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Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics: New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars Biographies of the authors Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events Footnotes and endnotes Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work Comments by other famous authors Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations Bibliographies for further reading Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences-biographical, historical, and literary-to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.
Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only eighteen. At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student
Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering "the cause of generation and life" and "bestowing animation upon lifeless matter," Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature?s hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein. Frankenstein, an instant bestseller and an important ancestor of both the horror and science fiction genres, not only tells a terrifying story, but also raises rofound, disturbing questions about the very nature of life and the place of humankind within the cosmos: What does it mean to be human? What responsibilities do we have to each other? How far can we go in tampering with Nature? In our age, filled with news of organ donation genetic engineering, and bioterrorism, these questions are more relevant than ever. Karen Karbiener received a Ph.D. from Columbia University and currently teaches literature at New York University.
About The Author Karen Karbiener received a Ph.D. from Columbia University and currently teaches literature at New York University.
Reviews Frankenstein, loved by many decades of readers and praised by such eminent literary critics as Harold Bloom, seems hardly to need a recommendation. If you haven't read it recently, though, you may not remember the sweeping force of the prose, the grotesque, surreal imagery, and the multilayered doppelgÃ¤nger themes of Mary Shelley's masterpiece. As fantasy writer Jane Yolen writes of this (the reviewer's favorite) edition, "The strong black and whites of the main text [illustrations] are dark and brooding, with unremitting shadows and stark contrasts. But the central conversation with the monster--who owes nothing to the overused movie image â€¦ but is rather the novel's charnel-house composite--is where [Barry] Moser's illustrations show their greatest power ... The viewer can all but smell the powerful stench of the monster's breath as its words spill out across the page. Strong bookmaking for one of the world's strongest and most remarkable books." Includes an illuminating afterword by Joyce Carol Oates.
Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley has been a perennial classic since its original printing date in 1818. Everyone is aware of the fundamental story of Frankenstein and the monster that he created. Some may believe that it is all about an evil doctor who creates a monster named Frankenstein, a mindless zombie. This was the storyline that I was expecting as I prepared to read the book. The story, with its strong psychological struggles of morality, death, loneliness and telling the truth, surprised me. The story goes much deeper into the feelings of the characters, the struggles of a young man trying to get ahead in his profession, and dealing with the problems you have created all told through a ship captain named Robert Walton. These significant traits take the reader on a rollercoaster of emotions that leads to a much deeper and significant meaning then a mindless evil monster. <BR/> Mary Shelley, a young female, wrote Frankenstein in the early 1800¿s, after a dream while in Geneva, Switzerland. The moral conflicts and emotional struggles that derived from that dream and developed into this novel were surprising to me. I found the fact that a young person had the ability to write about such topics and conflicts that were so dark and depressing in such a welleducated way amazing. This story is also very original, it is well known as one of the first science-fiction stories, and is written in a very compelling way. <BR/>This story took the time to show both sides of the story, which is a unique attribute that many books fail to recognize. The reader learns to sometimes have pity for the nameless evil monster that Frankenstein had created. The monster is continuously rejected of love, friendship, and acceptance by civilization. As a reader you are well aware of the depression that this monster goes through from the time of his creation by Victor Frankenstein. Other times you hate the monster for what he has done. He murders, threatens, and terrorizes his creator and ruins Frankenstein¿s life to find revenge. <BR/>I also found myself having similar feelings for Frankenstein himself. He goes from a character that yearns to be the best in his field to a self-centered man who doesn¿t believe he
is responsible for any of the problems he created. During this transformation he comes to hate the monster, cares for the monster, and finally decides the fate of the monster. This causes an interesting feeling of confusion about what the characters of this book are actually like. <BR/> The surprises, excitement, and deeper meaning of this book had me amazed and intrigued from the first page. I enjoyed the different perspectives coming from Frankenstein and the monster he created and I also enjoyed the way it was written. The letters written by Walton to his sister also added a nice touch to the format of the story. Overall I enjoyed the book very much and would suggest it to anyone.
I was a little scared about reading this book, an old classic that almost seemed outdated, but I was pleasantly surprised by the story. I'd seen the original, old movie, and it was good, but nothing compared to the book. Here is a book that is truly horrifying, in a way that present day authors cannot (or maybe will not) try and copy. I found this book very intriguing, and I loved the story. I highly recommend.
