Frankenstein

Annotated for scientists, engineers, and creators of all kinds.

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Co-Director of the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes at Arizona State University
Lincoln Chair in Ethics, Arizona State University
Founding director of the Center for Science and the Imagination at ASU
Public Engagement Strategist for the Center for Science & the Imagination
Editor and program manager at the Center for Science & the Imagination
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Book AnnotationMary Shelley
Joey Eschrich
In October and November of 1816, as she worked on the story that eventually became Frankenstein, Mary was reading Humphry Davy’s book Elements of Chemical Philosophy, according to literary historian Martin Garrett. This suggests that Mary was actively consulting contemporary scientific sources during the period in which she was drafting Frankenstein. This is particularly critical here in Volume I, Chapter 1, wherein Victor details his college years and his relationships with his professors, M. Krempe and M. Waldman. Mary’s father William Godwin knew Davy well—Davy was both an accomplished scientist and a poet, and he was a frequent guest at Mary’s childhood home. Godwin published Davy’s poetry in his 1810 collection The Poetical Class-Book, alongside legendary poets including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, Helen Maria Williams, and Lord Byron.
Book AnnotationMary Shelley
Joey Eschrich
According to literary historian Martin Garrett, Mary read Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther (which Mary refers to as “the Sorrows of Werter” in this passage) in 1815, just months before she conceived of the story that became Frankenstein in the summer of 1816. Werther is an epistolary novel, narrated through a series of letters, and it may have inspired Mary’s structural choices in writing Frankenstein, where she uses letters in a number of different ways to tell the story.
Book AnnotationMary Shelley
Joey Eschrich
Like the creature, Mary was exposed to Paradise Lost early in life—and judging by its prominence in Frankenstein, the epic poem had as profound an impact on her developing mind as it does the creature’s. In 1810, Mary’s father William Godwin published The Poetical Class-Book, which he coedited with William Frederick Mylius. The book included poems by many of the era’s literary luminaries, including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, Helen Maria Williams, and Lord Byron, as well as extracts from John Milton’s Paradise Lost (which was much older than the other entries, having been first published in 1667). In his A Mary Shelley Chronology, literary historian Martin Garrett speculates that The Poetical Class-Book may have been the first time that Mary read Paradise Lost, at around age 13. Later, in January 1812, when she was 14, Mary attended a series of three public lectures given by Coleridge on Milton’s work. 
Book AnnotationHealth & MedicineMary Shelley
Joey Eschrich
Mary’s mother was the renowned philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft. Tragically, Wollstonecraft died on September 10, 1797, just 11 days after giving birth to Mary, of puerperal fever, a malady common after childbirth in the eighteenth century. Wollstonecraft was an immense influence on Mary and her young-adult intellectual circle (Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and others); Mary grew up revering and striving to emulate her beloved intellectual titan of a mother. In this passage, Victor recounts how his cousin and eventual spouse Elizabeth Lavenza came into his life as a child. Unlike Elizabeth, who is adopted by her uncle’s family, Mary was raised by her father William Godwin and a stepmother, Mary Jane Clairmont, with whom she had a conflictual and troubled relationship.   
Community Discussion
selena dodson
sd
My thematic topic is nature vs. nurture, In Frankenstein Victor made a creature, and left it. Was it suppose to be evil when it was made or did Victor leaving him and rejecting him make him who he is? I think leaving the “monster” acts the way he does the murder because of how Frankenstein treated him. The “monster” doesn't know how to treat others because he wasn't trained or taught, he just saw how Frankenstein treated him.  The rejection he experienced affected him to treat others how he was treated instead of being loved and loving them. The way we are treated will impact who you are as a person. In the case of designer babies it would be nature because your being able to change how your child would be.
Community Discussion
kaden cameron
kc
I believe that Victor Frankenstein did not make the ethical choice when he created the monster. In the book Frankenstein he creates a creature, but as soon has he creates the creature, he rejects it. That’s stated here when he said “I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.” He was so driven to finish his pride and joy, his life’s work, but this got the better of him and he didn’t take responsibility. He later said “I rushed out of the room and continued a long time traversing my bed- chamber, unable to compose my mind to sleep.” You could say he is avoiding responsibility, but I think that he is just taking a moment to process what has happened. Later on in the book the creature stalks Victor and then confronts him to make a second creature to be his wife/girlfriend/mate or whatever you want to call it. Victor reluctantly agrees, but then later changes his mind, the creature becomes really mad and replies with this “If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear!”, showing that people hate him and reject him from their society than he is just going terrorize people just to find his place in the world. When Victor is making the creature he says “She also might turn with disgust from him to the superior beauty of man; she might quit him, and he be again alone, exasperated by the fresh provocation of being deserted by one of his own species” He is feeling sympathy for the creature which is multiple levels of ethics. Overall I believe that Frankenstein should have not created the creature and when he did he did not take responsibility for that, but tried to flip the situation around in the end, but to avail.
