Sunday, May 27, 2012

Review of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, With Book Club Discussion Questions

Hardcover, $7.98

Kindle edition, Free
The last novel my book club finished was Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I won't lie, it was a tougher read than our previous selections. Several of our members opted out of this one. It was, after all, first published in 1818. So the language is a bit  more difficult, and the dictionary function on my Kindle got a lot of use. I enjoy the challenge of classic literature, but it's not for everyone. Our group decided that in the future, we'll stick with more modern book selections. However, if Frankenstein is something you are truly interested in reading, please note that the first three or four chapters are kind of hard to get through, but the book gets much more interesting after that - and in effect, easier and more compelling to read. The hard work of struggling to understand the language is definitely worth it.

The concept of the character Frankenstein is so confusing. Most people think of him as a green, scary monster who was created in a lab and has very few truly human qualities. The truth is that Frankenstein is the doctor who created the "monster," who remains unnamed throughout the entire book. I put "monster" in quotes because one might argue that Dr. Victor Frankenstein is actually the monster, while his creation struggles to be a good person. The "monster" seems to have more of a moral backbone than his creator. Various movie versions of Frankenstein have repeatedly been marketed as horror films, but the book is not frightening in the scary movie kind of way. It is, however, terrifying in the god complex kind of way.

I would recommend this book, but with caution. It had been on my "to-read" list for quite awhile, so I was thrilled when my friend suggested it as a book club choice. I never considered giving up on it, partly because there is just something in me that has to see a book through to the end once I start it. But the beginning did drag. Just keep that in mind, remember that it gets better, and don't be intimidated by the language. The dictionary is your friend.

Here are some questions you might want to consider for discussion. There might be a few spoilers amongst them, so it's probably best to finish the book before you continue reading.

  1. What do you think Victor's original intention was for creating the "monster"? Was it just to prove to himself that he could do it, or was there something more that compelled him to complete this experiment?
  2. Do you think Victor accurately portrays himself as the ideal son, brother, and friend in his life before he became obsessed with creating life? Or do you think it's possible that he was actually a very different person than he made himself out to be?
  3. Why does Victor get so sick every time anything bad happens in his life?
  4. Shelley's full title of the book was Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus. Prometheus was a character in Greek mythology, charged with the job of creating mankind. He was a kind and sympathetic creator, who gave man gifts important to survival. That said, do you think "modern Prometheus" is an accurate description of Victor?
  5. How would the monster's life had been different if Victor had shown him the slightest kindness or act of friendship? 
  6. Even when events get terribly out of control, Victor can never seem to take responsibility for his actions, or admit that it was wrong to abandon his creation. Why do you think that is?
  7. Do you think it is possible that Victor suffers from mental illness?
  8. Is society's rejection of the monster inevitable and justified? Why or why not? How does this reflect upon mankind as a whole?
If you've read Frankenstein, I'd love to hear your take. Do you have any other suggestions for discussion questions?


Anonymous said...

I'm mystified. I'm no literary genius, and old language confuses me also, but I didn't find the language in Frankenstein the least bit difficult. Interesting.

Anonymous said...

I didn't have a problem with the vocabulary either. But I did think I had somehow gotten the wrong book in the beginning. I had no idea of the story within a story, within a story.