Summary of Lawrence Lipking's Essay “Frankenstein, the True Story"
April 17, 2014
Lawrence Lipking's Analysis of Frankenstein In his article, “Frankenstein, the True Story; or, Rousseau Judges Jean-Jacques,” Lawrence Lipking provides a detailed analysis, not only of Mary Shelley's novel itself, but also of the criticism of the novel that has appeared over the last quarter century. Essentially, Lipking's essay is divided into two parts. In the first part, Lipking explains that Shelley's novel is an ideal work for contemporary critics to discuss, primarily because its subject matter lends itself to a variety of different interpretations from a range of perspectives, no one of which needs to establish itself as superior to the others. In this way, he primarily engages in reader-response criticism. In the second part of the essay, Lipking uses close textual analysis to demonstrate the accessibility of the novel to criticism by engaging in a source study that focuses on one text as a primary influence over the work: Rousseau's Emile. The essence of Lipking's original argument can be found near the beginning of the essay, where he explains, “The object of the debate is not to prove or refute or win but only to take part, translating the novel into one's own discourse” (Lipking 316). In this regard, there appears to be a cooperative environment surrounding critics of the novel, whose shared appreciation of the novel appears to take precedence over the need to provide a “winning” interpretation of the book. Everyone seems to win, here. One noticeable exception, however, to this uplifting experience, includes the students found in the classrooms taught by these academics. They, it seems, are apparently not included in this critical community unless they agree with their instructors' often very biased interpretations of the novel in favor of the creature and against Victor Frankenstein. Such teaching, Lipking laments, “reduces the novel to a late-twentieth-century platitude,