November 2011 Fiction Book: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

(65 Posts)
StewieGriffinsMom Tue 04-Oct-11 20:46:55

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Trills Sat 08-Oct-11 18:47:38

Oh goody, it's on Kindle and FREE! smile

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 09-Nov-11 22:10:42

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StewieGriffinsMom Wed 16-Nov-11 17:01:54

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SenseofEntitlement Wed 16-Nov-11 20:46:16

Excellent smile

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 16-Nov-11 21:07:14

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SweetTheSting Wed 16-Nov-11 21:08:56

Hi all!

I liked the parts where the monster was observing the family and trying to understand how the world worked.

I didn't understand Frankenstein (the creator) as a character - I couldn't work out why he wasn't trying to track and restrain the monster after its first murder, especially as he seemed to have no real feelings for it. Or to have some protection for himself once he decided at the last minute not to create the companion. F did carry a gun near the end but I didn't really understand why he wasn't doing so earlier! F repeatedly tried to run away at the first sign of trouble (e.g. moment of the creation) and never seemed to learn this wasn't going to solve things. So I got frustrated with F!

stobes Wed 16-Nov-11 21:14:21

This is the first time I've contributed to an online book thing... not sure I know what to do

Anyway, I like Frankenstein a lot although from a feminist pov it's pretty tricky isn't it? Victor is a prize idiot but at least he has some defined characteristics. The female characters are a pretty one dimensional lot.

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 16-Nov-11 21:15:46

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stobes Wed 16-Nov-11 21:18:17

I love the fact that the language acquistion stemmed from listening to Paradise Lost.

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 16-Nov-11 21:20:33

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SenseofEntitlement Wed 16-Nov-11 21:21:03

I think a lot of the feminist analysis should focus on the fact that Victor is taking on the role of "mother" by creating the monster (isn't he called Adam, or was that a QI thing?), but then he abandons his creation. The monster isn't, in himself, evil, but he is compelled to do evil things by rejection, starting with the rejection by the one person he should have been able to trust - his creator.

stobes Wed 16-Nov-11 21:22:48

Absolutely re the behaviour justification, even at the end.

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 16-Nov-11 21:23:06

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SenseofEntitlement Wed 16-Nov-11 21:23:43

I think he tried to ignore the monster after he had created it as a way of attempting to deny what he had done. Victor is very grandiose - he thinks he knows more than anyone else, even God. Because of this, he is unwilling to face up to the fact that he has done something he shouldn't, and is unwilling to face the consequences.

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 16-Nov-11 21:25:20

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SenseofEntitlement Wed 16-Nov-11 21:26:28

Incidentally, have any of seen the Mark Steel programme on Mary Shelley. Highly Recommended

stobes Wed 16-Nov-11 21:27:21

Hmm, or are the female characters marginalised by the author rather than the male character? I think she was just more interested in Frankenstein and his role.

Yes, he usurps the role of the woman and that is the order of nature upset.

SenseofEntitlement Wed 16-Nov-11 21:27:56

I think that, at the time, there was a lot of unease about science taking over from nature, and this book is an embodiment of that.
I agree - nature as feminine and science as masculine.

SweetTheSting Wed 16-Nov-11 21:28:33

Yes, even at the end he was trying to persuade his new friend to risk his life plus those of his shipmates to go north destroy the monster - despite saying, "Seek happiness in tranquility and avoid ambition."

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 16-Nov-11 21:30:11

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SweetTheSting Wed 16-Nov-11 21:31:23

I KNEW I didn't like him wink

stobes Wed 16-Nov-11 21:32:05

Good quotation! Yes, ambition is presented as something inherently male, isn't it?

stobes Wed 16-Nov-11 21:33:17

So IS the monster his doppelganger then?

SweetTheSting Wed 16-Nov-11 21:33:49

Victor was loved/worshipped by his family and even as a 'broken man' almost persuaded the narrator to risk his life. It is strange that the narrator did not seem horrified by the 'perversion of nature' that Victor had undertaken.

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 16-Nov-11 21:38:43

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stobes Wed 16-Nov-11 21:39:52

Isn't there a bit in the frame narrative in which it is revealed that Victor rewrote the account, presumably to place himself in a good light? So I guess that calls his reliablility as a narrator into account.

stobes Wed 16-Nov-11 21:42:44

Agree SGM! My sympathies were with the monster; learnt human behaviour is clearly the monstrosity.

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 16-Nov-11 21:44:47

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SweetTheSting Wed 16-Nov-11 21:45:28

Gah, MN went dead on me!

I think the monster was more 'humane' (certainly more humble!) than Victor before he was rejected. After he became a killer but I think (?) only killed those loved by Victor - so not an indiscriminate monster.

stobes I remember that bit about Victor editing, am trying to find the exact words...

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 16-Nov-11 21:45:32

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SweetTheSting Wed 16-Nov-11 21:47:22

"...he asked to see them and then himself corrected and augmented them in many places, but principally in giving the life and spirit to the conversations he held with his enemy."

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 16-Nov-11 21:47:56

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StewieGriffinsMom Wed 16-Nov-11 21:48:57

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stobes Wed 16-Nov-11 21:50:06

I still can't get too far past the insipid portrayal of the holier than thou Elizabeth (and Justine, for that matter, and the mother!). Shelley definitely appears to undermine her argument with her beauty (and blonde hair?) held up as the physical manifestation of her goodness. The Nat theatre production (Jonny Lee Miller/ Benedict Cumberbatch etc) cast a black actress in the role which must have been an ironic dig.

