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Frankenstein (Barnes & Noble Classics) Mass Market Paperback – Illustrated, April 1, 2003

4.6 out of 5 stars 11,752 ratings

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Mass Market Paperback, Illustrated, April 1, 2003
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Karen Karbiener received a Ph.D. from Columbia University and currently teaches literature at New York University.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

From Karen Karbieners Introduction to Frankenstein

Werewolves, vampires, witches, and warlocks have been the stuff of folklore, legend, and nightmare for centuries, yet none have so haunted the public imagination as the monster created by eighteen-year-old Mary Shelley in 1816. From the start, we have been eager to help the monster live off of the page, to interpret the tale for ourselves. Within five years of the novels initial publication, the first of what would eventually be more than ninety dramatizations of Frankenstein appeared onstage. Shelley herself went to see one of the thirty-seven performances of Presumption that played in London in 1823. Lumbering violently and uttering inarticulate groans, the monster attracted record numbers of theatergoers, as well as a series of protests by the London Society for the Prevention of Vice. Mary was pleased and "much amused" by Thomas Cookes attempts to portray the monster, and even made a favorable note about the playbill to her friend Leigh Hunt. "In the list of dramatis personae came, --- by Mr. T Cooke: this nameless mode of naming the unameable [sic] is rather good," she wrote on September 11 (Letters, vol. 1, p. 378).

A familiar yet ever-evolving presence on the Victorian stage, the monster also haunted the pages of newspapers and journals. Political cartoonists used Shelleys monster as the representation of the "pure evil" of Irish nationalists, labor reformers, and other favored subjects of controversy; it was often depicted as an oversized, rough-and-ready, weapon-wielding hooligan. In Annals of the New York Stage, George Odell notes that audiences were entertained with photographic"illusions" of the monster as early as the 1870s. And the cinema was barely ten years old before the Edison Film Company presented their version of the story, with Charles Ogle portraying a long-haired, confused-looking giant. Virtually every year since that films appearance in 1910, another version of Frankenstein has been released somewhere in the world-though the most enduring image of the monster was the one created by Boris Karloff in James Whales 1931 classic. The creatures huge, square head, oversized frame, and undersized suit jacket still inform most peoples idea of what Shelleys monster "really" looks like.

As strange and various as the interpretations of the creature have been, the monster has retained a surprisingly human quality. Even in its most melodramatic portrayals, its innate mortality is made apparent; whether through a certain softness in the eyes, a wistfulness or longing in its expression, or a desperate helplessness in its movements, the creature has always come across as much more than a stock horror device. In fact, several film adaptations have avoided the use of heavy makeup and props that audiences have come to expect. Life Without a Soul (1915) stars a human-looking, flesh-toned monster; and in Mary Shelleys Frankenstein (1994), actor Robert DeNiro, who is certainly neither ugly nor of great stature, did not wear the conventional green face paint and restored the monsters eloquent powers of speech.

Like Satan in Paradise Lost, Mary Shelleys monster was given a shadowy and elusive physical presence by its creator. It moves through the story faster than the eye can follow it, descending glaciers "with greater speed than the flight of an eagle" or rowing "with an arrowy swiftness." The blurriness of the scenes in which the monster appears allows us to create his image for ourselves and helps explain why it has inspired so many adaptations and reinterpretations. Certainly, too, both Miltons Satan and Shelleys creature have been made more interesting, resonant, and frightening because they have human qualities. The monster possesses familiar impulses to seek knowledge and companionship, and these pique our curiosity and awaken our sympathies. Its complex emotions, intelligence, and ability to plan vengeful tactics awaken greater fears than the stumbling and grunting of a mindless beast. A closer look at Shelleys singular description of the monsters features reveals its likeness to a newborn infant rather than a "fiend" or "demon": Consider its "shrivelled complexion," "watery eyes," and "yellow skin [that] scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath." The emotional range of De Niros monster, the gentle childish expression in Karloffs eyes, even the actor Cookes "seeking as it were for support-his trying to grasp at the sounds he heard" (Letters, vol. 1, p. 378), suggest that we have sensed the monsters humanity all along.

