Mary Shelley, born in London in 1797 and died in 1851 , was a famous writer of the early 19th century. She became famous for her novel Frankenstein.
Her father was William Godwin, who knew Coleridge, and her mother was the famous writer Mary Wollstonecraft. She studied history, literature and the Bible and she learned Latin, French and Italian and Greek.
In 1812 Mary met Percy Shelley for the first time. In 1814 they fell in love. In May 1816 Mary, Percy and their son traveled to Lake Geneva. While there Mary was inspired to write the novel Frankenstein: in fact Byron, Percy and Mary decided to do a competition: each one had to write a horror story. Frankenstein was published in 1818. Mary Shelley in 1851.
Frankenstein has a complex plot because Mary introduced an innovation in narrative techniques: the work is an epistolary novel, so it is made using letters. Furthermore there are 3 narrators, so 3 points of view:
• Frankenstein refers what the monster thinks;
• Frankenstein also narrates his story to Walton;
• Walton narrates the story of Frankenstein and of the monster to his sister.
So, the story of the monster is inside Frankenstein’s story, which is inside Walton’s version of the facts. This scheme is called Chinese box.
Shelley explains that when the monster has been created, he was good: it was men's reactions to him that made him bad. In fact Frankenstein when saw the monster, refused his creation as a father refuses his son. So, the badness of the monster is in part justified.
The work is a Gothic novel, but Shelley talked also about the society’s reaction to diversity and about science: Frankenstein studied how to give life to the monster: he assembled the best parts of different dead bodies and gave life to his creation through electricity. Science has allowed Frankenstein to create life, a task that belongs only to God. So Frankenstein challenged God.
Shelley has also put an ethical question in front of the readers: which should be the limits of science?