Mary Shelley delivers! Everyone knows the classic story of Frankenstein, a scientist who obsesses over creating a life, but many are unaware the details and plot twists that come along with it. Until this year I have never read Frankenstein or watched the black and white 1931 film. In fact, the closest I came to this engaging tale was Young Frankenstein, a spoof of the classic, directed by Mel Brooks. So I was very pleasantly surprised by how different the novel was from what I had imagined. The novel opens with Walter, the supposed main character, writing a letter to his sister. He tells her of his plans to travel to the North Pole, a dangerous secluded area that no one dares to tread. He feels the need to embark on an adventure or accomplish a task no one has accomplished before and believes traveling to the North Pole is the perfect way to quiet his urgings. Immediately, I became confused, wondering where was Victor Frankenstein? When does he create his monster? Why does this Walter fellow matter? However, just as I was having my doubts Shelly drew me into a whirlwind of creative twists and details I had never heard when told the story as a child.<BR/> The narration quickly moves from Walter¿s point of view to Frankenstein¿s, who is stranded to die on a sheet of ice. He tells Walter of his incredible life changing story that keeps Walter and the reader constantly interested. Shelley describes Frankenstein in such a detailed and believable manner that it is easy to relate to his deep loneliness and obsessions. Whenever Frankenstein felt defeated, I found myself wanting to encourage him to continue. Even though I was completely aware of the ending, Shelley kept me interested in the here and now instead of the depressing future outlook. It seemed perfectly logical that Frankenstein should be able to ¿play god¿, and it be looked upon as a positive addition to human evolution. After all, it was in the name of science. However, sometimes the best intentions turn into the worst monsters. <BR/> Frankenstein intended to create a beautiful human life, but when he successfully reaches his goal he finds the outward appearance of his creation appalling. Frankenstein avoids the monster by retiring to his room and attempting to fall asleep. He wakes to find the monster smiling at him. Although it is quite understandable to be shocked at the sight of someone, let alone a creature, looming over your bed at night, the creature did greet him with a smile. If the creature wanted to inflict violence he could have easily done so while Victor was asleep. However, Victor only thinks the worst and flees from his own house. He escapes from the monster but returns to a pit of despair.<BR/> Frankenstein¿s depression worsens when the monster eventually reappears into his life after going on a violent rampage. Frankenstein feels guilty but never brave enough to step forward and tell someone about the monster. This leads the reader to reconsider who truly plays the protagonist and antagonist of this book. Victor created a horrible out of control monster, but he did have the best intentions. However, on the other hand, he abandoned the monster based solely on looks which was the catalyst for the rest of the tragic story. The monster does seek revenge on human beings, but it was only out of desperation for contact
Read An Excerpt From Karen Karbiener's Introduction to Frankenstein
Werewolves, vampires, witches, and warlocks have been the stuff of folklore, legend, and nightmare for centuries, yet none have so haunted the public imagination as the monster created by eighteen-year-old Mary Shelley in 1816. From the start, we have been eager to help the monster live off of the page, to interpret the tale for ourselves. Within five years of the novel's initial publication, the first of what would eventually be more than ninety dramatizations of Frankenstein appeared onstage. Shelley herself went to see one of the thirty-seven performances of Presumption that played in London in 1823. Lumbering violently and uttering inarticulate groans, the monster attracted record numbers of theatergoers, as well as a series of protests by the London Society for the Prevention of Vice. Mary was pleased and "much amused" by Thomas Cooke's attempts to portray the monster, and even made a favorable note about the playbill to her friend Leigh Hunt. "In the list of dramatis personae came, --- by Mr. T Cooke: this nameless mode of naming the unameable [sic] is rather good," she wrote on September 11 (Letters, vol. 1, p. 378). A familiar yet ever-evolving presence on the Victorian stage, the monster also haunted the pages of newspapers and journals. Political cartoonists used Shelley's monster as the representation of the "pure evil" of Irish nationalists, labor reformers, and other favored subjects of controversy; it was often depicted as an oversized, rough-and-ready, weaponwielding hooligan. In Annals of the New York Stage, George Odell notes that audiences were entertained with photographic"illusions" of the monster as early as the 1870s. And the cinema was barely ten years old before the Edison Film Company presented their version of the story, with Charles Ogle portraying a long-haired, confusedlooking giant. Virtually every year since that film's appearance in 1910, another version of Frankenstein has been released somewhere in the world-though the most enduring image of the monster was the one created by Boris Karloff in James Whale's 1931 classic. The creature's huge, square head, oversized frame, and undersized suit jacket still inform most people's idea of what Shelley's monster "really" looks like. As strange and various as the interpretations of the creature have been, the monster has retained a surprisingly human quality. Even in its most melodramatic portrayals, its innate mortality is made apparent; whether through a certain softness in the eyes, a wistfulness or longing in its