Mary was brought up in a quite progressive family in fact her father William Godwin was a great philosopher and her mother Mary Wollstonecraft was the author of A vindication of the Rights of Woman, a primitive book about famine rights. Then Mary will take the surname of the man she loves and she will elope with, the romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who is even more famous than her. When Mary and Shelley eloped they were just 17 and Shelley was already married, but he broke up his marriage and her former wife committed suicide by drowning herself. Their escaping also represents the typical formation travel which was common among young people of aristocracy (the so called Grand Tour which implies visiting Europe in country such as France, Italy, Greece etc.)Italy was a great place where to have a travel : the same Goethe was very affasinated of Sicilia. The place where Mary and Shelley went with Byron, another great romantic poet is Villa di Odoati, in Geneva. Here they spent a very rainy summer and so they have to stay at home all day long and decided that each one had to make a ghost story, which was a very fashionable theme in that time. Mary has the idea for Frankenstein in a waking dream; she write the novel in a very short time, with the help and the suggestions of her husband. Frankenstein maybe be thinked from this Ghost stories. Mary Shelley was quite famous in her life, more than his husband Percey.
The novel was written in 1816 and first published in 1818. Although in common parlance nowadays quite everyone refers to the monster with the name of Frankenstein, it is not true, because the creature has no name, Frankenstein is the name of its creator. In all the novel the pronoun used for the monster is “it”, because he has no name, it’s the monster, the thing, it isn’t worth having a name. here in the novel there’s the theme of double, because Frankenstein and the creature, which is his “son”, are strongly connected, they can’t live without each other, they share an identity.
Prometheus was a Titan who challenged the divinities to help humans and for this reason was convict. The other name for the novel is The modern Prometheus because as Prometheus “gave life” to humans revealing them divinities’ secrets, Frankenstein give life to the creature in a more strict sense; and as Prometheus challenged the divinities, in the same way Frankenstein challenge God, by pretending to be like him, on his level, being able to create life. Despite being a Gothic novel, Frankenstein is also very different from the other novels of the same genre, in fact the setting is not a ruin medieval building, as it was usual, but it was different also under other aspects: Gothic novels was built around a quite conventional kind of plot, with a woman persecuted by a villain and the all story implies witchcraft. But none of this elements are found in Frankenstein, here there are suspence, fear, scientific theme (which replace the supernatural), macabre. The theme of science is here used, but it’s not properly science, in fact it has lots of strange and supernatural elements, however, this presence makes the novel one of the forerunner of science fiction.
The book is an epistolary novel, because it was a very fashionable way of writing in those days (e.g. Le ultime lettere di Jacopo Ortis in Italy and concerning England Richardson’s books. The novel is written with the technique of the framework (framework narrative), which is here double used, in fact the narrator is captain Walton who tells his sister (framework) the story told him by a man he met who created a monster and passed long years before escaping (because he had immediately realized how horrifying what he had done was) and then trying to find him (because he started killing everyone he met with no reasons), and when the creature and the creator finally met, the narration passes to the monster who tries to explain what happened to him after he was born and give reasons for what he did and so it’s a story within the story within the story.
The most important influence for the novel is for sure the great French philosopher Russeau and in particular his two books The social contract and Emìle. Mary Shelley took from Russeau Philosophy the idea that everyone is born good-natured, it’s the contact with society which makes him evil, and this is exactly what happens to the monster. The creature teaches himself everything, also reading and writing, learning it by imitation, it knows a lot and he reads a lot (he reads Russeau too), but when it realized that despite his efforts, his hideous appearance makes it rejected by society, it goes crazy, and starts killing.
The Creation of the monster - Frankeinstein
Why did Frankestein create the monster?
Victor did it for the sake of science, for its progress, in fact he’s a scientist and he wants to go one step beyond everyone else (and so it’s not just for the progress, but also for himself and his fame). He did this also because he thought to be able to help the others by doing it, so he has also a positive aim. And it’s also a challenge to God and to himself (“I will do what other men dared to do before”).
The cxreation of the monster
We’re in chapter 5, when finally in a rainy November night the experiment of Frankenstein comes to an end and the monster in brought to life. An element that increase the mystery is the rain, the thunderstorm, but it isn’t there by case, in fact Frankenstein needs electricity to bring death tissues to life (as it was believed in those days) and so he needs lightning to provide it. But these elements are also connected to the darkness, the night typical of the sublime, it’s a very sinister setting. It’s also November, one of the most tenebrous months.
It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.
The different accidents of life are not so changeable as the feelings of human nature. I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body. For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart. Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room and continued a long time traversing my bed-chamber, unable to compose my mind to sleep. At length lassitude succeeded to the tumult I had before endured, and I threw myself on the bed in my clothes, endeavouring to seek a few moments of forgetfulness. But it was in vain; I slept, indeed, but I was disturbed by the wildest dreams. I thought I saw Elizabeth, in the bloom of health, walking in the streets of Ingolstadt. Delighted and surprised, I embraced her, but as I imprinted the first kiss on her lips, they became livid with the hue of death; her features appeared to change, and I thought that I held the corpse of my dead mother in my arms; a shroud enveloped her form, and I saw the grave-worms crawling in the folds of the flannel. I started from my sleep with horror; a cold dew covered my forehead, my teeth chattered, and every limb became convulsed; when, by the dim and yellow light of the moon, as it forced its way through the window shutters, I beheld the wretch— the miserable monster whom I had created. He held up the curtain of the bed; and his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me. His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks. He might have spoken, but I did not hear; one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain me, but I escaped and rushed downstairs. I took refuge in the courtyard belonging to the house which I inhabited, where I remained during the rest of the night, walking up and down in the greatest agitation, listening attentively, catching and fearing each sound as if it were to announce the approach of the demoniacal corpse to which I had so miserably given life.