Don’t Reanimate Corpses! Frankenstein Part 1: Crash Course Literature 205

Hi! I’m John Green, this is Crash Course
Literature, and It’s alive! Mr. Green? Mr. Green? That’s my favorite
part of the movie… No. No. No. No. Me From The Past don’t you
dare. That line is not in the book. And Frankenstein is the doctor not the monster. Also, there
is no Igor in the book or in the movie for that matter. His name was Fritz. Let’s move
on! [Theme Music] So, way before you actually read Mary Shelley’s
Frankenstein, you probably heard about it… I mean the novel is almost 200 years old now, but
we can’t seem to get away from its story and its ideas. Its been adapted into plays, and books, and
comics, and more than 100 movies — from your classic Boris Karloff picture to “Blackenstein,”
“Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster,” “The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein”… And of course 2013’s “I, Frankenstein”
which has a resounding 4% fresh on By the way I wanted to blow Crash Course’s
entire budget on licensing “The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein” but Stan said we couldn’t! Anyway, after all those experiences with he story,
reading the novel is kind of surprising because it opens not with the story of Victor Frankenstein,
but with a series of letters from an Arctic explorer. Also, the monster, who as previously noted
is not named Frankenstein, he doesn’t have a name that’s really important actually,
but he’s a pretty articulate guy. I mean he reads “Plutarch’s Lives” and “Paradise
Lost.” He’s better read than most of us. So genre wise, Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”
is kind of a triple threat. I mean it’s often recognized as the first work of science
fiction. It’s one of the greatest horror novels ever. And it’s often called the greatest
capital “R” Romantic novel. I mean like Lord Byron romantic not Danielle
Steele romantic. You know the idea that like emotions like awe and terror and horror – the
modern emotions – can be the center of an aesthetic experience. Also, Percy Shelley romantic which reminds me to talk about Mary Shelley’s biography. Mary Shelley’s father was an anarchist author,
and her mother was Mary Walstonecraft, a famous early feminist who died just 11 days after
Mary was born. Her mother’s death was a huge influence
on Mary Shelley and if you’re into biographical readings, then you can look at Frankenstein
as a story of a monstrous and disastrous birth. Anyway, when Mary was 14, Percy Shelley, one
of the great lyric poets of the age, came to visit her father after being thrown out
of Oxford for writing a pamphlet on atheism. Percy Shelley was already married, but two
years later, when Mary was just 16, they eloped to the continent along with Mary Shelley’s stepsister
Claire Clairmont… are these names made up? By then Mary was already pregnant with their
first child. So, it’s 16 and Pregnant, the British Romantic Literature edition. So a couple of years later… oh it must be time
for the Open Letter ’cause my desk just moved. An open letter to Percy Shelley’s heart.
Metaphorically, you were complex. I mean after you fell in love with 16 yr old
Mary Shelley you repeatedly threatened to commit suicide even though you were already
married to a different person named Harriet. After leaving Harriet for this teenager, Mary,
Harriet would go on to commit suicide while pregnant with Percy Shelley’s child. And another woman who was in love with you, Mary
Shelley’s half-sister Fanny also committed suicide. But I want to talk about your literal heart
Percy Shelley, because when you drowned in a sailing accident, your friends burned your
body and were stunned to see that your heart did not burn. Somebody grabbed it from the
fire, it traded hands a few times, it ended up with Mary. And it was eventually buried with
Mary and Percy’s son 67 years after Percy died. And some people think the reason the heart
didn’t burn is because Percy Shelley suffered from calcification of the heart which turned
his heart almost into a bone-like structure. In short, you were literally, hard-hearted.
Best wishes, John Green. So a couple years later Mary Shelley, Percy
Shelley, Claire Clairmont, Lord Byron (with whom Claire was having an affair — although
who wasn’t having an affair with Lord Byron), and Byron’s doctor were all hanging out
in Geneva. And despite all the lakes and chocolate, Geneva
was pretty boring, and also the weather was unrelentingly terrible so there was nothing to do all day except sit around reading creepy German ghost stories. So naturally enough, a novel-writing contest
ensued. It was basically like the most productive