expression, or a desperate helplessness in its movements, the creature has always come across as much more than a stock horror device. In fact, several film adaptations have avoided the use of heavy makeup and props that audiences have come to expect. Life Without a Soul (1915) stars a human-looking, flesh-toned monster; and in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994), actor Robert DeNiro, who is certainly neither ugly nor of great stature, did not wear the conventional green face paint and restored the monster's eloquent powers of speech. Like Satan in Paradise Lost, Mary Shelley's monster was given a shadowy and elusive physical presence by its creator. It moves through the story faster than the eye can follow it, descending glaciers "with greater speed than the flight of an eagle" or rowing "with an arrowy swiftness." The blurriness of the scenes in which the monster appears allows us to create his image for ourselves and helps explain why it has inspired so many adaptations and reinterpretations. Certainly, too, both Milton's Satan and Shelley's creature have been made more interesting, resonant, and frightening because they have human qualities. The monster possesses familiar impulses to seek knowledge and companionship, and these pique our curiosity and awaken our sympathies. Its complex emotions, intelligence, and ability to plan vengeful tactics awaken greater fears than the stumbling and grunting of a mindless beast. A closer look at Shelley's singular description of the monster's features reveals its likeness to a newborn infant rather than a "fiend" or "demon": Consider its "shrivelled complexion," "watery eyes," and "yellow skin [that] scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath." The emotional range of De Niro's monster, the gentle childish expression in Karloff's eyes, even the actor Cooke's "seeking as it were for support-his trying to grasp at the sounds he heard" (Letters, vol. 1, p. 378), suggest that we have sensed the monster's humanity all along. Another trend in the way the monster has been reinterpreted is equally suggestive. Movie titles such as Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), and Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1971) testify to the fact that the monster has taken on the name of his creator in popular culture. In Frankenstein, the monster is called
plenty of names by his creator, from at best "the accomplishment of my toils" to "wretch," "miserable monster," and "filthy daemon"; significantly, Victor never blesses his progeny with his own last name. Our identity of the creature as the title character does, of course, shift the focus from man to monster, reversing Shelley's intention. Reading the book, we realize that Frankenstein's lack of recognizing the creature as his own-in essence, not giving the monster his nameis the monster's root problem. Is it our instinctive human sympathy for the anonymous being that has influenced us to name him? Is it our recognition of similarities and ties between "father" and "son," our defensiveness regarding family values? Or is it simply our interest in convenience, our compelling need to label and sort? Our confusion of creator and created, as well as our interest in depicting the creature's human side, indicate an unconscious acknowledgment of a common and powerful reading of Frankenstein: that the monster and his creator are two halves of the same being who together as one represents the self divided, a mind in dramatic conflict with itself. Just as Walton notes to his sister the possibility of living a "double existence," even the civilized person is forever in conflict with his or her own monstrous, destructive, even self-destructive side. Indeed, if the monster/creator conflation were to represent the human race in general, Shelley seems to be saying that our struggles with the conflicting impulses to create and destroy, to love and hate, permeate all of human existence. Shelley could not have chosen an idea with more relevance to twentieth- and twenty-first-century readers than humankind's own potential inhumanity to itself. Our ambitions have led us to the point where we, too, can accomplish what Victor did in his laboratory that dreary night in November: artificially create life. But will our plan to clone living organisms or produce life in test tubes have dire repercussions? We build glorious temples to progress and technology, monumental structures that soar toward the heavens; and yet in a single September morning, the World Trade Center was leveled-proving once again that man is his own worst enemy. In Frankenstein, Shelley exhibits a remarkable ability to anticipate and develop questions and themes peculiarly relevant to her future readers, thereby ensuring its endurance for almost 200 years. To understand why and how this ability developed, we must take a closer look at her life, times, and psychological state. Certainly, Frankenstein details a fascinating experiment, introduces us to vivid characters, and takes us to gorgeous, exotic places. But this text, written by a teenager, also addresses fundamental contemporary questions regarding "otherness" and society's superficial evaluations of character based on appearance, as well as modern concerns about parental responsibility and the harmful effects of absenteeism. Anticipating the alienation of everyday life, Robert Walton and the monster speak to those of us who now live our lives in front of screens of various kinds-computer, television, movie. Other readers may feel stabs of recognition when confronting Victor, a perfectionist workaholic who sacrifices love and friendship in the name of ambition. Frankenstein is a nineteenth-century literary classic, but it is also fully engaged in many of the most profound philosophical, psychological, social, and spiritual questions of modern existence.
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