Book AnnotationEquity & InclusionInfluences & Adaptations
Lisa Yaszek
LY
Mary’s wryly affectionate hope that her “hideous progeny” might “go forth and prosper” would be echoed nearly a century and a half later by science fiction author Joanna Russ, who, at the end of her groundbreaking feminist novel The Female Man (1975), pays homage to her literary ancestress with the command: “go, little book, trot through Texas and Vermont and Alaska… bob a curtsey at the shrines of Freidan, Millet, Greer… recite yourself to all who will listen…wash your face and take your place without fuss in the Library of Congress.” Significantly, however, while Mary links her desire for literary success to the memory of a happier past with her husband and friends, Russ looks forward to a happier future when “we will be free” because feminist endeavors—including the creation of feminist science fiction—have paved the way for true equality between the sexes.
Book AnnotationScience
Elizabeth Denlinger
ED
In fact, what Erasmus Darwin (grandfather of Charles) described in The Temple of Nature (1803) is the “vorticella, or wheel animal … capable of continuing alive for many months though kept in a dry state,” which, placed in water, “assumes the form of a lively maggot” and starts looking for food.
Community Discussion
Enit Steiner
ES
Mary’s initial conclusion of the novel differs from the 1818 version, which bears Percy’s editorial intervention. Her draft reads:“He sprung from the cabin window as he said this on to an ice raft that lay close to the vessel & pushing himself off he was carried away by the waves and I soon lost sight of him in darkness & distance.”Apart that her version has the fluidity associated with the epistolary novel, there is another noteworthy difference: Mary makes it unambiguously clear that the creature is not lost, but that Walton loses sight of him. Mary’s choice of the “I” insists on a focalization on the seer, foregrounding the subjective aspect of perception and ultimately of story-telling, otherwise erased by the full stop and the following “He was lost” in the published conclusion. Other moments in the novel are consistent with this choice, e.g., when Victor tells Walton: “The figure [of the wretch, the filthy daemon to whom I had given life] passed me quickly, and I lost it in the gloom”, or after the creature has related his tale on the Mer de Glace at Chamonix: “I saw him descend the mountain with greater speed than the flight of an eagle, and quickly lost him among the undulations of the sea of ice.” To readers that wonder if the creature commits suicide in front of Walton’s eyes, Mary’s version answers “no”.  This very much to Victor’s desolation, who on his deathbed implored Walton to put an end to the creature’s life as soon as they cross paths. Finally, as Jeffrey Jerome Cohen notices in “Monster Culture,” the monster always escapes (see Monster Theory: Reading Culture, 1996).
Community Discussion
Isabel de Blois
Id
We as a society create things with no idea of the consequences. It is not that we are all stupid, or have harmful intentions- it’s that we cannot possibly foresee the result of our actions. It is shown in some of our greatest literature such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, to something more modern, like our iPhones. Originally created for better communication, due to the advancement of technology, the iPhone now lets us look anything up without lifting a finger using the feature Siri, ( in addition to better communication). However, though our iPhones, or smartphones for that matter, allow us to contact on social media platforms like Instagram or Snapchat, they isolate us from our surroundings.  We have all been in a conversation where one person is engaged on their phone rather than speaking. In fact, an article written by Katherine Hobson states that in a survey done  of adults ages 19-32 “People who reported spending the most time on social media — more than two hours a day — had twice the odds of perceived social isolation.” As for Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the main protagonist of the novel, Victor Frankenstein, spent months devoting his time to creating  a creature that ultimately destroyed his life, killing all of the people Victor loved, leaving Victor in a state of despair. This revenge on the people Victor loved, was the reaction out of the extreme loneliness and alienation, a consequence of the creature not being like the world around them. There is no doubt in my mind if Victor had been able to predict the disturbing consequences his creation, he would have stopped his work.
Community Discussion
Thomas Carter
TC
In Frankenstein, It seems that almost all of the Monster’s experiences are vile and full of hatred towards him, for example Throughout the book, the monster is constantly being thrown in the dirt, first by his creator, Victor, then the villagers he meets and he even gets shot the one time he tries to be nice to humans, and all of these people who are acting this way is sort of sculpting this monster into the way they view him. People hate him so he hates them back. This is sort of what is happening in today’s view of technology and advancements where many movies and TV shows for example Black Mirror show technology like AI, and robots are creating these horrible disasters - which makes the shows interesting of course but at the same time it’s sort of creating people to be hesitant about advancing technology and people now have this skeptical mindset that if we make these advancements the exact same disasters will happen to us. I just think it’s interesting that no matter how far back or recent we look, people are always afraid of advancements or changing things and a lot of that fear can come from books and shows and people imaginations.
