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Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 16, 2006 7:33 am    Post subject: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein Reply with quote

I have been reading Frankenstein lately, and am finding it to be quite a surprise. Shocked Halfway done and loving it. Very Happy

I think I have seen too many cheesy and bad movies based upon this novel, as my expectations were fairly low. Confused

But this book is turning out to be both very intelligent and very literate. Very Happy Shelley's prose is a joy to read. Cool

And there are so many interesting things to think about. Smile

For example - Frankenstein works on building his monster for about the time of a human pregnancy. And then he seems to suffer from horrible and debilitating postpartum depression after he is finished. Smile
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 17, 2006 10:26 pm    Post subject: Re: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein Reply with quote

duchess of malfi wrote:
I have been reading Frankenstein lately, and am finding it to be quite a surprise. Shocked Halfway done and loving it. Very Happy

I think I have seen too many cheesy and bad movies based upon this novel, as my expectations were fairly low. Confused

But this book is turning out to be both very intelligent and very literate. Very Happy Shelley's prose is a joy to read. Cool



Yeah, years of cinematic poisoning left me mostly disinterested in reading Frankenstein. In a rush to get out the door I added it to a collection of books I took on vacation with me twelve years ago and was really impressed with it.

I agree, it's well written. I suppose Shelley, like the rest of the group she associated with, was well educated and very literate in literature.

With the exception of Branagh's version (still a bit overdramatic for me) none of the movies did justice to Shelley's work. Mad
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 17, 2006 11:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Same reaction all around. The movies share the name and nothing else.

Mary Shelly herself suffered postpartum depression after a very difficult pregnancy. The child lived only two weeks and was never named. The idea of offspring as enemy really stands out.

The monster himself reminds me a lot of Khan Noonian Singh. Considering the theme of the original episode, Frankenstein is a logical inspiration.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2006 2:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Can I ask which version you're reading, Duchess? I've only read the original 1818 text; I understand that the 1832 revision, which is more widely known, has some significant changes.
A great book, anyhow.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2006 2:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I read it once a while back. I thought that most of it is thought-provoking, but there were some stretches that were outright boring. That dang Charles Dickens - whom I detest - got everyone stretching out their novels with a lot of filler.

The interesting thing about Frankenstein is that the novel's legacy lives on quite strong and well. But you won't find it in a movie with that name. It lives on in every novel or movie or even graphic novel which is a cautionary tale about "playing God".
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2006 5:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Murrin, I will check on the date/edition for you. Smile The book is upstairs and I am downstairs, and I have not had enough caffeine yet today to willingly move if I do not need to. Then again, the Mountain Dew is upstairs... Wink

Wayfriend, I was surprised in the introduction when they mentioned that this novel is one of the great original science fiction/horror novels - but that Shelley also wrote one of the first science fiction/post-apocalyptic novels where a man is left alone wandering the earth after a plague kills off the rest of the human race. Shocked
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2006 5:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

duchess of malfi wrote:
Wayfriend, I was surprised in the introduction when they mentioned that this novel is one of the great original science fiction/horror novels - but that Shelley also wrote one of the first science fiction/post-apocalyptic novels where a man is left alone wandering the earth after a plague kills off the rest of the human race. Shocked

Yes, Shelley is certainly a "founding mother" of science-fiction. And her approach - using science as a vehicle for exploring what it means to be human - is what I consider science fiction to be ultimately "for". As opposed to, say, "Transformers". I just don't like her prose, sorry.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2006 6:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Murrin wrote:
Can I ask which version you're reading, Duchess? I've only read the original 1818 text; I understand that the 1832 revision, which is more widely known, has some significant changes.
A great book, anyhow.


i read both for an english class and remember liking the earlier version (1818) best.

(altho i have to admit i can't remember what the revisions were i remember thinking they weren't necessary or didn't serve the story all that well)
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2006 7:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I believe it was made more 'conventional' in many ways (a lot of subtextual social criticism in the original, IIRC). Can't remember the details, but my edition has an appendix which listed most of the significant changes that were made for the later text. I might have a look.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 19, 2006 5:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Murrin, I am reading the 1831 edition.

According to the introduction, most of the changes made were backing off from some of the radical (for that time) ideas of politics and feminism (Elizabeth is no longer educated with Victor and his intellectual equal, etc).

Wayfriend, it is OK that you do not like her prose style. Smile I have a similar problem with most of Charles Dickens' writings. I can recognize their importance, but I do not like the way most of them are written. He could be brilliant in short stories such as A Christmas Carole, and I wish he had worked in that form more often. Smile He just told a great story and did not get off on a million tangents. Cool
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 19, 2006 11:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've been reading the notes in my edition again to remind myself of what it was, and thought I'd post some,because I find this kind of thing very interesting. This is from the appendix to the Oxford World's Classics edition of the 1818 text.

