Book Review: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

 
 
Scientist Victor Frankenstein creates a being and gives him life, only to realize he's made a horrifying mistake in doing so. He abandons the monster he's created but can't seem to escape the effects of his actions. Meanwhile, the monster suffers in isolation and decides to find his maker and make a request of him.
 

 
Book Review: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley | reading, books, science fiction, classics, horror
Title: Frankenstein
Author:
Pages: 254
My Book Rating:
More Info: Goodreads, Amazon
 

Review:

*Warning: This review contains SPOILERS.*

I hated this book in high school and never imagined I’d reread it voluntarily, but here we are. And I actually didn’t hate it this time! Funny how these things work out, huh? I’ve read some articles about this book as well, and they talk about how this book is representative of everything from abandonment and isolation to dysfunctional father-son relationships to queerness, and honestly, if my English teacher had gone into more depth about that kind of stuff, I might have been more interested the first time around.

Anyway, I definitely sympathized with the monster. He was so utterly and completely alone. He spent years literally alone, living in sheds and caves and out in the wilderness, on the outside of humanity looking in. He was abandoned and isolated and treated horribly by everyone. Even his own creator did nothing but insult and shun him. The poor guy didn’t even have a name, and that’s just really sad.

But Victor… even though his actions were awful, I sometimes fell into the trap of wanting to sympathize with him too, even though I knew I shouldn’t, which I think is the sign of a well-written character. He made a mistake—a horrible mistake born of obsessive fervor and arrogance, but a mistake nonetheless. Haven’t you ever done something and then worried that someone would to find out or that something bad would come of it, even if it was just sneaking a cookie before dinner as a kid? Now imagine that feeling x100. And I can understand why he was hesitant to create another—he didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. So I think his feelings of despair and horror and guilt and grief made sense, if nothing else.

The way I see it, neither character is entirely free from blame—the monster murdered innocents, and nothing can excuse that—but Victor never should have created the monster in the first place if he was going to abandon him. It was essentially like someone having a child and then neglecting them. Once the monster was alive, it was Victor’s responsibility to care for him, and he failed entirely at that. He was selfish. I think I could have forgiven the mistake of making the monster in the first place if Victor had just taken responsibility and cared for him. Probably all the bad things could’ve been avoided if he’d done that. The creation wasn’t “born” a monster; it was the way he was treated that made him a monster.

Here’s another thought I had. Victor didn’t want to create a mate because he didn’t know if she’d turn out to be even more dangerous, right? But people have babies every day without knowing what they’ll be like when they grow up. Some people do become murderers. And the monster in the book only became one because he had no love or companionship. So by that logic, Victor probably should have just taken his chances and created a mate.

This book also made me ponder about souls—did the monster have a soul?—and what it really means for a thing to have life, but I won’t get into that.

But, as is the case with most of the classics I’ve read so far, the problem I had with this book was that it had so many words but so little meat. (Kind of like this review, to be honest. I don’t know how it got so long.) Everyone was so long-winded. There would be pages and pages about the despair a single character felt over a single thing that happened even though a couple short sentences could’ve expressed it just as well.

Also, I was surprised to find the depictions I’ve seen of Frankenstein in art/movies/media (bolts in his neck, criss-cross stitches everywhere, usually greenish skin and a flat head, walks in a lurching way) isn’t at all how he was described in the book.

His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion, and straight black lips.

No bolts, no stitches, no flat head. And he doesn’t lurch; he’s larger than the average human, but his limbs are in proportion, and he’s described as being agile and fast. The way I envision it (which is just my interpretation, not right or wrong), the reason he’s so horrifying isn’t because he’s so non-human but rather because he does look human, but… off. I like this artwork best of all the ones I’ve seen. He looks almost beautiful, but he’s just kind of tipped the scales into creepy and unnatural.

So, overall, I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. The writing was long-winded, but the story itself was thought-provoking.

*Note: The edition I read is the Kaplan SAT one. I’m not aware if there are any differences among different editions (other than the fact that mine had a bunch of SAT words with definitions).*

 
 
Book Blurb

Obsessed with the secret of creation, Swiss scientist Dr. Victor Frankenstein cobbles together a body he’s determined to bring to life. And one fateful night, he does. When the creature opens his eyes, the doctor is repulsed: his vision of perfection is, in fact, a hideous monster. Dr. Frankenstein abandons his creation, but the monster won’t be ignored, setting in motion a chain of violence and terror that shadows Victor to his death.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a gripping story about the ethics of creation and the consequences of trauma, is one of the most influential Gothic novels in British literature. It is as relevant today as it is haunting.