Community Discussion
Luis Reyes
LR
Based on the events of the book “Frankenstein” by Mary shelley and the French Revolution, I believe that as you progress, you’ll have to make tough decisions. This is shown in the book Frankenstein when the protagonist Victor, has the decision to follow the monster’s orders and make a female companion because of his progression in reanimating corpses, he decides not to. While he his working on the female monster he decides to destroy it. This was a hard decision for him because he contemplates if the female monster would turn out destructive like the other monster. Furthermore in the Industrial Revolution progress was made at a fast rate, this led to factories needing a lot of workers. According to ATC Risk Management, in the 18th century child labor was a inexpensive solution to the need of workers, but led to work accidents. This was then changed by a law called, “The Factories Act” which decreased child injuries in the factories. This idea can be applied in the innovation that I’m studying, mind recording and uploading. There are discussions about if we should even continue this technology because it could benefit humans but also hinder us. Stanford University has expressed some of these ethical questions in a article they wrote.
Community Discussion
Averi Dropping
AD
Alienation and being isolated from society can go many ways, it can help to get things done but it can also lead to being lonely and depressed. For example, in Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus, the protagonist, Victor makes himself isolated for a large portion of the novel. The downside with him doing this is that he is alone with his thoughts which start to drive him crazy and he ends up getting very sick. He does this to himself because this way he can learn and work without distractions and nobody can get hurt. Victor worked on most of his real scientific innovations while he was alone. This could be because he didn’t want anybody to know about it and so they wouldn’t get hurt but it could also be that this is how he got the work done. You can see this alot with many scientists in history and today. Often, the best work is done with total concentration and not having any distractions.  
Community Discussion
Everett Meckler
EM
As time goes on, the alienation brought about by our own minds becomes more apparent than alienation inspired by external differences. In Frankenstein, the creature provides us with many examples of external difference lead to great isolation, but the other characters can show us many examples of our own minds leading to alienation as well. The story, in fact, begins with one who’s own mind and thoughts isolate himself. Robert Walton’s passions and the pressure to succeed drive him to a very sparsely populated area of the world. Robert finds himself lonesome even in the midst of the crew he assembles from the few who live nearby because he cannot relate or converse with them. Victor’s passions also lead him down a path of isolation. Eventually, Victor ultimately becomes depressed, so much so, that many times he becomes very reclusive. Near the end of the story it is a sense of duty that isolates him. Eventually, what originated as only thought, depression, and passion in Victor’s head manifests in a more literal sense in the way that his loved ones die. In our connected and globalized world, external indicators don’t matter to us quite as much, for we have much less of a need for worrying about survival. With the advent of the internet and computers, we have much less real interaction and are desensitised. Depression and anxiety have skyrocketed. If we were to take a next step forward and say connect the human brain to computers, then these issues would only be emphasized more so. We have gone from judging based on external features to judgement based on limited interaction and knowledge of people intellectually.
Community Discussion
Brennan Jackson
BJ
This passage demonstrates how much Vicor has gone through. Shelley shows this through the line “the medicine had been fatal.” This shows that no matter what Victor does to give him a break from constantly worrying about the monster, it doesn’t work. This passage also reminds the reader of Victor’s family, displaying the distress placed on them as well. Shelley reminds the reader of the cost at which the progression of knowledge takes on people. Shelley does this through not only the repercussions shown in Victor’s physical and mental health, but also in the people the Monster has affected as well. The reader is encouraged to be cautious with the progression of knowledge. Victor had originally wanted to make life so badly that it consumed every minute of his time. But now, he wants nothing to do with what he created, but it’s too late to turn back now. It is important for Shelley to depict the state at which Victor is in in order to display the progression of the character. This is what teaches some of the lessons in which Shelley attempts to make. Once the reader sees the character go through this hardship, they can see the lesson in which they are meant to take away.
Community Discussion
Charlie Kopp
CK
In this quote, the monster feels a great rage, as Victor says “contortions too horrible for human eyes to behold.” Note that Victor says specifically human eyes, reinforcing the fact that this monster does not belong in the human world and will never be able to fit in. Again in this quote the monster’s inhumanity is emphasized, in its “fiendish rage.” Fiendish, meaning unusually cruel or devilish further dehumanizes the monster, emphasizing and further encouraging the alienation that the monster experiences throughout his short life span. This dehumanization in descriptions is not only seen in Frankenstein and other works of fiction of human-like monsters, but also in real life of actual humans. Just look at the language used in US legislation concerning immigrants, with the word ‘alien’ being used multiple times to describe foreign citizens (Esther Yu Hsi Lee “The Dehumanizing History Of The Words We’ve Used To Describe Immigrants). Although the word has since been removed (in 2015), the impact and effect stays, these inhuman descriptors encouraging xenophobia and making it easier for many Americans to dismiss immigrants as an ‘other’ and ‘things’ that we should look down upon. This relates back to Frankenstein, because all throughout the book Victor is trying to find ways to distance himself from the monster, just as some of my fellow Americans try to distance themselves from immigrants. The easiest solution to distancing being simply to say that, ‘they’re different from me’.
