Written by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

My review

I. Introduction:

    A. Brief overview of Frankenstein

    B. Importance of Mary Shelley’s work in literature

Frankenstein was the beginning of the horror and science fiction genres. It the story of Frankenstein’s obsession with natural science that created his downfall. It begins with hope and ends with despair. One mistake led to the destruction of a man and his family.

This is the first time I have read it and it captivated me with the greatness of the story-telling. She was a master at the craft. The changes in POV and the emotion you felt was so compelling in was brought along into a story of a man whose intelligence and ingenuity brought him such complete and utter despair. And this during a time in which the female abilities in intellectual pursuits were not just accepted but suppressed by society. I say Bravo!

II. Summary of Frankenstein

    A. Plot summary

    B. Analysis of major themes

From reading this book, you can really see how important to recognize that actions have consequences. His obsession was the end of all that he loved in the world, his family. That obsession turned into vengeance which broke him entirely. We see that the creature brought into the world to be loathsome to humanity caused it to despair from loneliness. Victor caused the suffering of all around him although not realizing it until it was too late. Some say the themes are family, love and hate, which is true but fundamentally considering that actions have consequences really struck me as the lesson we learn from this story.

III. Character analysis

    A. Victor Frankenstein

    B. The Creature

    C. Other significant characters

Victor was a young man filled with the desire for knowledge. He wanted to learn all that he can, read as much as he could about natural science and whatever he could that was available. He found fellow intellectuals but his curiosity grew beyond the limits. He was someone who pushed boundaries. A single minded obsession that even caused him to make himself suffer in its pursuit. He was gifted but misguided by his own folly.

The creature had that same desire for knowledge. He learned much during the first years of his existence. Watching, reading, and observing. It was the limitations of humanity that drew out the evil from within it.

The other characters, Elizabeth, Victor’s father, Cherval and professors all created a structure of goodness within the story. They are juxtaposed to the evil that came from Victor. We see light and dark, good and evil. 

IV. Themes and motifs

    A. Ambition and hubris

    B. Nature vs. nurture

    C. Alienation and loneliness

    D. Responsibility and consequences

Victor was certainly the poster boy for ambition and hubris. His desire for knowledge without understanding the consequences was fully explored in this story. The creature was flung into the world by his creator, Victor, and left on his own with no guidance and affection. He was on his own from the beginning. And then he was rejected. As the creator, Victor was responsible for what he created but he abandoned it out of disgust. To not think that this may be a consequence shows ignorance of nature of life. Although the creature, made from human parts, not really human but more powerful, had human feelings but reactions were swift and became instinctual, animal like. 

V. Writing style and narrative techniques

    A. Epistolary format

    B. Use of framing devices

    C. Gothic elements

I found the way that Shelley use of varying POV was refreshing. It was a letters from a man to his sister, to a strangers story of his life, a story from the creatures point of view, and back to the end of the story. The story is dark, with impending doom from a monster who seeks revenge by destroying all that Victor loves in his life in recompense to a wrong inflicted on him. 

VI. Historical and cultural context

    A. Shelley’s influences and inspirations

    B. Reception and impact of the novel

This was the beginning of some story telling genres. A huge influence for today. It had mixed reviews at the original publication but it is highly praised today, considered a classic piece of literature. 

VII. Critical reception and legacy

    A. Initial reviews and reactions

    B. Influence on literature and popular culture

    C. Modern interpretations and adaptations

It had mixed reviews when it was initially published anonymously. Some critics were disgusted, others praised the originality of the work. Then they found out it was written by a woman. That changed things. She was perceived as unladylike and nothing like her famous author father and poet husband. Readers still like it. It has been adapted into plays and translated into other languages. I watched a recent play done by Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, who took turns playing Victor and the creature. It was brilliant. I would like to watch again now that I read the story and understand what I am watching. I think that I should be required reading. 

