The original title wasFrankenstein; or, TheModern Prometheus .Prometheus was a mythologicalgod who according toone story, steals fire fromJupiter to helpthe mortals on earth.A her v sion of t myt not er his his t t Pr heus a ual ha omet ct lycr t ahuma being bybr t l int acl y eaes n eahing ife o abody. 1945
The author, Mary Shelley,was born Mary Wollstonecraftin London in 1797 and died in1851 at the age of 54 from abrain tumor.Shelley was 19 years oldwhen she wrote this Gothicnovel in 1816. At the time shewas married to a poet, PercyShelley, who helped her withthe editing process of thisnovel. 1931
Mary wrote the novelone summer while shevacationed at LakeGeneva in Switzerland.The weather wasunseasonably cold. Forentertainment, MaryShelley, her husband(poet) Percy ByssheShelley, (poet) LordByron, and JaneClairmont would sit 1931around reading ghoststories.
On June 15, 1816, a challenge was issued among the four of them to see who could write the most terrifying story. Mary Shelley’s story is based on her life experiences, her dreams, and scientific research and experiments of that time period.1931
Mary Shelley hadpreviously sufferedwith nightmares in1815 after herdaughter died twoweeks after birth.Repeatedly Marydreamt her baby wasjust cold, and that sheherself brought herdaughter back to lifeafter messaging theinfant’s lifeless bodywhile sitting next to awarm fire. 1931
On June 15, 1816,Mary experienced adifferent nightmare inwhich she dreamt, “apale student of‘unhallowed arts’creates a living beingfrom dead parts.”(Frankenstein p.x)[unhallowed: againstwhat is considered holyand sacred; immoraland unethical accordingto society’s standards] 1931
That dream was thebasis for her gothic story.Ironically, Mary Shelleywas the only one out ofthe group to finish hertale of terror.Mary Shelley’s gothicnovel was published in1818 when she was just21. She went on topublish other works, butnone ever matched thepopularity ofFRANKENSTEIN.1931
Mary Shelley’s novelwasn’t based on herdreams alone. In the early1800’s, scientists wereobsessed with finding away to bring the dead backto life. Mary found this ideafascinating and keptcurrent with all newscience experiments takingplace during her time.Luigi Galvani was onescientist that believed that“electricity” was the lifeforce for living beings.
He would take deadanimals and shock theirbodies with high currentsof electricity. The corpsewould jolt when shockedwith electrical currents.Luigi’s nephew, GiovanniAldini, took the experimentone step further. InLondon, on January 17,1803, he publiclyperformed this experimenton the corpse of a humanbeing, a prisoner that hadbeen executed byhanging.
Giovanni attached livewires to the corpse: 120plates of zinc and 120plates of copper.Giovanni reported, “thejaw began to quiver, theadjoining muscles werehorribly contorted, and theleft eye actuallyopened.”(Frankenstein, p.xx)
The muscles of the corpse wereshocked to such a degree thatthe corpse appeared “animated”to the public.With Frankenstein , the sci-fi erabegan. The novel contains the 3elements essential for allscience fiction work: (1)“it’sbased on valid scientific research;(2)gives a persuasive prediction ofwhat science might achieve in thefuture; (3) and it offers ahumanistic critique of the benefitsand dangers of either theachievement or scientificthought.” (p. xx)
Romantic Movement: (1770-1870) This movement is not about “romance or love” but about disillusioned liberals who were tired of the common people being oppressed by tyrant rulers. This time period happens simultaneously with revolutions around the world: the American R. 1776, the French R. 1789, theMa ry French Reign of Terror 1793, Napoleon isS M a rl ye y he l crowned Emperor--1804. S h e lle y Nature imagery is a key element in Romantic literature because human tyranny could not control nature. For the Romantics, nature represented peace and they believed that all emotional healing came from nature. [Nature imagery is abundant in Frankenstein.]
Go t h ic L it e r a t u r e : It’s an offshoot of Romantic literature. “Along with nature having the power of healing, Gothic writers gave nature the power of destruction. Many storms arise in the book, including storms the night the creature comes to life… The most common feature of Gothic literature is the indication of mood through the weather. When bad things are going to happen in a Gothic novel, the reader knows it because there is inevitably a storm outside.” (Grudzina)1997
In addition, Gothic literature is “a style of fiction, especially in the late 18th century and early 19th century, with historical and picturesque settings, an atmosphere of mystery, gloom and terror, supernatural or psychological plot elements, with violent, gruesome deaths.” (Webster)The setting is usually in medieval castles built in the Gothic style (like McMurry University) of architecture—with secret passageways, dungeons, and towers.
Works Cited• Art.com. 1995. Online October 5, 2003. http://www.art.com• “Frankenstein.” U.S. National Library of Medicine. 13 February 2002. Online. < http://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/frankenstein/frank_celluloid.html>5 October 2003.• Grudzina, Rebecca. Teaching Unit: Individual Learning Packet. Cheswold: Prestwick House Inc., 2004.• Hamberg, Cynthia. “My Hideous Progeny: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Google Images. October 27, 2004. 3 October 2006 <home-1.worldonline.nl/~hamberg/home2.html>• Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. New York: Pocket Books. 1995.
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