Frankenstein Book Review by Pei Fu
In this suspenseful, tormenting tale, Mary Shelley lays bare the limitations of humanity that must not be defied. Merging science-fiction and Gothic horror, Frankenstein pushes readers’ conception of nature and morality. The foreshadowing and dreadful inevitability present throughout make it a frightening demonstration of how glory and genius may in fact brink on devastation.
The most powerful aspect of this book for me is Shelley’s ability to induce a wide range of emotions. From the beginning, she implies that a disastrous event will occur, keeping readers in ceaseless fear and anticipation. To add to this, she includes the motifs of thunder and storm, which create a hostile atmosphere and an unshakeable sense of foreboding. On the other hand, Shelley also conjures images of joy and wonder. She compels readers to empathize with the characters’ dreams and desires, and eventually also their fears and afflictions.
The majority of the story is told by the character Victor Frankenstein, who is described as “like a celestial spirit that has a halo around him” (Shelley). He is also said to possess a gentle nature, a wise mind, and touching eloquence. Since childhood, he has always nurtured a consuming curiosity about science and nature, and as he progresses in life, inspires admiration from both peers and professors. His passion for his studies and evident brilliance make him a captivating protagonist, and his first-person narrative allows readers to follow him as he advances step-by-step on his journey. Readers will also witness how his various qualities develop, evolve, and degrade, as Shelly proves that even the most outstanding are not safe from desolation.
The book is mainly set in Central and Western Europe during the 1800s. There are frequent references to rain and somber weather, as well as a scene of vaults and churchyards. While there is no particularly graphic horror, these settings add to the overarching theme of death and enhance the Gothic aspect of the story, causing the ominous tone to linger even when the plot seems to take a positive turn. Another notable location is a peaceful German countryside, captured in sunlight and harmony. The contrast makes it seem out of place, yet it contributes to Shelley’s idea that what appears to be pure and virtuous can rapidly deteriorate to evil and wretchedness.
One of Shelley’s main messages is that humans are powerless beings and should not believe themselves otherwise. There are restrictions regarding what they can achieve and what they should tamper with. This book cautions that humans must not fall under the spell of glory and ambition, but should instead be content with what they have around them. This teaches readers the importance of appreciation and acknowledging boundaries. Although dreams and ambition are seemingly innocent, a person must evaluate what would have to be done for them to satisfy that ambition, and prepare to face potential consequences.
I certainly enjoyed this novel, which is partly surprising because I am not a horror reader and often find it difficult to savour classics. However, Frankenstein contains many modern elements, and I feel like its most “horrific” component is not the monster, but how it exemplifies the dire and irreversible effects of one person’s actions. Mary Shelley is also undeniably adept as a writer. Her descriptions are complex and vivid, creating atmosphere and emotion, yet are still relatively easy to read. And despite the amount of internal monologue, it does not interfere with the rapid pacing and tension. Another key factor that may have led me to enjoy this book is how I did not hope for a light, cheerful read, but recognized the story’s harrowing nature.
All in all, I found Frankenstein a deeply memorable and well crafted story that has definitely left an effect on me. Readers are pushed to experience a wide set of emotions throughout the novel, and the tone, messages, and foreshadowing made the book suspenseful to the end. I rate this book as a 4.5 out of 5, and recommend it to anyone interested in negative arcs, or science and Gothic fiction. Even for readers who do not enjoy horror, this book can still make for an absorbing read.
Frankenstein Book Review by Amber Lynn
“My life might have been passed in ease and luxury; but I preferred glory to every enticement that wealth placed in my path.” - Mary Shelley, Frankenstein.
While on a trip with her husband and another couple, eighteen-year-old Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein—a gothic book that is one of the first science fiction novels to be written. Frankenstein is a frame story following Robert Walton’s letters to his sister. We first meet Walton when he’s on a ship to the North Pole. On his way there he meets Victor Frankenstein who was on the brink of death. This is when Frankenstein explains how he ended up in the middle of nowhere. He tells Walton about the timeline of him creating his monster.
Victor Frankenstein and Robert Walton are similar in many ways; they both are ambitious and feel as though others around them are too stupid or too pretentious to understand them. Because of this, they devote their time to their interests. They desire glory and they will do anything to gain it, which leads Frankenstein to his demise. Throughout the story, we witness the development—or lack of development—in Frankenstein and Victor.
The setting of Frankenstein proves to be especially important to the plot. From the university, Frankenstein attends to the villages and homes the monster Frankenstein created goes to after he is abandoned. They all fuel the plot and help it take on a new life that it wouldn’t have.
This is also true of the themes. Shelley displayed the consequences of excessive glory, ambition, acting like God, abandonment, and taking responsibility. All of these themes tie into the character development of the characters. The theme that was most influential to the real world was the discussion of science and attempting to create life. It led to many discussions of what is ethically and morally okay in experimentation and where we draw that line.
Mary Shelley influenced the world of science fiction and science in and of itself. Frankenstein sparked conversations in the literary and science communities. Who was the true monster? Were both Frankenstein and the monster at fault? What is going too far in scientific experimentation? Another aspect that I personally appreciate in Frankenstein is its easily digestible writing style. Most novels from this period of time are hard to follow and read for modern readers. It is even more difficult for those who are neurodivergent or have learning disabilities. As someone with ADHD most novels read in literature classes are arduous to read and leave me feeling incapable of reading. Frankenstein — though it still had its moments — was one of the easier pieces for me to read from the 1800s.
This read is perfect for the spooky season and is bound to provoke deep thought into many questions about life.
Frankenstein Book Review by Delaney Hendrick
Mary Shelley’s early nineteenth-century novel Frankenstein features not only a fascinating commentary reflecting the scientific progress and superstition surrounding it at the time, but also a compelling narrative constructed at the end of the romantic era. The romantic era was an artistic movement dominated by human emotion and nature. These elements are clear in the novel, as the word count, with no competition, is mostly lent to describing Victor Frankenstein’s emotions in the form of long, carefully-worded paragraphs packed with diction relating to nature. These inner monologues admittedly drag most of the time. But the general aura of the story wouldn’t be complete without the heart and soul added to it by Shelley through her characterization of Victor and his monster. Using the monster, the other characters’ perceptions of him, and their responses to his presence Shelley has reached many points which connect to readers all around. This story has remained a beloved piece because of these limitless interpretations. These include finding humanity in the most unbecoming of appearances, examining the ethical and moral boundaries of science, telling a story of a man haunted by his own creation, or rather, to some readers, himself. It is definitely a tedious read, for the vocabulary used is relevant to the time it was written and not modern literary vernacular. Despite this, it is worth reading due to the honest nature of Mary Shelley’s writing, in which her protagonist is simply a man who has made an irreversible mistake. Frankenstein should be particularly inspiring to female readers, as it was the first work of its kind. Science fiction was, before Mary Shelley’s remarkable introduction, unheard of. This is a genre jump-started by her as a young woman. For all readers, there’s a message to be found of creation. Whether it be creating a scientific monstrosity or an entirely new genre of literature, Frankenstein prompts audiences to think about their potential and create.