The novel Frankenstein is written by Mary Shelley. It presents the story of a young scientist named Victor Frankenstein who embarks on a journey of scientific transgressions and creates a creature through an unorthodox experiment. Over the centuries, numerous critics have presented their reviews about the novel, commenting on factors ranging from the literary style of the writer to the thematic structure of the book. Additionally, many others have also critiqued the author herself. This essay analyses two critical articles by evaluating the thesis provided in each critique.
The first article, “The Literary Panorama, and National Register, N.S., 8 (1 June 1818): 411-414.” presents an interesting position on Frankenstein. The author states: “The main idea on which the story of Frankenstein rests, undoubtedly affords scope for the display of imagination and fancy, as well as knowledge of the human heart; and the anonymous author has not wholly neglected the opportunities which it presented to him: but the work seems to have been written in great haste, and on a very crude and ill-digested plan; and the detail is, in consequence, frequently filled with the grossest and obvious inconsistencies” (The Literary Panorama and National Register). The article adequately argues that while Frankenstein is a story of great potential, it falls short of what could have been a great story due to the inconsistent and presumptive notion that the creature formed through inanimate material could develop a human-like character.
This critical review is written by an anonymous author. It is, therefore, difficult to analyze the author’s work based on their credentials. Despite it being an anonymous critique, the article takes its stance from the very first sentence where it describes Shelley’s work as a “feeble imitation” of another work popular at that time. Although it recognizes some potential of the novel as a great piece of imagination, it regards it to be filled with inconsistencies about the monster. The article also highlights Frankenstein’s power to bestow life and the inconsistency of the monster acquiring human-like habits. The argument presented in this critical review makes sense when the readers analyze the minor details. Frankenstein claimed that he was able to spark life into dead matter however, this does not mean that he could endow the creature with faculties such as talking and walking. Yet, as is mentioned in the book, when the creature comes to life, Frankenstein is horror-struck and remains fixed at the spot. The monster, however, walks away and disappears for nearly two years. Additionally, the development of skills by the monster is also quite unbelievable as within a year he starts reading Volney, Werter, and Plutarch. It is also quite questionable to believe that a creature created from inanimate matter could be equipped with a survival instinct. In the novel, the monster not only moves to the forest and takes up residence in a shed but is capable of surviving and hiding. He even learns to read and talk by observing the family that lives in the cottage nearby (Shelley).
The second critique-based article included in this essay is “La Belle Assemblée, or Bell’s Court and Fashionable Magazine, 2d Series, 17 (March 1818): 139-142.” This review starts with a comment about Frankenstein being “a very bold fiction; and, did not the author, in a short Preface, make a kind of apology, we should almost pronounce it to be impious.” The authors of the article further state: “We hope, however, the writer had the moral in view which we are desirous of drawing from it, that the presumptive works of man must be frightful, vile, and horrible; ending only in discomfort and misery to himself” (The Belle Assemblée, or Bell’s Court and Fashionable Magazine). The critique is based on a weak thesis statement that the author must point out the moral that they have in view, rather than leaving it to the readers to draw their conclusion.
This critical review is written by an anonymous author. It is, therefore, difficult to analyze the author’s work based on their credentials. It is a weakly written critique as it does not provide strong evidence to support its claims and is driven by opinion. Most of the text in this article is focused on retelling the story rather than presenting evidence-based criticism. Labeling the text as “impious” and holding it to the moral standards of the audience seems to be a biased approach. A story with an immoral ending does not necessarily deem it to be a bad piece of writing. Therefore, it must not be judged as such. Additionally, the authors recommend that the readers draw the same meaning from the novel as is outlined by them in the critique. The beauty of a literary text lies in the openness of its interpretations and how a variety of readers may relate to it. Frankenstein is such a piece of writing which has offered numerous themes and ideas to different readers. To date, the story is relevant and has stood its ground through centuries and generations.
Conclusively, the first critique-based article presents an argument that one can agree with as it is backed by evidence from the novel. It does not disregard the novel completely and acknowledges its great potential. The second article, however, is opinionated and does not provide sufficient evidence to back its claims. It also judges the novel based on its moral standing rather than as a piece of literature.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein. Evans Brothers, 2007.
The Belle Assemblée, or Bell’s Court and Fashionable Magazine. Romantic Circles, 1 Mar. 1998, https://romantic-circles.org/reference/chronologies/mschronology/reviews/barev.html.
The Literary Panorama and National Register. Romantic Circles, 1 Mar. 1998, https://romantic-circles.org/reference/chronologies/mschronology/reviews/lprev.html.