Another trend in the way the monster has been reinterpreted is equally suggestive. Movie titles such as Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), and Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1971) testify to the fact that the monster has taken on the name of his creator in popular culture. In Frankenstein, the monster is called plenty of names by his creator, from at best "the accomplishment of my toils" to "wretch," "miserable monster," and "filthy daemon"; significantly, Victor never blesses his progeny with his own last name. Our identity of the creature as the title character does, of course, shift the focus from man to monster, reversing Shelleys intention. Reading the book, we realize that Frankensteins lack of recognizing the creature as his own-in essence, not giving the monster his name-is the monsters root problem. Is it our instinctive human sympathy for the anonymous being that has influenced us to name him? Is it our recognition of similarities and ties between "father" and "son," our defensiveness regarding family values? Or is it simply our interest in convenience, our compelling need to label and sort?

Our confusion of creator and created, as well as our interest in depicting the creatures human side, indicate an unconscious acknowledgment of a common and powerful reading of Frankenstein: that the monster and his creator are two halves of the same being who together as one represents the self divided, a mind in dramatic conflict with itself. Just as Walton notes to his sister the possibility of living a "double existence," even the civilized person is forever in conflict with his or her own monstrous, destructive, even self-destructive side. Indeed, if the monster/creator conflation were to represent the human race in general, Shelley seems to be saying that our struggles with the conflicting impulses to create and destroy, to love and hate, permeate all of human existence. Shelley could not have chosen an idea with more relevance to twentieth- and twenty-first-century readers than humankinds own potential inhumanity to itself. Our ambitions have led us to the point where we, too, can accomplish what Victor did in his laboratory that dreary night in November: artificially create life. But will our plan to clone living organisms or produce life in test tubes have dire repercussions? We build glorious temples to progress and technology, monumental structures that soar toward the heavens; and yet in a single September morning, the World Trade Center was leveled-proving once again that man is his own worst enemy.

In Frankenstein, Shelley exhibits a remarkable ability to anticipate and develop questions and themes peculiarly relevant to her future readers, thereby ensuring its endurance for almost 200 years. To understand why and how this ability developed, we must take a closer look at her life, times, and psychological state. Certainly, Frankenstein details a fascinating experiment, introduces us to vivid characters, and takes us to gorgeous, exotic places. But this text, written by a teenager, also addresses fundamental contemporary questions regarding "otherness" and societys superficial evaluations of character based on appearance, as well as modern concerns about parental responsibility and the harmful effects of absenteeism. Anticipating the alienation of everyday life, Robert Walton and the monster speak to those of us who now live our lives in front of screens of various kinds-computer, television, movie. Other readers may feel stabs of recognition when confronting Victor, a perfectionist workaholic who sacrifices love and friendship in the name of ambition. Frankenstein is a nineteenth-century literary classic, but it is also fully engaged in many of the most profound philosophical, psychological, social, and spiritual questions of modern existence.

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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Barnes & Noble Classics; Illustrated edition (April 1, 2003)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Mass Market Paperback ‏ : ‎ 288 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1593080050
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1593080051
  • Reading age ‏ : ‎ 18 years and up
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 5.8 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 4.13 x 0.72 x 6.75 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.6 out of 5 stars 11,752 ratings

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Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5
11,752 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States on August 13, 2020
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2.0 out of 5 stars A small-sized, expensive edition ($29.95) with lackluster reproduction of Wrightson's artwork.
Reviewed in the United States on August 13, 2020
There have been four different editions of FRANKENSTEIN with Wrightson art, and unfortunately this is the smallest-sized (6x9 inches) and most expensive ($29.95) edition with lackluster printing of the artwork (see photo). Obviously, if you just want the book for its text, there are dozens of other choices, and far cheaper. But the publisher, in its sales copy, is careful to make the distinction that this edition has the Wrightson art, which is its main selling point. Therefore, wouldn't you think they'd give us a proper showcase, with coated matte paper, like the IDW edition (the best of the four), instead of printing this on inexpensive, highly absorbent, standard book stock (55-pound or 70-pound, at most)?

