Thursday, October 31, 2013

31 Days of Books: Frankenstein

Hello lovelies!  In honor of our Halloween Plans, NT Live's encore screenings tonight, and in keeping with the spooky ending to my 31 Days project, I am pleased to offer you my final review: 

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Title:  Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus

Author:  Mary Shelley

Published:  1818

Year I read it:  2011

One sentence summary:  The horrors of a student's obsession, extreme isolation, and each individual's quest for significance - Frankenstein is the ultimate story of monsters and men and meaning in an empirically demanding world.

Interesting fact: On a dark and stormy night, on the shores of Lake Geneva, Mary Godwin (later Shelley); her lover, Percy Shelley; and their friend, Lord Byron were discussing re-animation and reading German ghost stories when Byron suggested they each attempt their own "supernatural" tale.  That night, 18-year-old Mary began what we now know as Frankenstein.

Three reasons to read it:
  • This text is fundamental to the cultural shift into the Modern era.  It's a novel that looks to answer things strictly empirically - and that included examining an anthropogenic creation.
  • One of my favorite papers from college included a reading of this novel's stance on race, class, and gender.  It's a fascinating study!  Frankenstein creates a new breed - a Monster; the Creature examines several strata of classes, noting pointed issues with how people treat each other; and Shelley succeeds in creating a female-less dystopia by the end of the novel.  If you're interested in examining "The Other," or the oppressed, this would be a very good book to read.
  • The dialogues and debates toward the middle of the book ask profound philosophical questions.  As the Creature asks questions of his twisted creator, you can almost hear the tortured author asking questions of her Creator.
One reason you maybe shouldn't:  
  • For having reached such significant position on the canonical shelf, Shelley's writing is often unbearably sloppy.  The book jumps forms between epistolary, long sections, and chapters.  The sometimes 4-layered framed narrative is a fascinating technique, but isn't executed the best.  I remember reading the beginning and the diction bothering me so much, I said aloud, "You were the daughter of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft!  You were writing after Jane Austen, for goodness sake.  I know you were young, but you should be able to craft a better sentence than that!"  I still respect the book loads, but I can't forgive some of her "stylistic choices"
Great quotes:

“Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it.” 
“If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear!” 
"Listen to me, Frankenstein. You accuse me of murder; and yet you would, with a satisfied conscience, destroy your own creature. Oh, praise the eternal justice of man!” 
“Hateful day when I received life!' I exclaimed in agony. 'Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemlance. Satan had his companions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him; but I am solitary and abhorred."
[One of my favorite quotes on Oxford]  "The spirit of the elder days found a dwelling here, and we delighted to trace its footsteps."
"It was on a dreary night of November, that I beheld the accomplishments of my toils."
“How dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to be greater than his nature will allow.” 

1 comment:

  1. Hello! I've recently started following your blog! Judging from what you've written on your "About" page we have many of the same interests. We're both Christians. We both love Sherlock and the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. We both studied English. You love England and I'm from England :) When you were in Oxford, what college did you study at?

    I saw the NT screening of Frankenstein and I thought it was amazing! It really helped that there was a packed audience. The atmosphere was electric. One thing that really surprised me about it was its humour. It was actually really funny in places and it got many laughs. And Benedict Cumberbatch was so fantastic as the Creature. I'm guessing that you saw it as well? What did you think?

    I haven't read the Mary Shelley novels in years and I didn't actually like it. I didn't like Shelley's writing style - but because I loved the NT version so much I'm now planning on re-reading it next year. I'm hoping that I'll get more from it.