On a dark and stormy night, a group of friends was staying at a manor in Switzerland. The year is 1816, and the group consists of famous authors of the time, including Lord Byron, John William Polidori and his girlfriend, Clair Claremont, Percy Bysshe Shelley and his wife, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.
Lord Byron came up with an idea to pass the time. They would each write a ghost story. Of the group, only two ever made it to publication. The first was a short story by Polidori that introduced a famous literary genre, the vampire as an aristocratic seducer. And, the second was a masterpiece by Shelly’s eighteen-year-old wife, Mary, “Frankenstein, or, the Modern Prometheus”.
The story is about a man who decides to create a monster. Victor Frankenstein is a genius in the natural sciences. Through his research, he discovers that electricity can reanimate dead creatures. He becomes obsessed with the idea, and puts a man together, then on a dark and stormy night, he harnesses the lightning to bring his creation to life.
Immediately, Victor is horrified by his creation and runs. When the monster begins to comprehend the world, he also runs. Victor spends the story ill and terrified. The monster spends the story confused then angry. Victor wants to forget his creation, to ignore him. The monster will not let him.
When the monster gains the knowledge of his abominable creation, he goes after his creator, for revenge. He becomes the monster he resembles. The monster murders everyone Victor loves. The story ends with the death of the monster and his creator.
Because of the fact that the monster in the story is created as a result of a science work, the Mary Shelley’s story is considered as one of the first sci-fi stories in the world’s literature.
Frankenstein begins with a quote from Paradise Lost “Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay to mould me, Man, did I solicit thee from darkness to promote me?”.
Then there is an introduction from the author, that is widely suspected was actually written by her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, the poet. The introduction goes on to say that the story came about because of a contest between her husband, Lord Byron and some friends on a rainy afternoon while vacationing in Switzerland. Lord Byron suggested they all write ghost stories, but Mary’s story is the only one that was completed. She had had some trouble coming up with an idea when she had a nightmare, about a scientist who had made a man that came to life. When she woke up terrified, the words flowed onto the page.
“Frankenstein” is written in an epistolary form. The letters are from Robert Walton, a frustrated writer who is now the captain of a ship headed to the North Pole, to his sister, Margaret Saville, in England. Walton wants to find a northern passage through to the Pacific Ocean, to research the magnetic source of the Earth, and, if all else fails, he hopes, to at least, step foot on some undiscovered place.
Walton is feeling lonely because none of his men are very good at conversation, and he has no gentlemen on board. Then, one day, while caught between massive sheets of ice, Walton and the crew spot a huge man like creature on a sledge about a half a mile away. The next morning, while still stuck in the ice they find a man who is almost dead. He was also on a sledge, but there was only one dog still alive. The crew hauls him in, but only after Walton assures him they are heading north, does he consent to be saved. As the new arrival regains his health, the two men become friends. Slowly the man begins to tell Walton his story.
Victor Frankenstein’s story
Victor was born in Geneva. Growing up, his best friends were Henry Clerval and Elizabeth, who was a ward in his home. During his teen years, he studied nature and electricity. He began to study alchemy, but, whenever he learned of the power of electricity, he quite the study of alchemy. When Victor is seventeen years old, his mother dies from scarlet fever. On her deathbed, she makes Elizabeth promise to marry Victor. But, first Victor goes to university in Ingolstadt. There he plans to study natural philosophy. His professor is M. Krempe. Victor quickly loses interest and goes on to study chemistry.
Victor dives into the sciences. He wants to know how the human body works so he studies anatomy. He begins to devote all his time to his studies, ignoring friends and family. Soon, he has learned all the professors can teach him, and thinks he has discovered the secret of life. In secret, Victor is putting together a man. He further neglects his friends and family. Also, he neglects his studies and his health. He becomes completely obsessed with his creation, to the point that he becomes ill.
One dark and stormy night, Victor brings his creation to life. He is so terrified by his creation, that he shuts the power off, and retreats for some much-needed sleep. Victor wakes in the night, to find the monster standing over him with a malevolent grin. Terrified, Victor leaps from the bed and flees the house.