Community Discussion
Lance Davenport
LD
Mary Shelley uses many different literary devices to get the monsters point across alongside bringing more action into this novel. This passage specifically shows Shelley’s use of metaphors and hyperboles adds to the description already seen in this play. Shelley adds description to further develop the characters and the plot. Shelley used a hyperbole to help set a tone for the monster in the rest of the novel, “his face was wrinkled into contortions too horrible for human eyes to behold” Victor Frankenstein already does not like the Monster because of his “ugliness” but Shelley added this hyperbole for the reader to understand what Victor felt when he saw the Monster.  Shelley's description especially when she described the monsters face “contorting” shows her ability to draw the reader in and keep them interested. Shelley also described the monster as too ugly for anyone to “behold” further developing the readers vision of the monster and the readers thoughts of the monster. Shelley's description of the monster adds to the plot and allows the reader to understand what the monster feels and looks like.
Community Discussion
Dexter Mayo
DM
The Monster has requested for Victor to build and create him a woman monster, with whom he can share his life in hopes that it will not be as miserable with company. Victor is reluctant to create another monster, and does not know if he should help the Monster. Because of what the Monster did to William and Justine, Victor knows what he is capable of, and does not want to see these animals ruining the human world. The monster threatens Victor by saying “Have a care: I will work at your destruction, not finish until I desolate your heart, to that you cure the hour of your birth”. The Monster needs to show Victor that he has the ultimate control, and that since Victor has created a being so much more powerful than him, he is now subject to the Monster. But, this is exactly what Victor is worried of. Should he create a Monster, that might potentially ruin the world, with his new female counterpart? Especially if the monster has just shown so much power and hatred towards humans. Or, should Victor not create him and possibly enrage the Monster even more, and put his family and the human race in danger? Another reason for Victor not to create a monster is that he has many bad memories of when he first created the Monster; being closed off from his family, not eating, not sleeping, and being cut off from the outside world. Frankenstein does not want to waste more time of his life making a creature he knows will only bring horror to his world.
Community Discussion
Jeremy Fried
JF
In this passage, the Monster shows his true colors. He demonstrates how he is nothing but an ugly creature with a good heart. Although filled with rage, the Monster is able to contain himself and reason with Victor. After being self-educated, the amount of knowledge and communication skills is other-worldly. These skills are truly put to the test as he must confront his creator, whom he possess nothing but hatred for. The Monster admits he is flawed, but that he will overcome it, “I will revenge my injuries: if I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear; and chiefly towards you my arch-enemy, because my creator, do I swear inextinguishable hatred.” He speaks about his hatred for Victor because of his treatment of him after birth. Frankenstein ditched him with no intellect and less than a day on Earth. As a birth giver, one is automatically presented a responsibility to take care and nurture their child. In this scenario, Frankenstein abandoned him. Because of that, the Monster swears on his eternal hatred for Frankenstein and promises to overcome the challenges bestowed upon him by his creator.
Community Discussion
Lola Hakim
LH
In this quote, the Monster demands that Victor creates him female companion of his own kind. As the Monster has caused much destruction to Victor’s life, Victor refuses the Monster’s wish out of spite and fear. The thought of another demoniacal and malicious creature out in the world inserts fear in Victor. When Victor refuses, the Monster makes the point that he has not always been malignant and odious. The Monster states that he was initially benevolent, as he was just discovering the ways of the world. But once society rejected and shunned the Monster, he began to believe that not only was he the Monster that people made him out to be, but he developed a sense of vengeance towards the world in return for how they treated him. The monster illustrates his struggles to Victor about the ways he was hated by all mankind, and then states that even Victor, the man who created him, would take joy in his destruction. He states that although Victor calls the Monster’s actions murder, if Victor killed the Monster he wouldn’t believe it to be so. The monster then proceeds to ask a question which makes Victor vacillate, “Shall I respect man, if he contemns me?” The Monster forces Victor to think of the Monster as human, by comparing himself to others. He makes the point that if society rejects him, why should he respect society. The Monster manipulates Victor by justifying all of his unlawful actions, eventually leading Victor to agree to comply with his demands.