Revised edition: Previously published as Frankenstein, this edition of Frankenstein (AmazonClassics Edition) includes editorial revisions.

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  1. Greg

    Ooh Frankenstein. Never read it. TBH the monster always freaked me out. Bit I was okay with vampires and shit *go figure* although after reading your review maybe there’s more going on than I ever gave it credit for. Or realized is the better way to say it. I think you make a good point too that the monster became that way after being abandoned- he didn’t necessarily have to “be” a monster?

    I like the question about a soul too. Now THAT would be an interesting discussion post lol.

    Greg recently posted: Sunday Post #242

    1. Kristen Burns

      Lol of all things, it’s Frankenstein’s monster that freaks you out? Interesting! But yes, there’s a lot to this story. The poor monster was definitely shaped by his experience of being abandoned and shunned and completely alone.

      1. Greg

        More the way he brought something to life using dead people’s body parts? For some reason that always seemd SO creepy. If I have that right- obviously it’s been a while since I have seen any depictions, and I don’t think I ever read the book, which may be WAY different.

        Greg recently posted: Movies That Suck Mean Girls

  2. Jen

    Great review! I hate the way Frankenstein’s monster is depicted as green with bolts in his neck. I enjoyed Frankenstein. I find that many classics are hyped up and then they end up being like you said a lot of words but no bulk. I’m thinking of Great Gadsby and The Picture Of Dorian Grey. Frankenstein is one I enjoyed and did live up to its reputation

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, it kind of bothers me now that he’s always portrayed looking like that! I do find that most classics have so many more words than necessary, but if you can get past that, some of them are good!

  3. Jennrenee

    I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I would. I don’t normally like any classics. I think the monster did have a soul. He was able to think feel and decide. So yes to the soul and I always felt for the monster more than victor. I would have just made him a mate too. He only wanted a companion.

    Jennrenee recently posted: It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

    1. Kristen Burns

      I’m not normally a big fan of classics either. Oh, I definitely felt worse for the monster. I agree, I can’t blame him for just wanting a companion!

  4. Let's Get Beyond Tolerance

    I read this one back in high school and while I didn’t hate it, it was never really my favorite. I do find that classics are often way too lengthy. lol I like your thoughts on Victor and the Monster though; they both are sympathetic characters, but also ones that do horrible things.

    -Lauren

    Let's Get Beyond Tolerance recently posted: Medley by Layla Reyne

    1. Kristen Burns

      Seriously, most classics could easily be cut in half and not have the story affected, it seems. But yep, they both did horrible things, yet I found myself sympathizing with both at times!

  5. Laura @BlueEyeBooks

    I read this for school about a year ago and I had the same sorts of reactions. (except for Victor; I found him to be absolutely ridiculous. Even if he made a mistake, there was still the rest of his actions throughout the rest of the book and I couldn’t stop myself from yelling at him in my head. That scene in the Arctic, though!!) After I read the book, I was also kind of startled by the differing appearance of the monster in different arenas of culture. It’s really interesting to see the monster as someone who is almost normal but not quite and he’s shunned because of it. (honestly, it kind of reminds me of the different kinds of cultural exclusions going on at the time) Lovely review, Kristen!

    Laura @BlueEyeBooks

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    1. Kristen Burns

      Oh, I agree. Victor made one selfish decision after another. It was just, when I was in his POV or the POV of that guy he was telling his story too, sometimes I’d kind of forget that and start to feel for him, and I’d have to remind myself that this was his fault in the first place. Ooh that’s another great point/interpretation, how the way he was shunned could be compared to cultural exclusions. There are so many ways to look at this book! Thank you :-)

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, I was surprised. That must’ve just been one person’s interpretation—maybe the first movie?—and then everyone else ran with it. I also like the book description better.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Lol don’t worry, I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind :-P And in the end, I do think his actions were selfish and awful, but there were times when I started feeling bad for him and had to remind myself of that! Thanks :-)

    1. Kristen Burns

      I do sometimes feel the only reason some classics are so popular is because they’re already known as classics. But I can definitely see why this one has inspired so many adaptations! Thanks :-)

    1. Kristen Burns

      I was one of those students who read every single book that was ever assigned in high school lol. Including textbooks, usually. But yeah, I think plenty of people passed w/o ever doing the reading lol.

