Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Daughter of two of Englands leading intellectual radicals. Her father, William Godwin, was an influential political philosopher and novelist. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, the author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, was a pioneer in promoting womens rights and education.

Percy Bysshe Shelley Growing up, Mary was surrounded by lively intellectual conversation as her home was frequented by writers. Her future husband, the admired poet Percy Shelley, was one of her fathers frequent visitors. When she was 16, she and Percy eloped to France. She gave birth to four children in

five years, three of whom died as infants. Percy died eight years later, due to a boating accident. At the age of 24, she was an impoverished widow, and she supported herself, her son, and father with her writing. Shelley first published Frankenstein in 1818

anonymously but republished again in 1831 after writing its introduction. The Birth of Frankenstein

When Mary was 9, she hid under a sofa to hear Samuel Taylor Coleridge recite his poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which later influenced her as she developed her ideas for Frankenstein. Due to the loss of her children, many critics have pointed out that thoughts of birth and death were much on Shelleys mind at the time she wrote Frankenstein. Summer of 1816 Mary and Percy Shelley were living near the poet Lord Byron and his doctor-friend John Polidori on Lake Geneva in the Swiss Alps. During a period of incessant rain, the four of them were reading ghost stories to each other when Byron proposed that they each try to write one.

For days Shelley could not think of an idea. Then, while she was listening to Lord Byron and Percy discussing the probability of using electricity to create life artificially, according to a theory called Galvanism, an idea began to grow in her mind: Perhaps a corpse would be re-animated; galvanism had given token of such things: perhaps the component parts of a creature might be manufactured, brought together, and [endued] with vital warmth. The next day she started work on Frankenstein. A year later, she had completed her novel. It was published in 1818, when Shelley was 19 years old. Romantic Movement

The Romantics or The Disheartened Liberals Romanticism 1798-1832 Movement contrary to Enlightenment and Industrialization which emphasized how mans reason and logic can improve society Emphasized the importance of the individual, subjectivity, imagination, and expression of emotions Romantic Quest

During the Romantic period, a journey to find ones self through nature, isolation, and meditation Natural science should lead to discovery Could be a physical journey or a mental, psychological, or spiritual one Disenfranchised Men The idea of the disenfranchised man was very common. They were: unable to live in society often revered and/or sympathized with The creature: his form keeps him from any human

company. Victor Frankenstein: he eventually feels that he cannot enjoy the company of his fellow men after unleashing a monster among them. The Supernatural To make the ordinary seem wonderful and awe-inspiring. Some dealt with non-natural things The creature, as well as his education and life, could not be real. Prior to the Romantic era, writers wrote fiction that read as though it could possibly be realand was

often taken for truth. Frankenstein cannot be misconstrued as real. Gothic Literature Stems from Romantic Literature and Predecessor of the Modern Horror Movie Elements of the Gothic Novel Setting in a castle An atmosphere of mystery and suspense

An ancient prophecy Omens, portents, visions Supernatural or otherwise inexplicable events High, even overwrought emotion Women in distress Women threatened by a powerful, impulsive, tyrannical male

Themes of gloom and horror Vocabulary of the gothic Gothic Connection to Nature Put a spin on the idea of nature worship and imagery Nature still has the power to heal Gave nature the power of destruction Many storms arise in the book, including the storm on the night the creature comes to life, as well as other intense moments in the text.

Mood and Weather Most common feature of Gothic literature: Using the weather to indicate mood The reader knows when something bad is going to happen A flash of lightning illuminated the object, and discovered its shape plainly to me; its gigantic stature, and the deformity of its aspect, more hideous than belongs to humanity. Frame Story Epistolary

A story told by means of a series of letters Purpose is to suspend disbelief Central Characters The Creature/Monster, Victor Frankenstein, Robert Walton, Elizabeth Lavenza, and Henry Clerval Victor Frankenstein He tells Robert Walton his life story, one which includes collecting dead body parts and bringing

a creature/monster to life, a monster who wreaks vengeance on his creator for abandoning him and leaving him alone. Creature Victor's creation is referred to as the monster or the demon. He is created on a dark, dreary night in

November. Robert Walton The novel opens with letters from Robert Walton to his sister. It is through these letters that Walton narrates the tale of Dr. Frankenstein. Henry Clerval Henry is Victor's best friend and follows him to Ingolstadt to help Victor

recover from an illness. Elizabeth Lavenza Frankenstein Elizabeth is adopted by the Frankenstein family and raised to be the wife of Victor. She represents all that is beautiful to Victor. She is the antithesis of the monster he creates. Minor Characters

Justine Moritz - Justine comes to live with the Frankenstein family and cares for the dying Mrs. Frankenstein. The De Lacey Family - The monster observes a family in a cottage in the forest and

becomes their secret helper. He befriends the blind Mr. De Lacey in hopes that his kindness will serve as a bridge to the rest of the family. Alphonso Frankenstein - Victor's father unwittingly encourages Victor's study of science by a disparaging remark regarding Cornelius Agrippa.