NaNoWriMo of all time. The doctor wrote a story that would later be a huge influence
on Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” and Mary Shelley wrote “Frankenstein.” She was still a teenager. It’s just not
fair! Anyway, in the introduction to the 1831 edition of the novel, Mary Shelley explained,
“How I, then a young girl, came to think of, and to dilate upon, so very hideous an
idea.” She wanted to write a story that would “speak to the mysterious fears of
our nature, and awaken thrilling horror.” The idea that art could awaken that horror
and awe and connect us to the broader natural world was really key to the romantics. But she couldn’t figure out how to turn
ideas into like a plot until she stayed up late one night listening to Percy Shelley and Byron
discuss new developments in electricity and the possibility of the dead being brought back to life. That night she went to bed and had a terrible waking dream. She wrote, “I saw the pale student of unhallowed
arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a
man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life,
and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion. Frightful must it be.” Uggh. it’s so creepy. Anyway, that’s Mary
Shelley’s story of the creation of Frankenstein. Let’s talk about now what she created, the
upshot of which is: Don’t re-animate corpses. Alright, Let’s go to the Thought Bubble So the novel opens with with the aforementioned
boring letters that arctic explorer Walton sends to his sister in England. Walton is
sailing toward the North Pole when he sees a man cruising by on a dog sled. The man is Victor Frankenstein. Once upon
a time, he was a nice Swiss boy with a couple of younger brothers, a dead mother, a best
friend, and a cute cousin. But then he went to university and took organic chemistry and
became obsessed with reanimating the dead which is why you should never go to college.
Just kidding, go to college. So eventually Victor figures out how to make
dead flesh live and he assembles this huge creature out of dead bodies and farm animal
parts , hooks up the juice, and animates it. Only he’s so horrified that he runs away and
conveniently develops a bad case of brain fever. Rejected by his creator, the monster wanders
into the wilderness where he seeks shelter and then eventually learns to read and write. The monster returns to Victor and he’s like
“look I’ve done so much book learning” but that doesn’t convince Victor that the
monster is not a monster. So the monster becomes a real monster. He kills Victor’s youngest
brother and then when Victor rejects the monster’s request for a mate, the monster kills Victor’s
best friend and then his cousin — to whom Victor is getting married, because, you know, that’s
what they did back then. The creature flees to the Arctic and then
Victor pursues him which is how he ends up on Walton’s ship where he dies. The creature,
who they’ve found, is so distraught that he says he’s going to die too. And then
Walton has to turn the ship around and never achieve his sublime goal, and everything’s
terrible. Because this is what happens when you major in Organic Chemistry like my brother,
Hank, instead of something healthy and good like film or history or literature. Thanks Thought Bubble. So Frankenstein is
fundamentally a story about creation, about new and terrifying ways to bring light and
life into the world. And in that sense, it’s loosely tied to two other creation stories,
which Mary Shelley acknowledged in the text. The first, is right there in its subtitle,
“The Modern Prometheus,” which is taken of course from Greek mythology. Prometheus
is a Titan, he’s best known for giving fire to Mankind – an idea that Zeus of course hated. I don’t know why Zeus thought we couldn’t
be trusted with fire… come on, Stan, please stop having my head blow up. Anyway, to punish Prometheus, Zeus has him
chained to a rock and he has an eagle show up every day to peck out Prometheus’s liver,
which then grows back every night, until Hercules stages the ultimate prison break. Read one way, this myth is a cautionary tale.
If you overreach yourself, if you share secret knowledge, you’re going to get you liver
pecked out everyday, but that’s not how the Romantics read it. To them Prometheus
was a hero. They saw Prometheus as a figure who never gives up even when faced with incredible
suffering. But “Frankenstein” has a more ambivalent
relationship to the myth. I mean you can definitely read the novel as a story about what happens
when humans overstep. After all, that’s what Mary Shelley says when she tells the
story of her dream, that Frankenstein’s creation would be horrifying because quote “supremely frightful would be the effect