  6. Bookworm Brandee

    LOL Yes, being older and having a bit more perspective sometimes changes how we see or interpret things in literature. But you really may have enjoyed it more had your teacher dug a little deeper in the discussion. I love what you point out about both Victor and the monster…making mistakes, being isolated and alone, how Shelley created a well-developed character such that you were sympathizing with someone you didn’t like all that much…very thought provoking, Kristen. I’m happy you re-read this and got more out of it the second time around. :) I experienced the same with East of Eden. :)

    1. Kristen Burns

      It is interesting to reread books and see how our tastes change. But I do feel like my teachers in school never really made the discussions about books interesting? It was kind of just, “This is how you must interpret it, now do some projects.” Anyway, yes, I did think it was good writing to make me kind of forget how awful Victor was and start sympathizing with him sometimes! It was a very thought-provoking book. Glad you’ve had a similar experience!

  7. Suzanne @ The Bookish Libra

    I haven’t read this book since I was in college but I remember thinking many of the same things about it. It always made me wonder how we got from the monster in this book to the green, lurching monster with bolts in his neck that we see in so many movies, etc.

    I also agree with your comment about so many words but so little meat. I read somewhere that some authors were paid by the chapter or word in the 1800’s and it seems like that made so many of the classics a lot more wordy than they needed to be.

    Suzanne @ The Bookish Libra recently posted: Review: TWENTY-ONE DAYS by Anne Perry (A Daniel Pitt Novel)

    1. Kristen Burns

      Seriously, the monster is so different. I guess this version wasn’t monstrous enough for the screen? And once one person adapted a certain way, everyone else followed suit.

      Oh, that’s true, I’ve also heard that some authors were paid by word. That certainly would explain why so many classics are so wordy lol.

  8. Luna & Saturn

    Nice review<3 We can see why you thought the writing really dense, but personally, we absolutely loved it because of that. There's a lyricism in the prose. It's cool how you managed to sympathise with Victor, but we couldn't – like you said, he just completely abandoned his creation. The whole idea of just abandoning a creature because it's ugly didn't sit well with us. We also felt sorry for the monster until he started murdering – you're right, it's just inexcusable. We're actually in a different boat to you, we want our English teacher to choose Frankenstein for study!

    ~ Luna & Saturn @ Pendragons

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thank you :-) Everyone has different taste, that’s one of the beautiful things about books. I’m glad you two liked the writing more than I did! It was kind of like, when I was in his POV, or seeing him from the POV of the guy on the ship, it was easy to kind of forget how awful his actions were and thus feel for him. But I absolutely agree, what he did wasn’t ok. And then, yeah, I did feel for the monster, but I also couldn’t just excuse the murder. Victor might’ve been willing to create a partner for him if it hadn’t been for that. So it’s interesting to think about how neither was completely free from blame. Ah, well maybe you’ll get lucky and your teacher will choose it!

  9. Sam @ Spines in a Line

    Oh no, I loved this book in high school! But I agree, it was pretty long-winded, which is why I didn’t use it for any projects lol
    And yeah, Frankenstein is much different in the book than the ways he’s been portrayed

    1. Kristen Burns

      That’s awesome that you loved it! I hated most of the required reading in HS, but there were a few I liked, this just wasn’t one of them lol. It’s so weird how the original monster is so different from all the portrayals though!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks! Yes, it’s interesting how I still sympathized with a character despite him being a murderer, but it was terrible how alone he was! And you’re the first person to say they also sympathized with Victor. It’s definitely thought-provoking!

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  11. Amy

    Brilliant review :) I’m re-reading this book at the moment, and I love it. I totally agree with all your points, too. Did u know they’re making a movie about Mary Shelley and where she supposedly got the inspiration for this novel? I’ve watched the trailer and it looks so good!

    Amy recently posted: Monthly Wrap-Up: April-May

    1. Kristen Burns

      Lol that’s definitely the most fun version.

      I didn’t think I’d reread a book I disliked, but the mood struck. Who knows, maybe you will end up rereading some too ;-)

  12. Olivia (Vinjii)

    I’ve somehow followed you on Twitter but have not followed your blog yet. Rectifying that! I still haven’t read this. I tried a few times and never stuck with it. I really should. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Very interesting review!