Margaret Saville - Mrs. Saville is the audience for Robert Walton's tale. Caroline Beaufort Frankenstein The daughter of Alphonso's close friend is left in poverty at her father's death. Alphonso takes care of Caroline and marries her a

couple years later. William Frankenstein - Victor's youngest brother, murdered by the monster. Professors Krempe and Waldman - Two professors at Ingolstadt who influence Frankenstein's work. Literary Allusions Paradise Lost, Prometheus, and Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Literary Allusions Allows the reader to garner information in only a title or a character name. All of the connotations of the one work are transferred to the new one. Shelley uses many allusions, referring mostly to Miltons Paradise Lost and the biblical account of Adam and Eve. The Creation of Adam and Eve This story is one that is well known in Western culture, especially Miltons version.

Shelley wanted to bring the back story of Paradise Lost to Frankenstein. She presented the idea of the proud and inquisitive creature being cast out, as well as the idea that being cast out was a horrible thing. The Monster and Adam The monster appeals to Frankenstein's sympathy by comparing himself to Adam:

"Oh Frankenstein, be not equitable to every other and trample upon me alone, to whom thy justice, and even thy clemency and affection, is most due. Remember that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel. The monster's petition evokes sympathy, highlighting the guilt of his creator. If Frankenstein would only have loved his creation, the tragedy could have been avoided. Victor is Godlike

The monster reminds Victor, once again, of his duty. Victor had become as a god, and must therefore act with mercy. The monster brings up Eve to emphasize his loneliness and to preface his request for a mate. "But it was all a dream; no Eve soothed my sorrows nor shared my thoughts; I was alone. I remembered Adam's supplication to his Creator. But where was mine? Victor as Adam The roles are reversed. Here Dr. Frankenstein compares himself to Adam. The monster's desire to make Victor as

miserable as he is approaching completion. Sweet and beloved Elizabeth! I read and re-read her letter, and some softened feelings stole into my heart and dared to whisper paradisiacal dreams of love and joy; but the apple was already eaten. Rime of the Ancient Mariner An epic poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in which a sailor kills an albatross and learns (through spiritual and supernatural events) to respect the sea (the natural world). His

disregard for nature and tradition leads to his and every other sailors demise. Greek Myth: Prometheus Prometheus was a Greek god who was in charge of giving out gifts to the various creatures on Earth. Prometheus He gave out speed and instinct and such, but by the time

he got to mankind, he was out of gifts. He decided to go against his orders and gave man fire (symbolic of knowledge). The other gods were angered by his disobedience (partly because now man was too godlike). Prometheus punishment was that he was chained to a rock. Every day for 30,000 years, a vulture came and devoured his liver. Every night the liver grew back to be devoured the next day. In several obvious ways, this ancient Greek story is very closely connected to Frankenstein. Victor as Prometheus

The full title of the novel, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, emphasizes the theme of Victor as an over-reacher, one who ascends further than his ability. In Greek mythology, Prometheus created man. As a modern Prometheus, Victor creates a new species. Much like Prometheus suffers eternally, so must Victor Frankenstein. Rime of the Ancient Mariner Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" tells the story of an

ancient mariner who kills an albatross and brings upon himself and his ship's crew a curse. The ancient mariner travels the world, unburdening his soul, telling his story to whomever needs to hear it. Shelley alludes to the poem several times. Victor as the Ancient Mariner Robert Walton in Frankenstein is similar to the Wedding Guest from "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," with Victor Frankenstein playing the

role of the mariner. As the mariner feels compelled to share his story to one who needs to hear it, so does Victor. The explicit theme in "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," that love conquers all, is a clue as to how the tragedy that occurs in Frankenstein's life could have been avoided. Victor Frankensteins Science Modern readers are often puzzled by Victors approach to discovering the elixir of life in that he does not seem to perform scientific experiments as much as read books.

Prior to the eighteenth century, what we call science and what we call philosophy were essentially the same disciplines. The study of nature and the desire to know how nature functions eventually came to be called natural philosophy, but the quest for such knowledge was still more what we would consider philosophical than scientific. Mary Shelley indicates that Victor is a student of this natural philosophy when she indicates who some of Victors early influences were.

Cornelius Agrippa Paracelsus Albertus Magnus Roger Bacon While admitting that many of these mens theories had been discredited, Victor still admits that it was they who largely set him on the course he was eventually to take.