of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world.”
My god, she could write a sentence. And Victor Frankenstein is certainly punished
for his actions, right, I mean he see’s the murder of his friends and family and then
he dies a tragic icy death at the ripe old age of 25. Which for the record high school students,
is not old. But you can also read “Frankenstein” another
way. As a celebration of ambition and super-human effort. I mean, why is that whole arctic explorer
frame a thing? Frankenstein only begins to tell Walton his
story when Walton suggests that he is willing to risk his own life and that of his crew
for knowledge. So it seems like Victor’s trying to share
his own experience as a cautionary tale. But then, at the end, when crew demands that
Walton turn back SO THAT EVERYONE DOESN’T DIE, Victor is furious. “Oh! be men, or
be more than men,” he says. “Return as heroes who have fought and conquered, and who
know not what it is to turn their backs on the foe.” But Walton defers to the crew, writing his
sister, “Thus are my hopes blasted by cowardice and indecision; I come back ignorant and disappointed.” So I don’t think the novel is arguing that
like the heroic human life is one that lives in a quiet bubble of ignorance. That kind of ambivalence — We shouldn’t
overreach! Wait, except at sometimes maybe we should! — is typical of the novel and it’s
also typical of Mary Shelley herself. She once wrote in her journal, “I am not a person of opinions
because I feel the counterarguments too strongly.” The other creation myth with which “Frankenstein”
is intertwined is of course the biblical one as recounted by John Milton in the very good,
very long “Paradise Lost,” which we aren’t reading in Crash Course Literature because
I didn’t wanna. One thing to pay attention to in books is
what books the characters are reading and it’s no coincidence that the monster conveniently
reads “Paradise Lost”. Plus the novel’s epigraph comes from Milton
in a scene in which Adam says to God: “Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
To mould me Man, did I solicit thee From darkness to promote me?” It’s essentially the same thing as when
you say to your parents “I didn’t ask to be born!” but of course that doesn’t
make as good of an epigraph. So in this interpretation Victor is playing
God and the creature is the sinning Adam. But it’s hardly so simple I mean Victor
refers to the creature as a devil and the creature seems to support this at times. Plus, In the middle of the book they have
this intense argument about moral philosophy—you know as you do with monsters, Godzilla was
into Immanuel Kant, King Kong, of course, huge fan of Thomas Hobbes – anyway, the monster
says, “I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel,
whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed. Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone
am irrevocably excluded.” It’s hard out there for a monster and it’s important to remember that God did not expel Satan for no misdeed. But part of what makes this so rich is that
both “Frankenstein” and “Paradise Lost” defy easy readings. I mean, “Frankenstein”
allies the creature with Satan but that doesn’t mean the creature is all bad. There are readings
of Milton’s poem that perceive God as sort of a stick in the mud and Satan as the really
interesting character who struggles undaunted despite his exile from heaven. Anyway, that was the view the Romantics took
and part of why the poet Robert Southey referred to Byron and Percy Shelley and their circle
as belonging to the Satanic school of Romanticism. But anyway, all these allusion to Milton bring
up some pretty tough questions: I mean Does Victor see himself as God? And if so is he
a good God? Does the monster deserve his exile? Is he inherently sinful or is sin something
that God allows to enter, as in Milton’s poem? Just as we wonder whether Victor and
Walton should be praised or damned for their pursuit of knowledge we have to wonder that
about the monster as well. Whether we’re talking about mad scientists
or the monsters they create or arctic explorers, seeking knowledge is a way of becoming human.
Both in the best and worst senses of the word. And to me the great question of the novel is: Who’s
more human – Victor of the monster he has created? Next week we’ll continue our discussion
of “Frankenstein” by examining those questions through different lenses. Until then thanks
for watching. Crash Course is made by all of these nice people
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check it out. Thank you again for watching and as we say in my hometown, “Don’t forget
to be awesome.”