SweetTheSting Wed 16-Nov-11 21:50:23

I agree re lack of culpability. Victor is all "woe is me, what a wretch to bring this trouble on my family" but it seems very fatalistic, almost as if he was, say, the carrier of a disease to which he but not his family was immune. No sense of, "what can I do to fix this problem I caused?"

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 16-Nov-11 21:51:02

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SweetTheSting Wed 16-Nov-11 21:52:00

I agree, stobes. The women are very passive, including the unseen sister of the first narrator - even Justine when being hung for a crime she didn't do!

stobes Wed 16-Nov-11 21:55:32

Yes, Sweet. They are all painfully stoical. Good point about the sister - a passive recipient of a male narrative. I don't remember him asking her how she was getting on in his absence?!

stobes Wed 16-Nov-11 21:58:36

Going back to the triple narrative, I guess there is something in there about controlling or playing God with the listener/ reader's perception. The monster is pretty eloquent in his argument when he wants F to create him a mate.

SweetTheSting Wed 16-Nov-11 21:58:37

Stoic and oh so sweet natured!

I wasn't entirely sure how the letters were supposed to reach the sister anyway - Arctic post?!


I always think of Mary Shelley, pregnant (I think she was?) and only 17 as she wrote this (IIRC). All the stuff about creation and birthing takes on a new and more immediate feeling as someone in the process of creating a new life.

SweetTheSting Wed 16-Nov-11 22:01:47

Yes, the monster was eloquent there. Perhaps he was a 'man of words' as a further contrast to Victor's 'man of science'. But Victor explained to the first narrator (Richard??) that the monster was foully persuasive (alluding to the temptations of Satan). In fact, the premise of a mate seemed very reasonable, although the 'I will kill your family' negotiating tactic was not!

blimey this is moving too fast for me!

Also thinking that the word "monster" comes from root to reveal or show, and how different this is a gothic novel from the others written by women around this time and just earlier - eg Radcliffe.

This is such a serious book - about the very purposes of life and existence, not just rocking your socks with gothic/erotic thrills.

SweetTheSting Wed 16-Nov-11 22:03:02

Hello strawberry - wow, I didn't know that! (should have read SGM's links or just be generally better informed)

stobes Wed 16-Nov-11 22:03:16

There are so many abandoned children wondering about the novel that she must have had a bit of a crisis I think.

SweetTheSting Wed 16-Nov-11 22:04:42

I mostly read 20th/21st century stuff so I will look out for some other novels of this period to compare.

I actually think the monster can be read as subconsciously representing the burgeoning female intellectual identity - at first, literally out in the cold and learning by observation (women not educated like men) and then resentful and eventually vengeful and violent.

SweetTheSting Wed 16-Nov-11 22:06:46

Ah, stobes, that is a good point about the comparison of the child rejected by her mother but taken in by Victor's family vs the monster rejected by Victor but then again by the blind man's family.

SenseofEntitlement Wed 16-Nov-11 22:07:01

I think it may be significant that Mary Shelley grew up in the shadow of her parents - her mother died through giving birth to her, and even Percy only started hanging around because he was in awe of her mum and dad. Must give you funny feelings about motherhood and creation, and even feminity.

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 16-Nov-11 22:07:03

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stobes Wed 16-Nov-11 22:07:06

I agree, Strawberry! It goes way deeper than the usual gothic stuff. In fact very little is terrifying, although it is a pretty frightening as a concept of course.

SweetTheSting Wed 16-Nov-11 22:07:52

Ooh, I am enjoying getting all your thoughts! Much better than sitting here seething at Victor for being a numpty!

SweetTheSting Wed 16-Nov-11 22:09:16

SGM, I agree. Justine's would be a good perspective.

actually, maybe I remembered that wrong maybe it was that she had a baby die? sorry my memory is a bit foggy, this is going to back my university days - but I do remember that a lot of the descriptions of flesh and lifelessness seemed to reflect her own very troubled situation.

Yes, it's bizarre isn't it, for all the charnel houses and supposed horror, it's actually a very tender story about just wanting to be loved unconditionally.

SenseofEntitlement Wed 16-Nov-11 22:12:41

I think she had a few babies die. I seem to remember something about her being suckled by puppies to try and stop her getting mastitis after one stillbirth

stobes Wed 16-Nov-11 22:16:36


StewieGriffinsMom Wed 16-Nov-11 22:16:50

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stobes Wed 16-Nov-11 22:17:52

I like the idea of the 'burgeoning female intellect' as the monster, btw!

SweetTheSting Wed 16-Nov-11 22:23:08

Bah, DH needs the laptop! Minimal iPhone keyboard now...

It's really interesting to hear the background of Mary Shelley's life.

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 16-Nov-11 22:23:27

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SenseofEntitlement Wed 16-Nov-11 22:29:05

I read a really good book about her and her family - I think it was called "Death and the Maidens"

stobes Wed 16-Nov-11 22:37:48

Thanks for a really interesting discussion! Bed calls smile

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 16-Nov-11 22:41:14

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