The title of the novel refers to a scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who learns how to create life and creates a being in the likeness of man, but larger than average and more powerful. The story has had an influence across literature and popular culture and spawned a complete genre of horror stories and films. It is often considered the first fully realized science fiction novel due to its pointed, if gruesome, focus on playing God by creating life from dead flesh.
About the Book
Victor Frankenstein, a student of natural philosophy, builds a creature in the semblance of a man and gives it life.
Possessed of unnatural strength, the creature inspires horror in those who see it but is miserably eager to be loved.
The unhappy Frankenstein deserts the creature, but is pursued by it until he agrees to make a mate for it. However, a wave of remorse makes Frankenstein destroy the female he has been constructing, and the creature swears revenge on his creator.
He kills Frankenstein’s bride on their wedding night. Frankenstein’s father dies of grief, and the scientist’s mind gives way. Eventually he recovers and sets out to destroy his creation. After a chase across the world, the two at last confront each other in the Arctic wastes. Frankenstein dies and the creature, mourning the loss of the man who gave him life, disappears into the frozen wilderness, hoping for his own annihilation.
Though her life was fraught with personal tragedy, Mary Shelley was destined for literary greatness.
Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was born on August 30, 1797, to radically thinking parents: William Godwin, anarchist, philosopher, and author of the novel The Adventures of Caleb Williams (1794), and Mary Wollstonecraft, a well-known proto-feminist who wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman . Mary Wollstonecraft died from complications of childbirth eleven days after her daughter was born.
At age sixteen, Mary eloped to France with the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, for which Mary’s father temporarily disowned her.
In 1816, Shelley’s first wife, Harriet, whom he had abandoned for Mary, drowned herself in the Serpentine River.
Mary and Percy married days after Harriet’s body, pregnant with Shelley’s unborn child, was discovered. The Shelleys moved to the shores of Lake Geneva, Switzerland, and there formed a literary circle that included George Gordon and Lord Byron.
The group regularly held all-night discourses on scientific and supernatural topics. After one such discussion, in which Byron suggested a friendly “ghost story” competition, Mary had a dream that became the inspiration for Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus , her first novel.
Published anonymously in 1818, Frankenstein was an instant success.
Of the four children Mary had with Percy Shelley, only one lived beyond the age of three: their son Percy Florence. In June 1821, Mary nearly died from the miscarriage of a fifth child. A month later, Shelley drowned in a boating accident in the Gulf of Spezia, at the age of twenty-nine.
Mary Shelley devoted the rest of her life to writing novels, editing Shelley’s poetry for posthumous publication, and traveling with her son. She died on February 1, 1851, and was buried at Bournemouth, England, with her parents.