The Evolution of Frankenstein

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The Evolution of Frankenstein

Not so long ago, relative to the world at large, in picturesque Geneva not so far from Lake

Leman, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley took part in a not so commonplace "contest". The contest

was to write a ghost story. The outcome was Frankenstein; what is considered today to be a

classic, one of the first science fiction tales, and a story immortalized many times over in film.

And what at its inception was considered little more than the disturbed and ill conceived writings

of a woman by some, and a noble if misplaced effort by others. Critical readings of the novel have

grown over time to encompass more aspects of the critical range and to allow for a broader

reading and understanding of the work which accounts for more than merely face value formal,

rhetorical, mimetic or expressive theories alone.

In March of 1818, the same year Frankenstein was published, The Belle Assemblee

magazine reviewed Frankenstein. In its opening paragraph states "..that the presumptive works of

man must be frightful, vile, and horrible; ending only in discomfort and misery to himself. But will

all our readers understand this?". Clearly this reviewer is, in some part, taking into account

rhetorical theories. The analysis given is in the interests of the reader, so that they might better be

able to appreciate the work. As well, credit is given to formal aspects of the work, the

"excellence of its style and language" as well as "its originality, excellence of language, and

peculiar interest".

Though this review was brief, and did little more than summarize the book for interested

readers of the time, it did what many others did not, in that it focused on Frankenstein as an

original work that offered something new to readers of the time. Further reviews, from sources

such as Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine allowed the author, whose identity was not known for

certain at the time, some small leeway in their criticisms. Though they too agreed that the formal

style of Frankenstein was unique and praiseworthy, strictly mimetic theories are taken into

account in matters they consider inconsistent within the novel, particularly as they pertain to the

nature of the monster. It is looked upon as non-reflective of the way of the real world, that a
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