The greatest author who wrote gothic novels was Mary Shelley with her best work “Frankenstein”, not exactly in the early romanticism but in full romanticism because she was the wife of an another great poet of the second generation of Romanticism.
Mary was daughter of two intellectuals, her father, William Godwin, was a radical writer and supported the revolutions with all the ideas which transmitted to his daughter, also opened his house to the many intellectuals of the period so Mary was used to meeting them.
Her mother was the first feminist of this period and supported the right to vote for the women.
The climate of her house was particularly favorable to make her a very clever, brilliant and cultured girl.
Among the many people who visited the house, there was one, Percy Byshe Shelley, who fell immediately in love with her.
She was only 16, he was 21 and they eloped together even though both their families were very disappointed.
So they left England for a short period and went to Ireland where supported the Independence revolution from England. Then went to live in Switzerland and rented a house on the lake of Geneva: in this villa, there was also their friend Byron and the terrible half-sister of Mary.
In the mean time in England Percy’s first wife committed a suicide and his children were separated from him so he decided to marry Mary and they had a lot of children but almost all died with the exception of one.
They moved from Switzerland to Italy and for a short period, they live in Pisa in a large community of English.
Here Percy took part in the Carboneria and then they moved to Riviera ligure and they rented a house there.
Once again, there was Byron not with them but in the area and Shelley, who was always in competition with him, bought a sailing boat. One day they decided to make a trip at sea but they were caught by a terrible storm and died in it. Percy’s body where found 10 days later completely eaten by fishes.
He was recognized only because he had in his pocket the poems of a poet that he like very much, John Keats.
Mary remain alone and return to England with the last child and continue to write till her death.
Mary tried to explain the origins of this novel first saying that there was a sort of competition between her, Byron and Percy to write a gothic story and of course she won because the others was poets.
Then they spoke about the new scientific discovers and studied in particular the Galvani’s experiments: this Italian scientist took a dead frog and applied electricity to it, the result was that the frog started to move convulsively because of the electricity.
She also read the studies about the possibility of an evolution of animals started by Charles Darwin’s grandfather and everything about Rousseau so she knew his theory which says that people born good and then society and civilization makes them negative and the theory about the importance of education expressed by John Locke.
All this things together with a nightmare contributed to form in her mind this incredible story.
Some say that she was also influenced by her parents mentality and that the monster could represent the strength of Revolution in fact the author has an ambiguous attitude to approach to his character in fact she feels the same emotions of the monster but she’s also repulsed by the horrible actions of the monster when he becomes crazy and wicked.
She was also influenced by her mother’s death and Frankenstein’s mother death gives him the idea for trying resuscitate dead.
This novel is not just a gothic story but you can find a lot of elements and issues inside:
-education of a person
-people are generally good but the contact with society makes them bad
-repulsion from different people
-creation of something that you can’t control (industrialization)
The story is not settled in England but it took place in different countries: Frankenstein is Swiss and studied medicine in Austria.
During his studies he starts to cultivate the idea of making experiments of life given to death bodies.
The second place where the story sets is France: where the monster goes when he is rejected by everybody and he lives for a certain period out of a hut of a poor family but as soon as they see him they refuse the creature and he run away. Then he looks for his father and ask him to give him a companion.
At the beginning Frankenstein accepted the idea but then remembering the monstrous creature he has created he renounce to the project so the monster becomes crazy and starts its revenge killing many people around the doctor like his little brother (the fault of the death is given to the maid and she dies hanged), a dear friend of him in Scotland and lastly his wife who is killed by the monster taking her heart.
At this point Frankenstein become crazy like the monster and start to look for the creature to kill him.
The narrative technique
The story is told in an epistolary form starting from the end and at the beginning of this novel there is a ship with a crew on it and the captain Walton, who wants to reach the North Pole and this was a great enterprise for that times. They are blocked by the ice (quotation of a Coleridge’s ballad) and meet Frankenstein who is following the monster in the North Pole. He is hill and tired and he’s rescued by the captain: here he starts to tell his story from the beginning and Walton tells the story to his sister, who has the same initial of the author, in a series of epistles.
- Frankenstein – Walton: they are both overreaches
- Frankenstein – the creature: (opposed) when Frankenstein is still a good person who has refuse the terrible idea to create a companion for the monster and the creature gets hungry and became a monster
- Frankenstein – the creature: (same) when the creature kills Frankenstein’s wife and he becomes crazy like the monster, with the same criminal mind and desire to revenge
The supernatural element
The fact that a person is born putting pieces of dead bodies together and giving it life thanks to electricity.