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An Overview of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Frankenstein is a famous novel authored by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. The novel is about Victor Frankenstein, a young science student, who builds a monster through an unorthodox science experiment. The first edition of Frankenstein was published in 1818 in London anonymously. It was not until the second edition of the book that Shelley's name appeared. The second edition was published in 1823 in Paris, France. Frankenstein is considered by many to be one of the earliest examples of science fiction work and is infused with Romantic movement elements. While today, it is common to hear the monster itself referred to as Frankenstein when talking about the book, costumes, and movies, it was actually the last name of the student that created him. Throughout the book he is commonly referred to simply as monster, creature, demon, it, vile insect, and other terms.

Mary Shelley Biography

Mary Shelly was born in 1791 in Somers Town, London. Shelley was the daughter of the famous feminist educator, philosopher, and writer, Mary Wollstonecraft, who passed away ten days after her birth. Her father was a journalist by the name of William Godwin. Mary Shelley was encouraged from a young age to adhere to her father's liberal political views. In 1814, she struck up a relationship with one of her father's followers name Percy Bysshe Shelley. The two married in 1816 after traveling through Europe and dealing with debt, ostracism, and the death of their daughter who was born prematurely. Shelley dealt with the deaths of two more children before giving birth to Percy Florence Shelley. Mary helped her husband promote and edit his works until his drowning death in 1822. In 1823, Shelley returned to England and once again took up writing after starting on her famous novel Frankenstein when she was only eighteen. Shelley died in 1851, at the age of fifty three from what doctors suspected was a brain tumor.

An Overview of Frankenstein

Frankenstein is formatted as a frame story. It begins with a character named Captain Robert Walton sending letters to his sister, Margaret Walton Saville, and takes place sometime during the 18th century. While traveling through the North Pole, Captain Walton helps to rescue a gentleman named Victor Frankenstein, who then begins to tell the story of his childhood. While at school, Victor had excelled at science and was trying to develop a technique that would allow him to give life to non-living objects. This research eventually leads to the creation of Victor's monster. Frankenstein, disgusted by his work, flees, leaving the monster to feel rejected and disappear. After being nursed back to health by a friend, Victor returns home to discover that his brother has been murdered. Suspecting that the monster is responsible, Frankenstein retreats to the mountains, overcome by guilt and grief. The monster tracks him down and now intelligent, begs Victor to hear his story. This leads to the monster demanding that Victor create a female companion for him, and in fear for his family, Frankenstein reluctantly agrees to do so. Eventually deciding to destroy the female companion he was creating, Victor fled to Ireland. After returning home to England, his fiance is murdered by the monster, after which he chases him to the North Pole but does not actually kill him. Captain Walton resumes his narrative at the end of the novel and continues telling the story.

Mary Shelley is known to have incorporated various sources into her work. Some of these include Paradise Lost by John Milton, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and The Elements of Chemical Philosophy by Humphy Davy. Initially the novel was not well received however despite the less the positive reviews, the novel quickly achieved success. In current times, Frankenstein continues to be a popular and well known novel that is read by many school students in addition to others interested in the story.

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