VIII. Personal evaluation and conclusion

    A. Thoughts on the novel’s strengths and weaknesses

    B. Overall assessment of its enduring relevance and significance.

Overall, it is a strong story, filled with dark themes but a lesson to be learned. The language is from a different centuries so probably difficult for young people to read today. They would have to use a dictionary a lot to understand many words. I think it is still relevant.  As a writer myself, I find reading how other’s write very helpful in my own writing. She weaves this tale, creating a connection with this characters, making us care about them, even the creature, that helps us today to write well and engage our readers. This is an example of character driven story with the plot in the background. I am grateful that the genre was created because without it would we have Star Trek, Star Wars, or comic books. It is quite a legacy. 

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My chapter synopsis: spoilers ahead.

Letters – 

From Robert Walton to his sister, Margaret 

He is on a voyage and adventure. He is sharing his experiences with his dear sister. While gathering his crew of courageous men, he is plagued by cold and loneliness, he longs for a friend to whom he can find comfort and a means to keep him in check. He retells a story of a sledge and the occupants, a man and dog. The day earlier they had seen another but he thought it was just an apparition and dismissed it. The rescued man was in pursuit of the other man but lost him. The ship was stuck in ice. The stranger decides to tell his tale to his rescuer. Walton expressed his desire for a friend of the same mind, he expressed this desire to the stranger. This is why, after much contemplation, he desires to tell him his tale.

Chapter 1

The opening was the foundation of the family. Of a mother, a destitute orphan who nursed her father till he died in her arms. To be left with a protective spirit and who brought her to Geneva under the protection of a family member and became his wife. There was quite an age difference but love for her virtues. She had seen much suffering. A child born to them, the POV narrator, during their travels through Italy. The years spent there in Italy the would help the destitute. Amongst them, they chanced upon an orphan girl, a blond angelic fair girl who became part of their little family, after the mother convinced the family to let them adopt her. They felt obligated to take care of her but their means of living had shifted and they had many mouths to feed so they agreed.

Chapter 2

The pov narrator. Victor is his name describes his early education in comparison to Elizabeth. The adopted sister. Her angelic nature is contrasted with introverted nature and bad temper which he connects with his sincere desire to learn and knowledge is his passion. He stumbles upon books by Agrippa that he find fascinating which his father after being shown pronounces them trash which instead of disregarding them as such makes them more intriguing to him. He is looking back and this is where he attributes to his downfall. It starts him on a bad path. The chapter ends with the big oak tree being struck by a power strike of lightning which obligates the tree which further fascinates a young Victor. A reflection of destiny the narrator describes. This was the start of a dark path. 

Chapter 3 – this day “decided my future destiny” – victor

It was decided that it was time for Victor to go to college to study. Natural science. It was unfortunately delayed because of scarlet fever. First Elizabeth, who was nursed back to health by Victor’s mother, who then caught it and unfortunately died. She was sad on her deathbed that she was leaving them at the earliest of stages, she left the charge of the family to Elizabeth. During the time of mourning, he went to Ingolstadt for college. He was introduced to new ideas and it was he was on his way to creating his own to “pioneer his own way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation.” 

Chapter 4 – Science becomes his soul occupation at the neglect of everything else. He is trying to create a new species of human. The parts procured from various place, slaughterhouses, graves, dissecting rooms. He had a secret he was holding back from the reader that he will reveal at a later date. It was exciting. He was to become the father of a new creation. His preoccupation was deeply felt by his family, particularly his father who would write about his concerns and questions about why they have heard nothing from him. This chapter saw the narrator moralizing humans. How they should neglect their family and be too overly involved in their endeavors such as scientific study. He was so fully engrossed in his work that was causing harm to himself.

Chapter 5 – elation turns into despair

Frankenstein has finally come to the end. A spark animates his creature. It was a success. What he longs for and what he ignored all other things but fully focused on was brought to life. But instead of joy he is filled with regret. He is sickened by what he created and flees the confines of his apartment. While walking through the city he is met by a friend from home, Cherval, who has also come to study as he was getting off the coach. As the got closer to his apartments, his fear grew because when he fled he left the creature there. Flinging the door open he finds that it too had fled the apartments to he knows not where. During the evening discussion with his dear friend, all the months of lack of sleep and proper food took hold and he was severely sick with his friend as his nurse. It was touch and go and finally he was lucid enough as he healed to read the letter that arrived a month ago from his family. 

