Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, is one of the most important lectures of the XIX century and is considered the first sci-fi book ever written. This story caused a lot of stir at the moment of its release, and many critics gave their point of view. La Belle Assembl?e made public in 1818 a critic where they adequately stated that Mary Shelley’s story reflected that all the things made by men with a selfish or greedy purpose never end well, this complex and human issue might be the reason why this book has transcended through the years.
In the critic made by La Belle Assembl?e, they remarked several positive and interesting points about Mary Shelley’s work. La Belle Assembl?e was a British magazine made for women, and it was characterized for its publications about poetry and other literary publications related to politics, science, and culture. Frequently, many remarkable women contributed to the magazine content, and even Mary Shelley participated as one of the collaborators. The magazine recognized that her writing was considerably bold with an energetic style, which can be noticed in the following fragment: “It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs” (Shelley). Of course, this writing style was necessary to transmit the adrenaline and mystery that involved the conflict between Frankenstein and his monster.
In this critic, La Belle Assembl? does an extensive explanation about Shelley’s style and the complexity of the characters she created. Frankenstein is the story of Victor Frankenstein who, playing at being God, through parts of corpses and the help of electricity, brings to life a creature that is not alive or death, that feels, thinks and suffers, a tormented soul to which men and their incomprehension, fear and ignorance corrupt and lead to the abyss. The author did not just want to impress her readers with a spooky story about a dead man who comes to life, but she wanted the public to understand the motives of Frankenstein and the monster he created, their psychology, their purpose, what scared them or what encouraged them. Shelley tremendously accomplished that, and probably this was the reason why many readers did not understand the moral of the story because they were used to straightforward narratives, where characters did not have a good and bad side at the same time.
Following the magazine review, another great accomplishment made by Mary Shelley was to give such a human touch to a dull, and terrible creature. In the story, Frankenstein’s monster goes from being an invention made of dead body parts taken from a cemetery, to be a culturized creature that reads iconic works of literature like Paradise Lost, Plutarch’s Lives, and even such a melancholic book like The Sorrows of Werther (La Belle Assembl?). The author managed to give a romantic touch to a sad tragedy, and after the monster learns how to think, read and write, he ends battling with the most human thoughts, the need to find a place in the world, somewhere to belong, and the craving of finding someone to share his life with. Suddenly, this lonely and hostile creature is feeling the same way as many humans do, and his desire of wanting Frankenstein to create a wife for him reflects his new social needs.
Another remarkable review about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is the one made by John Wilson Croker, who worked for the Quarterly Review. John Croker was known for his severe opinions, and he did not keep any opinion reversed to himself. His critic was rougher than the one published by La Belle Assembl?, but he agreed with the magazine on several points. They both accept the idea of seeing Frankenstein as a modern Prometheus (La Belle Assembl?), taking into account how misunderstood is this character, and how his boldness and inventions took him so far.
Croker also accorded on how intriguing is the monster’s personality. It is curious how he started just like a weird invention and ended up as a thinking being. However, this education the monster receives thanks to spying a teacher and his student in a cottage, helps him to be aware of the circumstances of his existence, and he starts hating his own presence on the world (Croker). Ironically, after listening teachings about philosophy and other matters, this monster turns into a so well educated being, that he cannot avoid meditating about his life and purpose. Sadly, he is not satisfied or happy with it.
Despite how interesting this conflict about the monster and his existence result, John Wilson Croker is not convinced with Mary Shelley’ works, especially because according to him, this story does not include morals, and does not teach any important manners to the readers (Croker). Probably, the moral of this story was too abstract for its era, and that is why many found so difficult to relate to this work or to understand it. La Belle Assembl? also remarked that this book should include a warning at the beginning, so readers could fully understand their message, and includes a brief explanation of the plot and its context, so hopefully, everyone can understand what is about.
As opposed to the women’s magazine, Croker attacks Shelley’s writing style and says that her story leaves the reader tired (Croker), however, he does not give a full explanation of why he thinks this way. Also, he says that the story is a bit confusing and that surely readers won’t know how to react to it, because the plot is funny but hateful at the same time. It is evident that this story is complex, and it does not need to fit with only one hue. Actually, the ambivalence of their characters is what makes it so rich and enjoyable, and it reminds readers of their own diversities and mood swings.
This exciting Victorian horror novel that, although it does no longer give the horror that should have caused to its readers two hundred years ago, remains an indisputable literary gem. Nothing in its prose suggests that the writer is just an eighteen-year-old girl, who never in her life had written anything before, a fact that made many to doubt about her authorship (Hart 30). Frankenstein, more than a horror story, which it is, keeps a very powerful and rich inner philosophy about the excesses of men in Science and in other fields, those that look for success without thinking about the wellness of others. This book and its characters are an example that sometimes, the real monsters are humans.
Despite the slight contradictions between La Belle Assembl? and John Wilson Croker, they both agree on how innovative was Frankenstein for literature. In fact, it was so new at the moment that critics struggled to comprehend it fully. Now, two hundred years after its release, it is pretty clear how good and successful this work was because despite how much time has passed, it still impacts our culture and is one of the most popular books in the world.
Croker, John Wilson. Quarterly Magazine 1818: n. pag. Print.
Hart, Scott Douglas de. Shelley Unbound: Discovering Frankenstein’s True Creator. 1st ed. Feral House, 2013. Print.
La Belle Assembl?. La Belle Assembl? 1818: n. pag. Print.