Cornelius Agrippa A Renaissance philosopher and scientist whose works reflect a strong interest in the occult and ancient, mystical sciences of the near East His famous work De

incertitudine et vanitate scientiarum (the vanity and uncertainty of the arts and sciences), published in 1527, is a collection of thoughts on Renaissance. In terms of real science, his ideas have all but been discredited by later thinkers and by the processes of observation and experimentation. Paracelsus

Introduced a new concept of disease and the use of chemicals rather than herbs to treat diseases. Paracelsus asserted that diseases were caused by external agents attacking the body, contrary to the then-traditional idea of disease as an internal upset of the balance of the bodys humors (yellow bile,

black bile, blood and phlegm). To cure the disease, one needed to attack this external agent. Alchemy became the means by which the chemical remedies were prepared. Thus, Paracelsus changed the emphasis of the alchemy from chasing the mythological Elixir of Life or Philosophers Stone, to making medicines. Albertus Magnus

Advocated the search into the natural causes of things apart from the churchs position that God was the cause of all effects. In one of his most famous works Albertus wrote: The aim of natural science is not simply to accept the statements of others, but to investigate the causes that are at work in nature. This was a radical idea for the time, as

most scholars believed that the scriptures were the sole source of all knowledge. Roger Bacon Roger Bacon was an even stronger advocate of experimental science than was Albertus but did not feel compelled to reconcile his scientific theories with Church doctrine.

Letters I-IV (Prologue) Epistolary The narrator Robert Walton writes to his sister, Margaret Saville Walton embarks on a Romantic Quest Wants to discover a passage near the North Pole to Asia Wants to discover the secret of the compass magnet Letter I December 11th Walton is far north of London in Saint Petersburg,

Russia Imagines the North Pole not as the capital of frost and desolation but the region of beauty and delight Reveals his Romantic Quest Has dreamed of being an explorer since he was a boy, but his father forbid it Inherited cousins fortune, which allowed him to pursue exploration Letter II March 28th Surrounded by frost and snow Expresses desire for friendship

Surrounded by people, but no one is his equal Wants someone who is gentle, courageous, educated, intelligent, well-mannered, and with similar tastes Alludes to the Rime of the Ancient Mariner I shall kill no albatross. Therefore, do not worry about my safety or about my coming back to you as scornful and woeful as the Ancient MarinerI have often attributed my attachment tomy passionate enthusiasm forthe dangerous mysteries of the ocean to that poem by Coleridge (13).

Letter III July 7th Writes to assure Margaret of his safety Mentions floating sheets of ice that continually passindicating dangers ahead Tells her that he will be cool, persevering, and prudent (15). Letter IV August 5th A week prior, nearly surrounded by ice and fog, which was dangerous

Mist cleared and Walton and crew saw low carriage, fixed on a sleigh and drawn by dogs, moving north, half a mile away. Being that had the shape of a man, but was gigantic, sat on the sleigh. Disappeared among the distant glaciers Two hours later, ice broke and freed ship Spent night at location to be safe Letter IV (Continued) Next morning, found someone else in a sleigh Drifted toward ship on slab of ice Only one dog remained alive

Human being inside the carriage Not savage, like other being on previous sleigh, but European Spoke English, but with foreign accent Man was on brink of death Letter IV (Continued) Man inquired where Walton was headed; satisfied with Waltons response of North Pole and agreed to come aboard Mans limbs nearly frozen, body emaciated by fatigue and suffering Man slowly recovered, under Waltons care Two days later, stranger finally spoke

Walton describes him as having eyes which express wildness or madness, but whose face lights up when someone is kind to him. Stranger is generally melancholy and despairing, crush by weight of woes Letter IV (Continued) Stranger tells Walton that he has traveled upon the ice To find someone

who has run away from me (19). Walton tells the stranger that the crew had seen the man whom the stranger pursued the previous day Stranger asked questions about where the demon, as he called the giant, had gone From then on, stranger was eager to be on deck, watching for the sleigh Walton describes the stranger as being polite and gentle, and though he is a wreck, appealing and friendly. Remarks that the stranger must have been a noble creature when he was better off Says that he has begun to love the stranger as a brother, and feels sympathy and compassion for the stranger

Letter IV (Continued) August 13th Walton says that his affection for the stranger grows, as the stranger stirs his admiration and pity Stranger speaks eloquently and listens attentively Walton confides in him Walton mentions how he had sacrificed everything for the sake of discovery, even his life or death This displeased the stranger greatly Stranger burst into tears Said, Unhappy man! Do you share my madness? Have you drunk from the cup of your imagined power? Let me tell you my tale, and you will throw the cup from your lips! (21).

Stranger says that he has lost everything Letter IV (Continued) August 19th Stranger said, I have suffered great misfortuneI had decided that the memory of these evils would die with me, but you changed my mind. You seek knowledge and wisdom, as I once did, and I deeply hope that it will not become a serpent and sting you, as it did meI think you may learn from my tale (22). Walton will tell the strangers story to his sister. He says, So strange and harrowing is his storyso frightful the storm that embraced the gallant vessel on its course and

wrecked itthus! (23).

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