external image Frankenstein.png
About The Authorexternal image MarySportrait.jpeg Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851) was born in Somers Town, London. The daughter of a feminist philosopher and political scholar, Shelley received an extensive education, following her father's political beliefs in liberal ideology. As her mother died during childbirth, her father, William Godwin would be an especially large influence in her life. At the age of seventeen, she would commence a relationship with Percy Shelley, a firm believer and follower of Godwin's political publishings. It is believed that Mary was largely influenced by her husband's Romantist background, as his fame in the literary circles of England led him to be admired even by Karl Marx and John Keats. "My husband was, from the first, very anxious that I should prove myself worthy of my parentage, and enrol myself on the page of fame. He was forever inciting me to obtain literary reputation" Shelley comments on her husband's encouragement. Most believe that Frankenstein, published in 1818, is her best and most popular work, but Shelley wrote numerous pieces ranging from essays to biographies.external image 20060629_frankenstein_3.jpg

Some of her other works include:

Mathilda (1819)
The Last Man (1826)
Proserpine (1832)
Lodore (1835)
Faulkner. A Novel (1837)
Rambles in Germany and Italy (1844)

Frankenstein's first pages are a collection of letters from a sea captain to his sister. From a ship due to the North Pole, Robert Walton describes his interactions with a recently-saved Frankenstein to his sibling in England. The story is told from the end; Shelley gradually reveals the tale as the reader progresses through the pages. After a brief description of his childhood, one finds out that Victor Frankenstein was obsessed with finding out the "secret of life." He creates a monster out of human parts, and brings it to life- only to become terrified by his own actions and the power of his dark knowledge. Frankenstein flees in a state of panic, and later discovers that his brother has been mysteriously murdered. Sighting the monster near his home, Frankenstein realizes the consequences of his actions- and realizes who is to blame for his brother's death.

One day during Frankenstein's escape to the mountains, he meets the monster face-to-face. The creature confesses what he has done, and explains that he was ovewhelmed by loneliness and despair. Begging, he pleads with Frankenstein to create a companion, and Frankenstein agrees. Yet as the days pass by, Frankenstein is tormented by what he is about to do, yet again. Sailing out onto a lake, he disposes of the second monster, and is blown out to an unknown place. There, he finds out that his creation has comitted a second murder, this time his old friend Henry. Mourning, he leaves for Geneva, and later weds a woman named Elizabeth. But the monster strikes yet again, and that night, Frankenstein swears not only to avenge his wife's death, but also that of his brother and best friend's. It is during this chase of creator and creation that the story completes its circle, and the reader returns to the beginning of this tale. Frankenstein dies not long after he tells his life's tale to Walton, and his creation is left waiting for his own dismal end.

This page has numerous pieces of artwork based on and inspired by Shelley's novel- check it out to see parts of the story illustrated.

Personal Reviewexternal image 2917090784_5f8dc85b62.jpg?v=0
I feel that Frankenstein is a tale that revolves around powerful emotions, particularly those of loneliness, hate and despair. Embedded in its slightly damp, yellowed pages (my copy was published in 1969) was a tale that was incredibly sad and ironic. Although Frankenstein's monter is depicted as a terrifying, dispassionate creature, you can't help but begin to pity it over time. In my opinion, Shelley uses Frankenstein to explore the destructive nature of greed, with both the protagonist and major character Robert Walton eventually experiencing the dismal consequences of their respective pursuits. While Frankenstein is driven into a feverish breakdown by his mutant creation, Walton is trapped on his way to the North Pole, and forced to turn back from his lifelong goal. This leads me to the conclusion that Shelley's novel is perhaps a cautionary one, as Walton "learns" from Frankenstein's tale and gives up his quest. I can't help but feel that this tale serves to imply that perhaps the true monster is not the creation, but the creator himself- the one who brought such a helpless soul into this world.

goth_tales1.jpg"Sign of the Times"
Frankenstein is an exmple of Gothic fiction, as it is a Romantist-era work that blends horror and romance into one. According to Paul Brians of Washington State University, a "quite distinct contribution to the Romantic movement was the Gothic romance... [by] rejecting the Enlightenment ideal of balance and rationalism, readers eagerly sought out the hysterical, mystical, passionate adventures of terrified heroes and heroines in the clutches of frightening, mysterious forces."

Gothic fiction is expecially defined by the appearance of characters such as ghosts, demons and monsters, as the prominant feature of this genre is obviously, terror. It is believed that the writer Horace Walpole's The Castle of Ontario contributed to the rise of this genre, and found its name in its settings, the dark ruins of a Gothic mansion. It is described that the "ruins of gothic buildings gave rise to multiple linked emotions by representing the inevitable decay and collapse of human creations." Therefore, one must admit that Frankenstein's monster, forged from human parts, can be considered a true Gothic monster.

external image MonsterofFrankenstein1.jpg1. Marvel Comics: The Monster of Frankenstein
Artist Mike Ploog and novelist Gary Friedrich (best known for Ghost Rider) re-enterpret the classic tale into a five-part graphic_franke.pngcomic book. The story is fairly true to Shelley's work, published in january of 1973 by Marvel Comics. The story was rewritten several times after Ploog pointed out in an interview that "they wanted to bring Frankenstein up to the 20th century, and have him battle in the streets of New York with Spider-Man, and I just couldn't do that... to me, I felt it was disrespectful to the poor monster."

Surprisingly, the author shared my point of view on Shelley's tale, by focusing "on the hate- and revenge-driven relationship between the Monster and its creator by constantly presenting the antagonists' thoughts and feelings through their narratives. He also portraits the Monster as a miserable and pitiful creature which only became what it is due to its creator's arrogance." The comic was such a hit that three more artists and several more writers would continue the series after Ploog and Friedrich.

Also check out this graphic novel by Classical Comics.

2. Notre-Dame de Paris
A French novel written by Victor Hugo in 1831, Notre-Dame or The Hunchback of Notre-Dame as it is more commonly known, is a tale that is surprisingly similar to that of Frankenstein's. Like Shelley, Hugo displays disparities in social justice, with Quasimodo, the protagonist, being shunned by all around him, even his mother and one true love. Unlike Frankenstein's monster, Quasimodo is not the result of scientific experiments, yet he has several notable deformities as well as suffering from deafness. The classic tale has been reinterpreted dozens of times, but the Disney animation and Anthony Hopkins version remain the most famous.

EF.png3. Electric Frankenstein
A band described as a fusion of "AC/DC and the Dead Boys," this New Jersey-based band was even chosen as an official icon by the Frankenstein Society to represent their occult movement. Their website descibes them as "a movement, a working-mans answer to what is missing from popular music in the world today; straight-up, raw, in-your-face, combustible Rock N Roll." This band has released several numbers including Spare Parts (1998), How to Make a Monster (1999) and The Buzz of a 1,000 Volts (2001)

Their songs feature lines such as "greed and lust will take its final toll," "I'm a step behind you but I'm catching up fast" and "took a chance with my life... now I live in senseless misery." It seems that intentionally or not, this band's music constantly alludes to the dismal tale of Frankenstein's monster. You can listen to their self-titled album here.

By Karin