Quote:
APPENDIX B

The third edition (1831): Substantive changes

This appendix first summarizes the types of change made in 1831, before listing them individually.
1. As a more practised, polished writer, MWS regularly ampliphies descriptive passages or introduces reflective ones. She gives Frankenstein and to a lesser extent Walton an inner life and a conscience. The most extensive and significant changes occur at the beginning (the most crudely written part of the 1818 text): the first chapter is sufficiently amplified to be divided into two chapters. By the standards of early Victorian literary taste, and still by many standards, these changes enhance the book.
2. The characters of Walton, Frankenstein, and Alphonse Frankenstein are all softened, made more sympathetic and admirable. Walton acquires a gentle, almost feminine character, literariness, and an even greater propensity than in 1818 to hero-worship Frankenstein. Alphonse Frankenstein is still old when he marries, but much haler than before, and his marriage is in 1831 an ideal one. But the most significant changes occur in the narration of Frankenstein, who is partly absolved of blame for his early errors (now put down to bad influences), yet also reproaches himself more than in the first version.
3. Frankenstein's education is heavily rewritten. As before, it is largely scientific. But the family's ignorance of science is now stressed, so that the young boy is left to his own devices, and his involvement with Renaissance science or magic becomes a childish enthusiasm. A stranger teaches him about electricity, not his father (who thus escapes the blame too). The first identifiable villains in this version of the story are his teachers at Ingolstadt--a notoriously unorthodox university--who teach him bad knowledge.
4. Partly via Walton, Victor Frankenstein's character is now built up as admirable. His own description of his early craving for knowledge becomes desire for the ideal--a quintessentially Romantic search for 'the inner spirit of nature and the mysterious soul of man...the metaphysical, or, in the highest sense, the physical secrets of the world'. These lines are key ones, for they deny the more consistent links of the original Frankenstein with materialist science. MWS takes other steps to disengage from naturalism, e.g. 'the monstrous Image which I had endued with the mockery of a soul still more monstrous' (III. iv; 1831, xxi). And, lest his antisocial feelings after the Irish expedition should seem to be condoned, 'Oh, not abhorred! they were my brethren, my fellow beings, and I felt attracted even to the most repulsive among them, as to creatures of angelic nature and celestial mechanism' (III. v).
5. Frankenstein is given an explicitly religious consciousness. At the point in his boyhood when he becomes disillusioned with science, he (1831) observes, 'it seems to me as if this almost miraculous change of inclination and will was the immediate suggestion of the guardian angel of my life'; conversely, on arrival at Ingolstadt, it is the angel of destruction that leads him to M. Krempe. And, 'I felt as if my soul were grappling with a palpable enemy' (I. i and ii). Extensive additions to II. i sacralize Nature in a style new to the novel. Almost all the substitute passages in Vol. III soften and Christianize Frankenstein's character, toning down the severity of the portrayal in 1818.
6. A number of scientific passages are either cut, like the seemingly innocuous description of Franklin's famous experiment with electricity (I. i) or transvalued. His youthful flirtation with Renaissance magic becomes equated with 'natural history' generally, now defined pejoratively--'I...set down natural history and all its progeny as a deformed and abortive creation.' When he gets to Ingolstadt his reconversion to natural science is represented as regression, 'a resolution to return to my ancient studies'. The 1831 reader is allowed to think that the faculty at Ingolstadt in the 1790s, even the previously sympathetic Waldman (I. ii. 30), were indeed teaching arcane magic under the name of natural science.
7. The family and their blood-ties are carefully revised (I. i). Elizabeth is no longer F's first cousin, but a stranger. A lesser theme hinting at incest is thus removed; even so, a 'dearest' in Elizabeth's letter (III. v) is scaled down to 'dear', and another in her letter of I. v. 48 omitted. The suggestion in 1818 (I. v. 44) that the boy Ernest was sickly as a child has also been dropped. Taken together with the improved health of Alphonse, these changes remove the theme of an aristocratic family's degenerative state which was originally so notable in the first and third volumes.
8. Two emphatic pronouncements by Elizabeth, developing Godwin's critique of the administration of justice (I. v. 48 and I. vii. 67-8 ) are omitted.
9. Clerval is preparing (1831) to become a colonial administrator (I. v. 49, III. ii. 137 and iii. 147-8 ); several remarks in 1818, and the Safie theme, imply disapproval of colonialism.

That quote is followed by the list of all the substantive changes found in the 1831 text; I've not yet had the motivation to go through those and see how it alters the story--I think I'd prefer to get a copy of the 1831 text sometime in the future.


Edit-Damn santas. Cool
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 19, 2006 9:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting. I didn't realize there was a revised Frankentstein. I'm not sure which edition I read, but, after reading Murrin's post, am inclined to believe it was the first edition.

