The Evolution Of Frankenstein Essay

2086 words - 8 pages

The Evolution of Frankenstein Not so long ago, relative to the world at large, in picturesque Geneva not so far from Lake Leman, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley took part in a not so commonplace "contest". The contest was to write a ghost story. The outcome was Frankenstein; what is considered today to be a classic, one of the first science fiction tales, and a story immortalized many times over in film. And what at its inception was considered little more than the disturbed and ill conceived writings of a woman by some, and a noble if misplaced effort by others. Critical readings of the novel have grown over time to encompass more aspects of the critical range and to allow for a broader reading and understanding of the work which accounts for more than merely face value formal, rhetorical, mimetic or expressive theories alone. In March of 1818, the same year Frankenstein was published, The Belle Assemblee magazine reviewed Frankenstein. In its opening paragraph states "..that the presumptive works of man must be frightful, vile, and horrible; ending only in discomfort and misery to himself. But will all our readers understand this?". Clearly this reviewer is, in some part, taking into account rhetorical theories. The analysis given is in the interests of the reader, so that they might better be able to appreciate the work. As well, credit is given to formal aspects of the work, the "excellence of its style and language" as well as "its originality, excellence of language, and peculiar interest". Though this review was brief, and did little more than summarize the book for interested readers of the time, it did what many others did not, in that it focused on Frankenstein as an original work that offered something new to readers of the time. Further reviews, from sources such as Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine allowed the author, whose identity was not known for certain at the time, some small leeway in their criticisms. Though they too agreed that the formal style of Frankenstein was unique and praiseworthy, strictly mimetic theories are taken into account in matters they consider inconsistent within the novel, particularly as they pertain to the nature of the monster. It is looked upon as non-reflective of the way of the real world, that a monster such as that should be able to roam the country side unnoticed for so long, or learn to speak and enjoy novels such as Paradise Lost or Plutarch's Lives. This sentiment is echoed in The Belle Assemblee's review, calling it "prolix and unnatural". One of the recurrent themes in early critical reception of the novel was the morality, or perceived lack thereof, within the work. The Quarterly Review, proffered a particularly harsh review, going so far as to say it "inculcates no lesson of conduct, manners, or morality; it cannot mend, and will not amuse its readers, unless their taste have been deplorably vitiated". This review, like many others of the era, was very concerned with the final message imparted to...

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