    1. Kristen Burns

      It’s so hard to keep track of who we’re following where! This book is definitely dense with the words, but it’s a very thought-provoking story! Thank you!

  13. Daniela Ark

    Was it like Mary Shelly anniversary or something? I ask because I NEVER used to see this book around and then PUFF! it was everywhere last week and I then I got it because I saw the freebie on Amazon LOL [I’m so easily influenced hahaha. Look everyone is reading but me LOL]

    And now I see your review here! Did I miss something? I bet I did :)

    Isn’t interesting how our tastes change? I love books where you are not really sure don’t know where you stand with the characters :) How interesting that the monster was not at all how it is described in movies! I read somewhere we humans find someone that looks human but it is a little off more terrifying than an actually monster non-human all the way.

    With classics (especially in English) I worry I’d find the writing style tough to get through. So I know this is going to be another one I’ll be contemplating for a while before I actually read it LOL

    1. Kristen Burns

      There’s a movie coming out that I’ve heard about? But idk, I didn’t read/review this now for any special reason, it was just what I felt like lol.

      It is interesting how our tastes change, sometimes in just a year even! Yep, I love when books actually make me feel conflicted about the characters! Exactly, I’ve never read that, but that was how I felt about the way the monster was described and why other people in the book reacted the way they did to him. Maybe because when someone looks human but a little off, we’re able to see ourselves in them.

      Yeah, that’s the biggest negative about classics :-/

  14. Danya @ Fine Print

    Sometimes I reflect on all the books I had to read in my undergrad (English/history double major) and it amazes me how many of them I disliked…because I feel differently about them now. Required reading is such a joy-killer sometimes, lol. I did love Frankenstein the first time I read it though, with all the rumination on what it means to be born, have life, and die. It’s particularly poignant and heart-wrenching when you know more about Mary Shelley’s life. Related: I’m very excited to see the new biopic about her soon!

    Danya @ Fine Print recently posted: Romance Review Roundup: Vol. 10

    1. Kristen Burns

      Required reading was definitely a killjoy cuz there was no room to enjoy it or come up with your own thoughts. You were forced to read it within a certain time and then told what to think about it. And our tastes change over time, so I I probably just wasn’t at a point in time where I was interested in those books. But yes, rereading Frankenstein, I loved how thought-provoking it was. I keep hearing so much about Mary Shelley, she definitely sounds interesting!

  15. Olivia Roach

    I actually really REALLY like this classic! I totally agree with you about it not really being either one’s fault and having a lot of sympathy for them both. Most of my sympathy went to the monster, really, especially when Frankenstein destroyed the female. But then his revenge was so severly thought out and horrible that I started to sympathise for Victor too… The downside is that the female characters in this one are so weak – which surprises me because it’s written by a female author in a time when that wasn’t really applauded; so I thought she might have made them stronger figures to counteract and claim women can do something. I also agree that it is quite wordy. But then again, I give classics a little more leeway than modern day books with wordiness and generally don’t mind too too much.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly! I sympathized with both, but it was the monster who really deserved the sympathy, but then he did such horrible things too… so I kept running around in circles of who to blame or feel bad for lol. Probably in order for her book to be taken seriously she had to write about male characters :-/ And let’s be honest, she didn’t portray these male characters in a good light lol.

  16. Tizzy

    Frankenstein has always been one of my favourites and it certainly is thought-provoking. You could interpret the story as symbolic of God’s creation and abandonment of mankind. One of my favourite quotes is: “Did I request thee maker to mould me man? Did I solicit thee from darkness to promote me?” The creature struggles to live up to the expectations of his creator, yet he didn’t ask to be made and his shortcomings are not his fault. Frankenstein himself is the real monster here. When I studied the book at school I remember reading that before Mary Shelley wrote the novel she had a baby that sadly passed away at only 12 days old. In her journal, she wrote that she had a dream in which she rubbed the baby in front of the fire and it came back to life. It seems like it could have inspired her, so heartbreaking :(

    1. Kristen Burns

      It’s very thought-provoking. I had not thought of that interpretation, although I personally see it more like a parent abandoning a child. Everything you said about how he didn’t ask to be made yet struggles to live up to the expectations of his creator, I feel like that applies to kids and parents too. But yes, what Frankenstein did by abandoning him was wrong. Oh I didn’t know that about Mary Shelley, but that does sound like it could’ve been inspiration for the story. That is really sad though :-(