I definitely recall Victor almost washing his hands of his creation. I thought he came across as uncaring and almost arrogant.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 22, 2006 5:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tulizar wrote:
Interesting. I didn't realize there was a revised Frankentstein. I'm not sure which edition I read, but, after reading Murrin's post, am inclined to believe it was the first edition.

I definitely recall Victor almost washing his hands of his creation. I thought he came across as uncaring and almost arrogant.


He came off as quite a jerk at times in the second edition as well.

It wasn't because he "played God" - it was because he created life and then just let go of it - with no guidance or input or help at all to his hapless creation.

Not to mention the way he aborted his second creation, breaking his promise to the monster.

While the monster does become a monster...it is not clear to me that he would have been so violent and dangerous if he had freely been given love and acceptance in his "childhood". Perhaps he would have still been a monster, but I am not certain that it would have been a foregone conclusion.

Sort of the issue with any juvenile criminal - does s/he bwcome a rotter because s/he was born that way - or is it because s/he had rotten parenting?

In this case, Frankenstein was overcome with serious depression after the "birth" of the monster, and was having serious health and emotional issues of his own.

But was that really a valid excuse in the face of the huge needs of his offspring?

Could Frankenstein, given his own problems, been capable of helping the monster? Would the monster have been a monster of he had been able to love it? Where doe the responsibility of a parent end when faced with huge problems of his own?

Lots of great parent/child issues here, lots of deep dysfunctional parenting/family things to think about.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2007 10:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wayfriend wrote:

Yes, Shelley is certainly a "founding mother" of science-fiction. And her approach - using science as a vehicle for exploring what it means to be human - is what I consider science fiction to be ultimately "for". As opposed to, say, "Transformers". I just don't like her prose, sorry.


Hey, now. Don't dis Transformers just because you can't read the subtext. It is a tragic story about men who dress in women's clothing, yet can be undetected by the general public. And then the opposing side of "trannnies" fight them over shoes. It's a tragic story, especially when the "Optimus Diva" dies. More than meets the eye, indeed.

I loved Frankenstein. For those that don't enjoy the prose so much, try reading Galatea 2.2 by Powers. It's a retelling of Frankenstein, but kind of a modern retelling. It's strangely touching, like the original.
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PostPosted: Fri May 23, 2008 4:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Does anyone else but me think that Frankenstein was a depressing read? Good book and good prose, of course, but the main character seemed to be always down in the dumps. My stomach felt like it was the heaviest thing in my body while I read it. Crying or Very sad
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PostPosted: Sun May 25, 2008 12:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

duchess of malfi wrote:
Wayfriend, it is OK that you do not like her prose style. Smile I have a similar problem with most of Charles Dickens' writings.

Interesting, since I find the opposite. Shelley seemed to me to almost strive for impenetrability of prose (though not as badly as The Scarlet Letter); though I can recognise the poetry, Frankenstein was a laborious read. Dickens, on the other hand, while very verbose, seems to employ a type of exaggerated imagery and shards of bleak humour that appeal to me. When I had to study some Dickens last year, I was the only person in a room of some twenty people who could see the humour, including the teacher. Shocked
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PostPosted: Sun May 25, 2008 3:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Matthias wrote:
Does anyone else but me think that Frankenstein was a depressing read? Good book and good prose, of course, but the main character seemed to be always down in the dumps. My stomach felt like it was the heaviest thing in my body while I read it. Crying or Very sad


i absolutely agree with you. damned depressing.
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PostPosted: Wed May 28, 2008 2:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is a beautiful book. I read it earlier in the year.

I did, however, find some of the anti-intellectual messages in the book to be disturbing.
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 31, 2008 8:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Love the book, particulary the narration of Frankenstein's monster, wasn't aware of revisions to the original text, though! Thanks for that info, Murrin!

Though it can be viewed as a "don't play God", "some things man was not meant to know or do" type of story, I have always viewed it personally as having the message of taking responsibility for the outcome of your actions, no matter how ugly they may appear to be. The monster was not inheritanly evil though he was created in an unnatural, ungodly way. However, people's reaction to him, particulary the reaction of his creator, turned him into the dangerous being he became. This could also be viewed as a religious commentary (God creates man, finds him repulsive, casting him out of his precense. Due to this exile, man performs crimes that God finds to be intolerable. God attempts to destroy man while man fights against God. Conflict ultimatily destroys both). The many ways this could be interpreted is what is very attractive to me about this book.
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 05, 2008 4:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Orlion wrote:
God creates man, finds him repulsive, casting him out of his precense. Due to this exile, man performs crimes that God finds to be intolerable. God attempts to destroy man while man fights against God. Conflict ultimatily destroys both

I'd read that story! I mean st-ry.
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