Fiction

Frankenstein

The source text for multiple film, book, and stage adaptations, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein combines the bone-chilling imagery of the Gothic novel with the romantic era’s exploration of the sublime in order to grapple with the question of what hides within human nature. Shelley began writing the novel in 1816 while summering in Geneva with Lord Byron and Percy Shelley. When bad weather drove the poets inside, Byron proposed a competition to write the best horror story. While Byron and Percy Shelley never completed the task, Mary Shelley created a monster that has thrilled, terrified, and shocked readers’ imaginations for generations. In her novel, Doctor Victor Frankenstein becomes possessed by his project to reanimate dead flesh. He poaches mismatched body parts from different cadavers in order to stitch together a whole human man. The eight-foot-tall mass he creates is monstrous: his skin barely covers his muscles or bones, his lips are set black and straight, and his bright yellow eyes barely escape the shriveled skin around them. Horrified, Frankenstein abandons his grotesque creation. When the creature awakens into an unwelcoming world, he seeks both answers and revenge against his maker. In Shelley’s own words, it is a story that will “make the reader dread to look round, curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart."

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