A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
While Mary Shelley's often overwrought prose doesn't stand the test of time so well, the issues she raises are at least as timely today as they were when she wrote the book. From its impassioned odes to Europe's beauty spots to its hymns to masters of study and scholarship, it offers a fair introduction to Western civilization as it existed at the beginning of the 19th century, and an opening for further study. Perhaps more important, it raises many questions about human nature, what causes people to behave as they do and leads to inexorably terrible consequences.
No sooner has teen Victor Frankenstein animated his creation than he realizes he's made a terrible mistake, the dire consequences of which befall his loved ones for the rest of the book. Whereas few readers in real life are likely to commit his particular error of thinking it's a good idea to confer life on an inanimate being you've assembled from miscellaneous body parts, the larger caution to brilliant young innovators to consider the broader consequences of their inventions is all too timely.
Positive Role Models
Victor is surrounded by the most virtuous and noble of role models, including his parents and beloved "cousin" Elizabeth and good friend Henry, who are not only paragons themselves but never fail to come to his aid. Since he has been brought up surrounded by such values, he is all the more tortured by the horror he has unleashed upon them, and his inability to reveal it, and displays a degree of hand-wringing helplessness and spectacular denial that may seem strange to 21st century sensibilities. While we see many examples of people behaving nobly with regard to each other, including particularly touching examples seen through the monster's eyes, we also see the limits of that nobility -- no human is able to see past the monster's physical ugliness to the inner beauty he has managed to cultivate, even when he performs noble deeds, and all who see him flee or treat him violently.
Violence & Scariness
There are of lots of dead bodies and plenty of dread and foreboding, but no gore. All the monster's victims are strangled. But the subject matter is unavoidably horrific. Victor acknowledges torturing animals in the course of his research and building his creation from corpses. Rejected by his creator and other humans, the monster turns to killing innocent people simply because Victor loves them. There is also violence to innocent people at the hands of the justice system.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
At one point in his troubles, Victor mentions that he is taking laudanum in hopes of being able to sleep.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the 1818 novel that launched dozens of Hollywood horror movies bears little resemblance to any of them, but is quite creepy enough, flowery prose and all, and, historically speaking, went a long way toward inspiring a genre in which things go very badly for many reels. It's also a mainstay of high school honors literature classes and a good intro to both Gothic literature and science fiction. Its themes of delving into the dark arts will have allure for the Twilight set, while the science project run amok (and the arrogance of its creators) is a subject that remains all too timely. Bigotry alert: One of the subplots involves noble Christian characters who risk all to save a Muslim friend from certain death, and once safe he betrays them to an evil fate.
Is It Any Good?
From the hindsight of 200 years, there's much to mock in this book, and the prose can be a slog by today's standards. But the story and its philosophical issues are no less compelling today than they were when Mary Shelley wrote FRANKENSTEIN, as evidenced by the fact that they recur in so many books, movies, and TV plots to this day.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.