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Author: Mary Shelly
During the snowy summer of 1816 (the eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815 had blocked the sky) Shelly visited Lord Byron
To critics, Frankenstein is akin to some scientists of our own day, who attempt and achieve developments mostly because they have the technical ability to do so
Many mistook the name Frankenstein as the monster’s name, the fact is that he was never named
Victor had regarded the monster as evil right from the start to the end, that’s strange in two ways
Frankenstein was published in the last years of the reign of George III. Its author, Mary Shelley, was born in 1797. Both the American and the French Revolutions were things of the past.
It must be admitted that the social and political picture in England during Mary Shelly’s years would have been enough to drive many sensitive and idealistic young people into radical thinking and action.
Enclosure Acts were driving small landowners, tenant farmers, and agricultural workers off their lands and into the slums of industrial cities; laborers everywhere endured horrible working conditions with no job security and faced the indifference and hostility of a new and growing capitalist class.
Mary Wollstonecraft, the author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792), and the novel The Wrongs of Woman, in which she wrote: "We cannot, without depraving our minds, endeavor to please a lover or husband, but in proportion as he pleases us."
Mary Shelley's father was the writer and political journalist William Godwin, who became famous with his work Political Justice (1793). Godwin had revolutionary attitudes to most social institutions.
In her childhood Mary Shelley was left to educate herself amongst her father's intellectual circle. She published her first poem at the age of ten. At the age of 16 she ran away to France and Switzerland with the poet Percy Shelley. They married in 1816 after Shelley's first wife had committed suicide by drowning. Their first child, a daughter, died in Venice, Italy, a few years later. In the History Of Six Weeks' Tour (1817) the Shelley jointly recorded their life. Thereafter they returned to England and Mary gave birth to a son, William.
In 1818 the Shelley left England for Italy, where they remained until Shelley's death - he drowned in 1822 in the Bay of Spezia near Livorno. In 1819 Mary suffered a nervous breakdown after the death of William - she had also lost a daughter the previous year. In 1822 she had a dangerous miscarriage. Of their children only one, Percy Florence, survived infancy. In 1823 she returned with her son to England, determined not to-re-marry. She devoted herself to his welfare and education and continued her career as a professional writer.
Interestingly, few of these radical tendencies are evident in Frankenstein. Between the age of 15 and 17, Mary visited her middle-class friends in Dundee, where seems to give her a pleasant contrast to the polar opposite of her normal milieu.
Already interested in science in her early years, Mary Shelley shared with her husband’s fascination with the natural sciences. Hence, we read the detailed accounts of the creation of the monster in her novel.
However, Frankenstein’s chemistry is, to quote James Rieger, “switched-on magic, souped-up alchemy, the electrification of Agrippa and Paracelsus…[H]e wants the forbidden…. He is a criminal magician who employs up-to-dates tools” (xxvii).
Of course, to some extent, Mary Shelley is employing certain features of contemporary Gothic romances. But she departs from the stock formulas of the genre. One notable biographical detail may be found in the geography, topography, and climate of the settings of the novel.
Mary Shelley was more interested in creating an “arctic of the mind” than in describing glaciers and ice floes scientifically. She was intimately acquainted with both the terrain and climatic conditions in the Alpine regions where she and Percy Shelley lived.
Although Frankenstein is famous for being a horror novel, the world in the fiction was deeply ingrained with Shelly’s belief of conventional sexual morality and family piety
I N A SERIES OF LETTERS, Robert Walton, the captain of a ship bound for the North Pole, recounts to his sister back in England the progress of his dangerous mission. Successful early on, the mission is soon interrupted by seas full of impassable ice. Trapped, Walton encounters Victor Frankenstein, who has been traveling by dog-drawn sledge across the ice and is weakened by the cold. Walton takes him aboard ship, helps nurse him back to health, and hears the fantastic tale of the monster that Frankenstein created.
Armed with the knowledge he has long been seeking, Victor spends months feverishly fashioning a creature out of old body parts. One climactic night, in the secrecy of his apartment, he brings his creation to life. When he looks at the monstrosity that he has created, however, the sight horrifies him. After a fitful night of sleep, interrupted by the specter of the monster looming over him, he runs into the streets, eventually wandering in remorse. Victor runs into Henry, who has come to study at the university, and he takes his friend back to his apartment. Though the monster is gone, Victor falls into a feverish illness.
Sickened by his horrific deed, Victor prepares to return to Geneva, to his family, and to health. Just before departing Ingolstadt, however, he receives a letter from his father informing him that his youngest brother, William, has been murdered. Grief-stricken, Victor hurries home. While passing through the woods where William was strangled, he catches sight of the monster and becomes convinced that the monster is his brother’s murderer. Arriving in Geneva, Victor finds that Justine Moritz, a kind, gentle girl who had been adopted by the Frankenstein household, has been accused. She is tried, condemned, and executed, despite her assertions of innocence. Victor grows despondent, guilty with the knowledge that the monster he has created bears responsibility for the death of two innocent loved ones.
Victor refuses at first, horrified by the prospect of creating a second monster. The monster is eloquent and persuasive, however, and he eventually convinces Victor. After returning to Geneva, Victor heads for England, accompanied by Henry, to gather information for the creation of a female monster. Leaving Henry in Scotland, he secludes himself on a desolate island in the Orkneys and works reluctantly at repeating his first success. One night, struck by doubts about the morality of his actions, Victor glances out the window to see the monster glaring in at him with a frightening grin. Horrified by the possible consequences of his work, Victor destroys his new creation. The monster, enraged, vows revenge, swearing that he will be with Victor on Victor’s wedding night.
Later that night, Victor takes a boat out onto a lake and dumps the remains of the second creature in the water. The wind picks up and prevents him from returning to the island. In the morning, he finds himself ashore near an unknown town. Upon landing, he is arrested and informed that he will be tried for a murder discovered the previous night. Victor denies any knowledge of the murder, but when shown the body, he is shocked to behold his friend Henry Clerval, with the mark of the monster’s fingers on his neck. Victor falls ill, raving and feverish, and is kept in prison until his recovery, after which he is acquitted of the crime.
Victor tracks the monster ever northward into the ice. In a dogsled chase, Victor almost catches up with the monster, but the sea beneath them swells and the ice breaks, leaving an unbridgeable gap between them. At this point, Walton encounters Victor, and the narrative catches up to the time of Walton’s fourth letter to his sister.
Light and Fire
Frankenstein (1994) aka "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" - USA (complete title)
Like all great literature masterpieces, “Frankenstein” was topical in its era yet also contains something universal in time
In our own day, those who express great caution about human cloning need not base that caution on religious grounds alone
“If researches manage to create living cells from scratch . . . . Scientists are close enough to create life in the lab that is time to start a public debate about what that would mean - for traditional views of the sanctity of life as well as for whether the creators will be able to control their creations”
Mary Shelley http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/mshelley.htm
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