Percy urged Mary to complete what she had started.

At its core, Frankenstein is a story about unchecked ambition and the consequences of disturbing the order of nature. In explanation of the subtitle, in Greek mythology, Prometheus stole fire from the gods to enable human progress and civilization. He is credited with the creation of man from clay. He was punished for his theft by Zeus, who sentenced Prometheus to eternal torment. Prometheus was bound to a rock, where every day an eagle was sent to feed on his liver. His liver would grow back every day, and every day the ordeal would be repeated. Nice, eh?

And while I didn’t want to think about love, the story shows the consequences of the deprivation of love. The monster turns evil because there is no one on Earth who can love his hideous form, not even his creator.

I found the structure of the story interesting. We have the first narrator, who has his goal of visiting the North Pole. He meets Victor Frankenstein, who then begins telling his tale in the first person. Then the monster Frankenstein’s story is told through Victor and also is portrayed in the first person. Then we come back out as Victor begins speaking again, and finally the first narrator takes over. The monster Frankenstein was very well spoken. That didn’t seem to ring true to me, even though it is explained in the story.

I have not seen the Frankenstein movies, so I have nothing to compare this to other than Young Frankenstein with Gene Wilder. So this book is nothing like that. It’s a pretty good read. I wasn’t scared, but I was intrigued.

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12 thoughts on “Frankenstein; Or, the Modern Prometheus

  1. Great review! ‘Frankenstein’ is one of my favourite classic/gothic novels. Shelley opened the path for many a novel afterwards about the consequences of science, and a new type of fantasy. Also, you can’t help but sympathise with the monster. 🙂

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  2. I cannot believe I have never actually read this book. It’s been on my ‘To-read’ list for years but for whatever reason, I’ve never picked up a copy. After your review, I think it’s time I get to reading it. I’m a huge fan of old films and Boris Karloff did a bang up job as the monster…er, considering it was in 1931 and movies still left a tad to be desired!

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  3. I have to add this to my “Next-to-read” list. I read Bram Stoker’s Dracula when I was really young and again, a couple of years ago. And the story still fills me with chills!

    And he aces descriptive writing!

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      1. Stephen King is another favorite of mine. When I was younger, I mostly read him for the thrills and after that wore off, I started reading him for his narration and language. Man, what a gifted writer!

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  4. I recently read Frankenstein for a Literature class. I didn’t like it very much. It wasn’t the story itself I didn’t like because it is an awesome concept. I guess for me it was that a lot of the prose was telling me what was going one, like when Frankenstein was being created I didn’t get a sense of what was really going on because I wasn’t seeing the horrors unfold. I read Dracula as well and I loved that book.

    I agree with bthodla in that Stephen King is my favorite writer. The Stand is my favorite so far. I also love Bag of Bones, Hearts in Atlantis, The Dome, and Misery. I love how he makes his characters so human and relatable.

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    1. I will definitely check out Steven King. I tried to read The Stand a couple of years ago, but it got too creepy for me….which means that King was doing his job well, but I wound up putting the book down. I didn’t like Frankenstein that much either. I think the story of the book is much more interesting than the book itself. The theme of the book is what is so enduring, I think.

      Thanks for your comment!

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