Frankenstein

Background

The author, Mary Shelley, had a tragic life from the beginning. Shelley's mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, died shortly after giving birth to her. Since Shelley did not know her mother, she had a close attachment to her father. Shelley's father, William Godwin, hired a nurse to care for her and her half sister but she left and her father ended up remarrying. Shelley's stepmother did not like the close bond Shelley had with her father. This caused Godwin to favor his other two daughters and sons. However, none of the neglect stopped Shelley from becoming the great author she was.

Her father was a famous author himself and her education was of great importance. Shelley grew up surrounded by many different writers and persons of political importance because of her father. This inspired her authorship at an early age. Shelley met Percy Bysshe Shelley, who later became her husband, at the age of sixteen while he was visiting with her father at their home. Her father did not agree with their relationship so they fled to France along with her stepsister, Claire Clairmont. Later, she gave birth to their first child and soon after lost the child.

Both Mary and Percy went away with Claire to visit her lover Lord Byron, in Geneva during the summer of 1816, the infamous Year Without a Summer. Percy and Mary became good friends with Byron and used their time with him to discuss literature, politics, and science. One evening after being trapped in the house because of storms Byron suggested they all have a competition of writing the best ghost story. This is how Frankenstein was brought to life. Mary was eighteen years old when she wrote this novel. Shelley won the contest by her creation of the novel, Frankenstein. [10] [11]

Literary Influences

Shelley was heavily influenced by both of her parents works. Her father was famous for Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and her mother famous for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Her father's novels also influenced her writing of Frankenstein. These novels included Things as They Are; or, The Adventures of Caleb Williams, St. Leon, and Fleetwood. All of these books were set in Switzerland, similar to the setting in Frankenstein. Some major themes of social affections and the renewal of life that appear in Shelley's novel stem from these works she had in her possession. Other literary influences that appear in Frankenstein are Pygmalion (play) and Ovid with the use of an individual lacking intelligence and those individuals identifying the problems with society. Ovid also inspires the use of Prometheus in Shelley's title. [12]

Her time spent with Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, her baby, and her sister Jane influenced her creation of Frankenstein as well. Percy and Byron's discussion on life and death surrounded many scientific geniuses of the time. They discussed ideas from Erasmus Darwin and the experiments from Luigi Galvani. Mary listened intently to these conversations and the ideas of Darwin and Galvani were both present in her novel. The horrors of not being able to write a story for the contest and her hard life also influenced the themes within Frankenstein. The themes of loss , guilt, and the consequences of defying nature present in the novel all developed from Mary Shelley's own life. The loss of her mother, the relationship with her father, and the death of her first child created the monster and his separation from parental guidance. Guilt stemmed from her not feeling good enough for Percy because of the loss of their child.   [11]


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