Chapter 6 Letter from Elizabeth

The letter from Elizabeth is filled with love and news of home. His father longs to see him, as well as she. They all hope to hear from him personally soon. There is some gossip of family friends. 

He writes back and plans on a visit but is hampered by the weather. He spends time with Cherval. He is introduced to his professors who shower Victor with praise for his studies and his intelligence. The two also take rambles through the countryside. There is much happiness all around. 

Chapter 7 – Letter from Father

Sad news is brought to Victor by his father. His little brother William is dead – murdered during a walk with family by someone for the locket he wore with the image of his dead mother. He is immediate bereft and seeks to see his family and returns. The city is shut up and must wait till morning. That night a terrible storm rages and he returns to the scene of the crime and what does he see? In Horror, he sees the creature he created 2 years prior, lurking in the trees and escapes climbing the mountain. Once Victor sees the creature he knows that this is what killed his dear brother. The fiend! When he finally sees his family he is told that the murderer had been caught and will be tried for the murder that very day. He is so confused because he saw the murderer escape. Justine, a family friend, was arrested for the murder because the servant found the locket in her possession. Victor and Elizabeth both declare her innocent. They each know, for different reasons, that she is incapable of killing William. 

Chapter 8 – the trial of Justine

The trial of Justine for the murder of the child William occurred with circumstantial evidence. Despite the pleas of innocence and character witnesses, she was found guilty then because of the demand of her priest to confessed she did and found even more suffering because of her innocence. Victor knew who killed William. Him. By his creature. And his knowledge plagued him. He knew that any protestations would be from a madman. So was hanged the next morning as a murderess. The real culprit being free.

Chapter 9 – the Aftermath and despair

The chapter unfolds in the depths of the families despair over the past events. The deaths of the child and Justine and the innocent one, both cut short. Victor experiences severe depression. He is devastated deeply because he knows he is the cause of all the suffering they are experiencing. His father tells him he is overdoing his emotions, Elizabeth is melancholic but she senses his is deeper but doesn’t understand why??? He spends his evenings on a boat on the lake, alone with his grief and guilt and tears of intense sadness. Then he leaves his home, bound for Mt Blanc and the valley of Chamounix. Trying to find the joy that he had at boyhood. He is trying to escape the sadness and his grief but  the remembrance brings it back and he is off again. He seeks ‘some relief of my intolerable sensations’. The guilt is overbearing and suffocating to his spirit.

Chapter 10 – He climbs

Within the valley he finds comfort within nature. ‘The effect of some nixing my mind and causing me to forget the passing cares of life’. He climbs to the glacier a league of ice before him and he continues to climb. A figure ahead of him he notices and it comes closer. It is the creature that is the cause of all his unhappiness. His creature. His fault. Despair is replaced with anger. The creature, although stronger, wants to tell him his story before Victor passes judgement on him. He is willing to have his life ended by his creator but he requests Victor to listen to all his misery he experienced after his creation caused by others. Victor although angry agrees and the go to the hut where the creature has found solace away from others. They sit before the fire and the tale begins. 

Chapter 11 Creature’s story begins.

The story begins with much adapting to life, to discovery and to human need and desire. He adapted to hunger and satiating his appetite. He observed and used what he found. When he stumbles upon a village, the villagers scare him off. He find refuge within a pig sty against a cottage where a little girl, young man and old man live. He watches them secretly. Cries with the sound of the music from the old man and listens intently to the young man as he reads, although he understands nothing of words and stories.

Chapter 12 the creature’s story continues

The creature describes his life with his little hovel beside the cottage of a family. He spends time watching and learning. He learns that they are poor and often go hungry. He watches as they go about their business and sees that his can help during the night when they are asleep. They are astounded at the fire wood that gets replenished during the night. During the winter, the snow is miraculously removed from the walkway leading to their one cow that gives the family milk. He watches the love each other. He learns words to describe people. Father, sister, brother and son. He learned that the water from the clouds is called rain. His desire is to know enough words to hold a conversation with this family but he is still afraid. He is afraid they will see him like those villagers who attacked him. He recognizes his ugliness but he is lonely.