100 Replies to “Don’t Reanimate Corpses! Frankenstein Part 1: Crash Course Literature 205

  1. Woah…
    Update: when you spend 20 minutes finding out if it is "Whoa" or "Woah". It's "Whoa" by the way.

  2. I never payed attention while reading in class and my final is tomorrow wish me luck lmao (i regret those hours wasted on webtoons, but i mean,, its worth it? )

  3. I must admit that when I first read the book I missed so many references because I hadn´d read the books mentioned by the plot. Nevertheless, the story was so well written that I plenty understood the pain the monster felt, and was frustraded for him when he wasn´t accepted by the others. I also understood Victor´s reasoning, but I hated his cowardice, as it caused the deaths of everyone loved by him.

  4. Wait she wasn't his actual cousin, but his adoptive sister who they called his cousin – they weren't related by blood at all. I mean the relationship was still kind of creepy, mostly because of the way he talks about her

  5. As many horrible things that Victor does, I see him more as a weak person. He's not evil or malevolent, as the Monster comes to be, he's simply a trainwreck of poor actions that can't stop to think about what he's done and turn himself around properly. He's self-absorbed and never owns up to his consequences, but all the terrible things he does are never with a purely evil intention. If we read from anyone else's point of view, we'd think that Victor is an awful person with horrid intentions. But reading from Victor's point of view, we understand that while his actions may be less than ideal, his intentions are a little more complex.

  6. I loved this book. It's a chilling reminder that both doing everything and doing nothing are bad, especially when you're only thinking about yourself the entire time.

  7. I wonder what the creature just wearing a mask would do. Also, how Victor getting the creature a dog would change the story….

  8. Is it of importance that the monster(Adam) killed the kid before he met Frankenstein and told him that he had read three books and also Frankenstein'a friend was executed for that crime

  9. Frankenstein is so famous and popular that when Universal Studios started their famous tours that they had an actor in a Frankenstein monster costume meet the visitor trams, and this was hugely popular. Frankenstein is the first science fiction novel, where Mary Shelly writes a horror novel of resurrecting the dead with it by the ego-tastic Dr. Frankenstein, and this just after electricity was discovered. One thing about Dr. Frankenstein, he breaks the stereotype of evil, where he is no devil, he is no outlaw, and he is no jester, but he is not above outlaw things; that is why I say he is all ego to be anything from the ruler of medicine to the outlaw of medicine: The world is only about me, for I am Dr. Frankenstein.

  10. Even though science fiction is often seen as a genre dominated by males (both as readers and writers) it is interesting that the credit for the first sci-fi novel goes to a woman. Mary Shelly wrote Frankenstein in 1818. Long before Shelley, though, another woman, Margaret Cavendish, wrote what many people consider the first science fiction story: The Blazing World, published in 1666. In this and other works, Cavendish “tried to combine metaphysical poetry with scientific speculation, philosophical meditation and utopian romance with autobiographical reflection.” (Norton Anthology of Literature by Women, Volume 1, 3rd ed., p. 160)

  11. The Frankenstein book and movie are a good example of why you should try to read a book before watching its movie form. Same goes for Animal Farm; it was a wonderful piece of literature, but the cartoon changed minor details that completely changed the purpose of the story as a whole (spoiler: the animals won in the cartoon, and lost in the novel. Read the book then watch the cartoon, you'll see what I mean😖).

  12. The monster in the book actually has a name if you really read the it you would know it's "Adam" after the first man.

  13. Percy and Byron had a conversation about modern (at the time) electricity and the possibility of this newly developed force reviving the dead? Take a look at a conversation between two individuals in 2018. Obviously, the world has gone a bit astray.

  14. has he read this book, because some of this isn't true, and the timeline is off. Elizabeth wasn't his real cousin, she was his adoptive sister , and his parents intended them to get married. he called her cousin, because that meant "dear friend". also, the monster's side of the story is completely hidden from this.

  15. I strongly suggest going over to Overly Sarcastic Productions to hear the story of Frankenstein since this really doesn't do justice. How inaccurate is this re-telling? in the book the Monster is handsome.

  16. Knowledge is knowing Frankenstein wasn't the monster. Wisdom is knowing that he wasn't the doctor, either

    he was a college dropout, JOHN

  17. Frankenstein was NOT a doctor. He was a student of natural philosophy. YGOR not Igor, was in Son of Frankenstein.

  18. I really never liked the fact of comparing the creature to Satan. I mean, Satan tried to take over Heaven and made everybody's lives miserable. The creature, on the other hand, was never truly evil. He was just a misunderstood creature who was left to fend for himself, although, I have to admit, maybe he did go a little far with murder, but he didn't go on a murderous rampage like in the movies. He was just looking for revenge.

  19. Guys please help my teacher made this question "Write down five pieces of important information about the background and themes of the novel. "

  20. Did we read the same story? The monster did not visit Frankenstein before killing his brother and Elizabeth is not Frankensteins cousin, she's adopted by his family.

  21. Quick Question – how can Victor as GOD ever be good, if he creates a being able to sin and yet punishes the creature for doing that which he is able to do –

  22. Hi friends,

    does anyone know where/if I can get insight on their sources? I can't find them on their website.

    great video btw 🙂

  23. Can Crash Course have a series explaining how to apply theories as: Romanticism, Marxism, Feminism, …etc. on literary texts?

