» Mary Shelley

Editor - Maurice Hindle

Penguin Classics
Paperback : 30 Jan 2003


Edited with an introduction by Maurice Hindle
Chronology, further reading and notes
Includes a select collation of the texts of 1818 and 1831 together with ‘A Fragment’ by Lord Byron and Dr John Polidori’s ‘The Vampyre: A Tale’

Read an extract from: Frankenstein

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‘Now that I had finished, the beauty of my dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart …’

Obsessed by creating life itself, Victor Frankenstein plunders graveyards for the material to fashion a new being, which he shocks into life by electricity. But his botched creature, rejected by Frankenstein and denied human companionship, sets out to destroy his maker and all that he holds dear. Mary Shelley’s chilling gothic tale was conceived when she was only eighteen, living with her lover Percy Shelley near Byron’s villa on Lake Geneva. Frankenstein would become the world’s most famous work of horror fiction, and remains a devastating exploration of the limits of human creativity.

Based on the third edition of 1831, this contains all the revisions Mary Shelley made to her story, as well as her 1831 introduction and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s preface to the first edition. It also includes as appendices a select collation of the texts of 1818 and 1831 together with ‘A Fragment’ by Lord Byron and Dr John Polidori’s ‘The Vampyre: A Tale’.

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is also available as an eBook .

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Student review by Kevin Childs who studied English at Univeristy of Leicester. Currently researching for an MA in English Studies part-time.

A Review of Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus’

Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus has not only stood the test of time,
but has become a modern day myth that is forever evolving in the world of popular culture. Aside
from the Hollywood spin-offs it has been used to describe capitalism, food and human cloning. The
recent theatre adaption of the novel by Danny Boyle once more resurrects the myth of Frankenstein
and returns the story to its original source and power. Even now nearly two hundred years since
initial publication, the novel Mary Shelley penned as a teenager, still captivates and enthrals its
readers, and with each generation cements its reputation as a classic.

The story follows the path of Victor Frankenstein, the young prodigal scientist who, after his mother
dies, becomes convinced that he can overcome death through the power of science and intellect.
This conviction quickly turns into an obsession which culminates in Victor attempting to create a
fully formed human being out of dead matter. He does this by raiding mortuaries and graveyards
amassing body-parts for his new creation and painstakingly bringing it together. In the most famous
scene of the novel, the sudden awakening of the creature on a ‘dreary night of November,’ starts off
a chain reaction of devastation and loss. Victor, horrified by what he has achieved but also the sheer
grotesqueness of his creation, flees the scene of the crime and in doing so leads the creature to fend
for itself alone in the world. The creature, suffering abuse, violence and degradation wherever he
goes turns into the monster he is labelled as, starting a trail of revenge and destruction that leads
back to his creator. Both the creature and Victor eventually become locked in a bitter quest to
destroy one another. Shelley was heavily influenced by Romanticism and her novel can be seen
solely as a Gothic nightmare, yet beyond this Shelley highlights other important issues. The story is
also a warning against the dangers of unrestrained intellectual arrogance and Romantic
individualism, Victor is a genius but he is also a megalomaniac convinced of his own greatness, and
who cannot understand the consequences of his actions or his culpability in them. Some critics have
even seen the story as a prototype science-fiction novel about what could happen if we do not
adhere to ethics in the pursuit of scientific discovery. The idea of a human being that has been
artificially created does not strike us as farfetched in todays world, but Shelley’s novel serves as a
reminder of whats at stake. The novel also asks questions about responsibility and abuse. The
creature takes revenge because Victor has failed as a parent to take care of him, yet the creature also
cannot own up to his own crimes and justifies his behaviour on account of his suffering. Victor and
the creature are not bad people but they suffer the same disease of egoism which stops them
empathising and recognising each others pain, it this that leads to their downfall. Overall though,
our sympathies will always be with the creature whose harrowing account of injustice puts Victor
and society to shame. Shelley reminds us how the use of labels and narratives can help justify and
maintain immense cruelty and persecution. Aside from this, the novel is also fascinating because of
the hidden subtext of birth and trauma, an all too common experience to Mary Shelley. The novel is
her own fears of pregnancy and child-rearing lived out in text.

The reason the novel still holds sway over the modern world, seems to be because it taps into the
deep part of ourselves which question who we are and how we have come to be. The creature
becomes the voice of the dispossessed, who are born and live without foundations and is the symbol
of what occurs when we do not take responsibility for each other. Aside from this the novel is a
cracking read. It has a real blockbuster feel to it, despite its literary properties. The language is edgy
and brooding and becomes alive with threat and intent when Victor and the creature lock horns. The
images and ideas within the novel are haunting and beautifully put and always hint at a deeper
meaning and significance. The novels continued relevance was aptly prophesied by Shelley whose
‘hideous progeny’ she commanded ‘go forth and prosper.’

Product details

Format : Paperback
ISBN: 9780141439471
Size : 129 x 198mm
Pages : 352
Published : 30 Jan 2003
Publisher : Penguin Classics

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» Mary Shelley

Editor - Maurice Hindle



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