Chapter 13 – Visitors to the cottage

Spring has arrived along with visitors who are quite welcomed by the family. The creature watches. Agatha and the Arabian he refers to them. At this point is where the creature increases his understanding of language and words, desiring to understand more about the cottagers. He listens to the young man read from a book about the history of civilizations. Greek, Rome and its down fall, and the terrible fate at the hands of men the native people of the new world. He ponders the nature of man. “Was man, indeed, at once so powerful, so virtuous and magnificent, yet so vicious and base?” He compares himself to regular men. He is more swift, able to live in rougher conditions, and subside on rougher food than regular men. He learned the differences in fathers and mothers. Men and women. He recognizes that the love and care from a family he didn’t have in his life.

Chapter 14 – The family’s tale 

The creature relates the reason of the families poverty. Once wealthy Parisians, they found themselves in trouble with the law because the son Felix broke a prisoner out of jail and helped him escape. The man was in prison, set to be executed basically because he was Muslim. The man’s daughter, Safie and Felix, were in love but the man used Felix and his family, not wanting his daughter to be married to a Christian and Sadie had no interest in going back to become a part of someone’s harem. This is the reason why the family is destitute. Their fortune was completely wiped out when both the father De Lacy and the daughter were imprisoned for supporting Felix in his plan. This is the visitor. Safie had found where Felix was living and traveled from Italy to Germany to be reunited with him and the family that did so much for her.

Chapter 15 – Revelations

The creature describes to Frankenstein his decision to reveal himself to the people he has been living with for many months. He starts this part with the discovery of a trunk with books that he reads and learns more about language and contemplates his nature. There are papers he took from Frankenstein when he departed after his creation describing his creation and the feelings of his creator. He begins to love virtue and hate vice. When he decides to meet those with whom is leaving, he is afraid because he knows they will reject them even though he has come to love them. He wants with much trepidation to begin with De Lacey who is blind and will not be affected by his monstrous appearance. He is able to get the sympathy from the blind man but when the other three come home, one lady faiths, the other retreats and the creature is beaten by Felix. The creators flees after much pain and returns to his hovel. 

Chapter 16 – despair and murder and treachery.

This is where the creature begins to fully feel the weight of his deformity. All who meet him instantly declare him monsterous. Harsh judgment. The family moves out of the house and it angers the creature. He burns the house later that evening and dwells in the forest in misery and dispair. He makes his way toward the home of his creator. His anger and murderous heart has developed. He passes much time in the forest. One event is a little girl running past and falling into the water. He saves her life but when others see him he is assaulted and shot. His wound compounds his hurt. He finds the home of his creator. When he comes across the little brother, in his attempt to make him his friend, he kills him. He takes the necklace and places it on the girl he finds sleeping in a barn. It is his vengeance for his misery. He was not asked to be brought forth into the world and it is compounded by the reactions of humans that kills his spirit. 

Chapter 17 – The creature makes its request.

The story ends with the request from the creature to his creator. A female companion. One who he can love and will love him. He feels that he will end his misery and end the violence from his loneliness. He reasons with Frankenstein who at first refuses out of fear of not just one wreaking havoc, there will be two. Promises are made to leave where all men live with his companion to live out their lives in peace. Eventually, Frankenstein agrees to the creation of a female creature. He returns home, haggard and wild, but remains silent to his family. 

Chapter 18 – a task

He avoided the task from the creature. His father is greatly distressed by his melancholic demeanor. He expresses his desire for Victor to marry Elizabeth. It would make him very happy they are settled and Victor agrees. Victor is now determined to finish the creature’s spouse so he can then focus on his own happiness. He needs to take a trip to England and gives his father a pretense of the reason so he will allow the travel. His companion is Cherval. He expresses appreciation for his friend and continues his story about his feelings and the travel the two men made to England. The difficulties and the sights they saw including abandoned Castles. 

