Common Misconceptions About Famous Books and Authors

Universal Pictures, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Universal Pictures, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Back in 1816, Mary Shelley started writing Frankenstein and later published the story in 1818. Since then, it has become a tale that many of us know well ... or at least think we do. It's a widely held belief, for example, that the monster was created by the evil Dr. Frankenstein and his trusty hunchback lab assistant, Igor. Only, Frankenstein wasn’t a doctor at all, and nowhere in the book does it say that he is. Instead, he's actually a student—and, at least in the original story, a sidekick-less student at that. While Frankenstein had a lab assistant in several adaptations of the book, it’s believed that Igor is simply a stock henchman character of Gothic literature.

But incorrect plot points aren’t the only common errors readers face when it comes to literature: Characters are also often misquoted. Search any of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original Sherlock Holmes books and you won't find the famed detective uttering "Elementary, my dear Watson” even once.

Many common literary misconceptions extend beyond the page and to the world's most famous authors. For example: While it's true that Jane Austen didn't publish any books under her own name while she was alive, her identity was not very secret. Many people knew exactly who she was and what she did (the Prince Regent even invited her to his library).

In this episode of "Misconceptions," we're getting to the bottom of the many wild inaccuracies that surround the works and lives of such legendary writers as William Shakespeare and Ernest Hemingway. You can watch the full episode below.

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Amazon's Best Black Friday Deals: Tech, Video Games, Kitchen Appliances, Clothing, and More

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Black Friday is finally here, and Amazon is offering great deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.

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Instant Pot/Amazon

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Video games

Sony

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Microsoft/Amazon

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Apple/Amazon

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HBO/Amazon

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Amazon

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Casper/Amazon

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Common Misconceptions About the Middle Ages

An image from a 13th-century French devotional book called the Wenceslaus Psalter.
An image from a 13th-century French devotional book called the Wenceslaus Psalter.
J. Paul Getty Museum // Public Domain

At this point, the Middle Ages are far enough in the past that whatever sweeping generalizations we make about them might not immediately be refuted. If you say, for example, that everyone loved to joust back then, your group of friends probably won't erupt into a lively debate about the actual prevalence of jousting during the era (unless, of course, your friends are medieval scholars).

However, as is the case with most sweeping generalizations, ours regarding the so-called Dark Ages aren’t necessarily true. In this episode of Misconceptions, Mental Floss host Justin Dodd is investigating some of the most misguided ideas we have about life from the 5th century right up until Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in the early days of the Renaissance. (When Columbus did set sail, by the way, not everybody still believed the Earth was flat.)

By the end of the video, you’ll no longer believe that medieval people feasted always, bathed never, and generally lacked an appreciation for truth and beauty. And the next time your friend mentions anything about jousting, you can spearhead a lively debate on the subject.

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