  24. It's clear John Green hasn't read the book, first of all they see the monster on the dogslegh, not Frankensten. Frankenstein is found on a floating ice sheet sometime later. Second of all, the book ends with the monster running off into the Arctic, nothing is revealed about what happens to Robert Walton afterward.

  25. It's clear John Green hasn't read the book, first of all they see the monster on the dogslegh, not Frankensten. Frankenstein is found on a floating ice sheet sometime later. Second of all, the book ends with the monster running off into the Arctic, nothing is revealed about what happens to Robert Walton afterward.

  26. It's clear John Green hasn't read the book, first of all they see the monster on the dogslegh, not Frankensten. Frankenstein is found on a floating ice sheet sometime later. Second of all, the book ends with the monster running off into the Arctic, nothing is revealed about what happens to Robert Walton afterward.

  27. It's clear John Green hasn't read the book, first of all they see the monster on the dogslegh, not Frankensten. Frankenstein is found on a floating ice sheet sometime later. Second of all, the book ends with the monster running off into the Arctic, nothing is revealed about what happens to Robert Walton afterward.

  28. It's clear John Green hasn't read the book, first of all they see the monster on the dogslegh, not Frankensten. Frankenstein is found on a floating ice sheet sometime later. Second of all, the book ends with the monster running off into the Arctic, nothing is revealed about what happens to Robert Walton afterward.

  29. It's clear John Green hasn't read the book, first of all they see the monster on the dogslegh, not Frankensten. Frankenstein is found on a floating ice sheet sometime later. Second of all, the book ends with the monster running off into the Arctic, nothing is revealed about what happens to Robert Walton afterward.

  30. The typical pathetic message that a lot of writers with their nonsensical often religious ideals are trying to present, that instead of trying to learn and evolve to become greater and greater you should be a slave of your current condition.

  31. The name 'Claire Clairmont' was, indeed, made up, the 'Clairmont' part by Claire's mother and the 'Claire' part by Clara – her real name.

  32. no just no please just do a animation and talk on the animation i know it dumb but still! watching you talk is boring do stuff like ted ed

  33. false story also he was chased by a mob to a house with a blind old man who was lonely and took care of him gave him food and more

  34. 11:05. So what exactly was Satan’s misdeed? That he gave a human enlightenment, with fruit from the tree of KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL.

    I was a Christian a for many many years, but as a skeptic in my later years, I wonder why our creator would punish us for wanting KNOWLEDGE.
    Sounds like propaganda and political corruption if you ask me. Just be a sheeple everyone, and trust that the Illuminati have your best interests in mind. 👌

  35. 3:45, could someone please explain this scentence to me. How was she having an affair with him and not?

  36. I can understand that!I swort of the monster would have a name!!☻🖤💀☠👻🦇⚰🕷🕸

  37. Frankenstein the man was not at all a monster. He made the nameless creature he called monster not to play god but to try to end countless suffering. He was consumed by the vision of a world without death's greedy appetite snuffing out life into sorrow as flame to smoke. When the monster awoke Frankenstein was terrified by the eerie un-human creature. He made the first and terrible mistake of abandoning the newly created life. The next time he saw the monster it had already killed a child and indirectly a friend. So Frankenstein made the mistake again of shunning it. Later Frankenstein had the chance to satisfy it to save himself and his loved ones. But he made the decision not to in order to, he thought, save humanity. In the end it did cost him his wife's and his lives. Because of his fear and disgust all his noble quest ended in was death and suffering. The scientist was both brilliant and stupid, cowardly and heroic, full of hope and fear, and most of all very very human.

  38. "This machine kills fascists" on a device created by a fascist, I hope that's self aware irony, please…

  39. Indeed, Frankenstein created the monster. But that doesn't mean he's not a monster.
    And he isn't really a doctor either. He dropped out in his third year after spending the entirety of the last year shut out in his dorm working on his little passion project. And if you think "well, he'd already learned everything." Graduating and that diploma are everything (plus you can't really use your freak of nature as a thesis if you just wind up regecting your thesis and said thesis runs away)

  40. In 19th century a teenager could write a great novel, in 21st middle-aged women write horrid fan fictions that get adapted into even more horrid and basic movie franchises.

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