Frankenstein Readalong: Part One, Letters for Margaret

It begins! The Frankenstein Readalong. The week's installment takes us through Volume 1, Chapter 5. I am reading the original 1818 version. According to the note from the editor of my book, the 1831 "includes significant departures" from the 1818. The 1831 version was edited by Percy B Shelley. There are people (*cough* men) who claim he wrote the whole thing. *


We start with the Preface. Mary Shelley tells us of the circumstances which lead to her creating Frankenstein. She, Percy, Byron, and friends were stuck indoors because of the weather. She didn't know this but the summer of 1816 was a bad one because of the eruption of Mount Tambora resulting in a volcanic winter. With nothing else to do, the group started telling ghost stories and then it was suggested that Mary, Percy, and Byron have a competition to write their own spooky story. Of course, when the weather turned pleasant, the dudes forgot all about their stories to go hiking or hunting or something. Mary finished hers. (Like a boss!) And created a whole new genre.

Bow down

Volume One: Letters From the Arctic

The book proper begins with letters from an Arctic explorer guy to his sister, Margaret. He is trying to get to the North Pole. He believes that it's a tropical paradise there because the sun never sets. That's...a Theory. He's complaining that no one understands him and he has no real friends because all the sailors around him are too uncouth, and dumb, and ugh, gross.

But, wait! Something exciting happens. While stuck in some ice, the crew sees a sledge being driven by "a being which had the shape of a man, but apparently of gigantic stature." The man carries on his merry way and soon after the ice breaks up. The next day, another sledge and rider shows up, this time it's just some regular guy who's emaciated and starving. It seems he's in pursuit of the first sledge but he's too weak to keep going. The sailors drag him onboard and it doesn't take the letter writer long to find in him a Kindred Spirit. He says "I begin to love him as a brother...He must have been a noble creature in his better days..." He's known this guy, who won't tell him anything about himself, for a few weeks maybe and he likes that he has nice manners. Yeah, some serial killers have nice manners too, dude! You are going to wake up one morning with a kidney missing.

Finally, the Stranger, as he's been referred to in the letters, decides he'll share his story with the explorer. He gives some ominous and vague learn-from-my-mistakes warnings.

Chapter One Through Five: Picture It! 

You know someone is going to tell you a long story when the starting point is before they were even born. Victor (we find out his first name it this part) is from a very prominent Swiss family. His dad married his dead friend's daughter, not sure if it's out of obligation or love, and they had a bunch of kids. They also adopt the dad's niece, Elizabeth. Even though, they are just babies, Victor's mom is all, "Oh, you guys are going to be maaaaaaaarrrried someday!" for some reason.

Victor had a very Montessori education and was allowed to study whatever he wanted, including some weird stuff. However, his dad sees him reading Cornelius Agrippa (a magician, kinda? Dunno.) and calls it "sad trash." Being a teenager, this just makes Victor want to read more like this. If his dad dismisses it, it must be good!

When Victor is seventeen, it's decided he'll go to university. But first, his mom dies, and the last thing his mom says to him and Elizabeth is "No, really guys, you're going to get maaaaaaaarrrried!" Okay, they've been living together like siblings since they were little ones. How weird must that be?! Anyway, Elizabeth is sweet and wonderful and all that jazz.

Victor loves university. It's his jam. He's there for two years without even going home for the holidays. He becomes obsessed with what we would call Biology and the "causes of life." He even starts hanging around "vaults and charnel houses." And then, BAM! "I became myself capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter." That was easy. He doesn't share the secret because it's too dangerous and this is a pretty great work around for Shelley who doesn't have to get into the details. He does tell Arctic guy that he put his knowledge to use and started building a giant man.

You know it, girl!

He works in his loft apartment all summer long. (I wonder how he explained the smell to his landlord.) He stops writing home, but receives letters from his dad along the lines of "I guess you're TOO BUSY to even write to us here. Hope you aren't drinking and gambling away the family fortune."

Finally in November, his creation comes to life!

Yeah, he doesn't do this
The giant man creature just blinks and Victor has instant regret. He does the sensible thing when staring into the face of consequences, he ignores it. He tries to take a nap and then walks around the city. Good plan, Victor, way to think things through.

He realizes he has to go home eventually and heads there, when he meets his old friend Clerval, who came to check up on him. Victor checks on his apartment but the monster is gone. Then he has a break down and is bedridden for months.

Spring arrives and Victor is feeling better. Clerval tries to lift his spirits. He encourages him to write home and luckily there is a letter just arrived from Elizabeth. Elizabeth gives us the whole history of some girl she knows named Justine, so you know that will be important later, and also some blah-blah about everyone else at home.

Victor is feeling hopeful and happy. He's all 'life is freaking fantastic' so the shit is about to hit the fan, for sure.

Victor right now

And that's where we end. Will Victor see his creation again? Will he marry his cousin-sister? Will Arctic guy confess his undying love to Victor?

*Even the ones who are all "Well, he most definitely helped her write it because she was just a dumb teenaged girl, with genius parents yeah okay, but just A GIRL" annoy me. Let's count all the male authors who had help from their wives who never got credit. Oh wait, we don't talk about that. They wrote all of those books by themselves. Ugh.


  1. VICTOR IS SUCH A DUMB-DUMB! I am astonished that he's not self-flagellating more for just trying to IGNORE THE MONSTER HE SPENT MONTHS MAKING, like that is some next-level ridiculousness. Man.

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  2. LMAO! Your commentary is certainly more interesting than the actual novel. If I remember correctly, I liked the first portion. It's later where the book turns a bit tedious. Have fun! ;)

  3. Funny, I don’t remember the artic portion of the story from when I read it in high school AT ALL. Further proof you should just get the point when you’re telling a story


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