The result is a book that simply isn't a good value for the money. If you want an edition of FRANKENSTEIN with the art gorgeously reproduced, in a large format, on coated semi-matte paper and exquisite reproduction, you'll have to buy one on the secondary market, because that edition, from Dark Horse, is long out of print. Go seek it out. Oh, my lord, it's such a beautiful book in every way, right down to its satin ribbon.

As a former book marketing director, while I applaud S&S for getting the book back in print, they are best advised to sell out the remaining inventory and go back to the drawing board, just as the late Bernie Wrightson did when he realized it was high time for the art to match the book with classic art. Bernie poured his heart and soul into illustrating what is unquestionably his masterpiece.

Perhaps the second time around the publisher will get a copy of the IDW edition and say: "How can we improve on this?" (Well, for starters, reprint Joyce Carol Oates' essay on the book, and add an appreciation of Wrightson himself, and add an additional gallery of the unused Wrightson artwork that appeared in a separate book, from a small press, titled THE LOST FRANKENSTEIN PAGES.) Then they'll have a book for the ages, which will make money for them for many years to come, which is what Bernie Wrightson's art richly deserves, and his wife Elizabeth also deserves, and what we, as readers, will buy.

Note: I have posted two photos of the Dark Horse edition, which I highly recommend.
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Reviewed in the United States on November 25, 2019
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1.0 out of 5 stars NOT THE 1818 VERSION!
Reviewed in the United States on November 25, 2019
Despite saying it's the original 1818 text in the description, it is not; it's the 1831 edition. Considering that I specifically needed the 1818 version for my son's AP English class, this was incredibly disappointing and frustrating. However, since it was so cheap, it's not worth sending back, and my son will be using it as a stop-gap until my new order of the correct version arrives.
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46 people found this helpful
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Reviewed in the United States on January 18, 2019
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1.0 out of 5 stars Not at all what I was expecting...
Reviewed in the United States on January 18, 2019
I am disappointed in the quality of this book, which has a cover that looks like a copy of a copy printed up on someone’s cheap home printer and has more than a few ink splotches evident throughout the text. I am also puzzled by the numbering of the chapters, some of which are in roman numerals while others are in modern numbers, and the one blurry reproduction inside. Why even bother? As for the actual novel, I have to bring home my copy of the Norton version I own, but this one has only 146 pages, which seems off, considering the other copy I own is closer to 500. Of course, a number of those pages could be the foreward and a few critiques, but I doubt that it is three hundred pages worth. I should have known I was taking a chance with this version, especially when the cover illustration is clearly of the 1950s version of The Creature.
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45 people found this helpful
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Reviewed in the United States on July 27, 2020
15 people found this helpful
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Reviewed in the United States on December 13, 2018
20 people found this helpful
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Top reviews from other countries

5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling Romantic Gothic Classic that is genre defining
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 17, 2017
23 people found this helpful
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3.0 out of 5 stars It'll do for now
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 30, 2020
6 people found this helpful
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Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars Not Frankenstein but some altered version
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 20, 2017
20 people found this helpful
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Rob Ash
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Edition of the Original Frankenstein at Exceptional Value!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 21, 2020
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Rob Ash
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Edition of the Original Frankenstein at Exceptional Value!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 21, 2020
I'm not sure it's worth my reviewing the story in this book, since everyone is so familiar with it. But if you haven't actually read this original version then it is well worth doing so, if you can cope with the beautiful classic writing style.

The main reason I wanted to do this review was to let you know just how nice this book is physically.
The format is a Flexibound Edition by Barnes & Noble. It's basically a faux leather-bound cover. Obviously not real leather, it is a soft feel plastic or rubber which is marginally flexible in the hand.
The first and last pages are backed in the old-world style using frantically patterned end papers.
The page edges are colour sprayed to complement the cover.
There is also a page marking ribbon.
Even the relatively thick paper stock has slightly off white colouring and lends itself to the feel of an old original collectable.

In short, for the incredibly low retail price of this book you get an absolutely stunning edition, which looks fantastic on the shelf in a collected set and feels great in the hand as you read. Barnes and Noble do a nice collection in this format. Just search for (Barnes Noble Flexibound editions) on Amazon.
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5 people found this helpful
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5.0 out of 5 stars Affordable access to Bernie Wrightson's work
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 28, 2020
2 people found this helpful
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