Chapter 19 – Trip to England

They were at their point of rest for a few months. Cherval wanted to go to Scotland. His interest was to visit men of genius and talent. Frankenstein used his letters of introduction, addressed to distinguished natural philosophers. Victor continued in misery, thinking of what he needed to do. He needed materials for his work for the creature, “like a torture of single drops of water continually falling on the head.” They spent time at Windsor, then to Oxford onward north toward Scotland. Cherval’s was quite excited for the company of intelligent and talented men. Victor needed to do his work in solitude and requested Cherval in Perth. He agreed to separate but not for too long. Victor found in the remotest part of the Orkney’s a barren land, beaten, a forgotten hut where he found suitable for his work in solitude, “a filthy process”. His fear of seeing the creature persisted. He thought that he would follow him and would encounter what he dreaded the most. He felt sick at the process because of the evil intent. 

Chapter 20 – 

Victor decides that it is too dangerous to proceed with his creation of a female. What would she want to do? The creature promised to go far away from humans but would she agree? Would she like him? Maybe she is even more murderous. He could not go on. He destroys the progress he had made and then the fiend arrived. Victor breaks his promise. Threats are made, the fiend departs on the boat toward the mainland. Victor can’t leave the mess of his experiments so he decided that in the middle of the night he will dispose of the parts to the sea, undetected. He falls asleep on the boat and drifts off to sea, far from land. He contemplates his life and it amazed at how even in the depth of despair humans wish to continue living. He eventually finds land and a town but is treated suspiciously. There was a death and they lead him to the magistrate. 

Chapter 21

The body was found by towns people who tried to revive him but no hope. After Victor is led to the magistrates there are witnesses of him alone in the boat and they suspected that after depositing the body he found he way to the exact same spot. Victor is led to the body to see his reaction. Agony! It is his dear friend Cherval, strangled, the same black bruises on his neck as his brother. His reaction is so severe he is sick for 3 months in fever and delirium. He awakes in a cell with a woman who was to keep watch over him. He is taken care of during his torment by a benefactor who pays for a doctor and makes sure he gets the best space in the prison. The benefactor, Mr. Kirwin, tells him that he has written to those names he finds on Victors person, letters to his family. His father has arrived and he is ecstatic. The trial occurs and it was established that he was on the Oarkney islands still when the body was found so he was exonerated. They head home, Victor a broken man filled with nightmares.

Chapter 22

He and his father continue their travels toward Geneva. Victor receives a letter from Elizabeth wondering if their impending marriage is still something he wants but she suspects that during his travels he may have found another. She doesn’t want to pressure into marriage with her that was arranged when they were young if he isn’t agreeable, just out of family loyalty. He writes back to tell her he wants to marry her but he has a deep dark secret that he will reveal to her after they are married. The marriage happens, he is guarding himself with a gun and a dagger just in case the creature attacks him. He tells the listener of his tale that his fear of the creature attacking himself was foolish. A greater evil was to occur. They leave for their new home, land that Elizabeth had inherited from her family that Victor’s father pushed the government into giving to her. They sail and he feels at peace…

Chapter 23 – revenge

The monster, on their wedding night, murders his beloved Elizabeth. She is found on their bed, life extinguished. He is again in despair and out of fear he returns to Geneva as soon as he can to make sure his family is alive still. The news of Elizabeth’s death causes his father to die of shock of loss, a broken heart of someone he loved so much. victor now is bent on revenge and the capture of the villian. He seeks a magistrate and describes the killer of his family. He is doesn’t believe there is anything that can be done since Victor has described his superhuman abilities. He leaves in anger, a new purpose he finds.

Chapter 24 the end

He continues his story about his decision to end all his connection to Geneva forever and chases the fiend who has taken everything away from him. All those whom he loved. He gets close but his is always just out of reach. With the loss of his dogs and the cracking of the ice, he is when he finds the ship stuck. He gradually loses his health more and more everyday. Frankenstein, from all his turmoil, is on his deathbed. His spirit to rally remains for those on the ship to face the danger heroically when ask for the captain to return to England. He makes the captain, the one who listened to the story of the creature to kill him when he is gone. He writes letters to his sister with the news of the story of the daemon and Frankenstein and the perils of the trip. Facing death every day, stuck in the ice. When the ice melts he relents and decides to head back to England. Frankenstein is upset but his power is gone. He is gone. The captain finds the creature lamenting the loss of his creator. He feels his anguish at his existence. He will end his life on a pyre, enjoying the flames extinguishing his life. And he flees.

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