After a night of frantic pacing, Victor is met by his old friend, Henry Clerval. Henry is in Ingolstadt for the university and wanted to look up his friend. Victor takes him back to his apartment and is glad to see the monster has disappeared. But, Victor is very ill, and a night spent out in the elements has weakened him to the point of total exhaustion. He spends the next several months with Henry nursing him back to health. As his health improves, Victor introduces Henry to some of the professors at the university but gets physically ill when he gets near the labs.
One day, Victor receives a letter from his father telling him that his brother has been murdered. Victor leaves immediately for Geneva. On the way, he stops to take a look around the spot where his brother was killed and catches a glimpse of the monster he created watching him. He becomes convinced the monster killed his brother. But, when he returns home, Justine, a ward of his father’s has been accused of the murder. She has a picture that was last seen in his brother’s possession. Victor wants to tell them about his suspicions, but he has no proof. Finally, Justine confesses, but when she sees Elizabeth and Henry, she tells them she is innocent. When Justine is executed for the crime, Victor feels guilty because the monster he created is now responsible for two deaths in his family.
After Justine’s execution, Victor becomes more and more despondent. He considers suicide, but worries about his father and Elizabeth. The family travels further into the country for a respite. They have a house in Belrive, a suburb of Geneva. There Victor takes walks to clear his head and begins to heal. But, one day, while walking to the top of Montanvert he sees the monster again. Although the monster is bigger and faster, Victor chases him throwing threats. The monster eludes him easily, then begins to talk to Victor, who is amazed to hear his speech is eloquent. He asks Victor to sit by his fire in the cave so the monster can tell him his story.
The Monster’s story
When he awakens on Victor’s table, he is alone and terrified. So, he flees the house into the dark storm. He begins to register sensations, first. Cold and dark, light and warmth are his first sensations. Soon he discovers the warmth of a fire but is dismayed when he burns his finger. Next, he discovers that putting more wood on the fire makes it warmer and that he can cook his food on it, too.
The monster’s first contacts with people end so badly, that he decides to avoid them. They are all terrified of his disfigurements. He finds shelter in a hovel next to a cottage and spends the night. The next morning he notices that he can see inside the cottage through a crack in the wall. The cottage houses a young man, Felix, his sister, Agatha and an old man, their father, Mr. De Lacey.
He spends the winter in the hovel, protected from the elements and watching the residents of the house. He learns about love and sadness from them. He notices that they are usually happy, and the only time they are sad is when they don’t have enough food. Realizing some of this is his fault since he has been stealing their food, the monster begins to contribute by leaving firewood for them. He begins to pick up the language by listening and watching them.
The monster begins to discern the reason why so many people ran in terror when they saw him in the village when he compares his fiendish appearance to the people in the house. As he spends time in the hovel, the monster begins to feel a family connection to his neighbors, and a sense of love.
As winter begins to melt away, the monster notices that the family is not as happy, especially Felix. Then one day a beautiful woman arrives, Safie, and Felix is thrilled. At first, she can’t communicate with the rest of the family, because she is Arabian, but Felix begins to teach her and as she learns their language and its many nuances, so does the monster. He also learns to read at this time.
Soon, the monster begins to glean the whole story. The De Lacey family had been wealthy Frenchmen. Then Felix began to visit a Turk who had been imprisoned after being falsely accused of a crime. There, Felix met the Turk’s daughter, Safie, and fell in love. Safie sent letters to Felix, thanking him for all the help he gave her father. Safie’s mother had been a Christian Turk, who had been enslaved by the Turks, but later, married Safie’s father. Her mother taught her to be independent and intelligent, both dangerous for women in an Islamic Turkish society. Her goal was to marry a European man and escape her fate of near slavery.
After Felix helped the Turk escape prison, his family was exiled from France and stripped of their wealth. That is why De Lacey and his children had settled in a cottage in Germany. This is where Safie was finally able to locate them. After her father left prison, he tried to make her return to Constantinople with him, but she refused. Safie gathered all the money she could and journeyed to Felix.
One day, while hunting for food in the forest, the monster finds a satchel that someone lost. In it he discovers some books and takes them back to his hovel to read. Among the books is “Paradise Lost”. As he reads Milton’s version of the “Fall of Man”. The monster begins to feel he can relate to the poetry, especially Adam and the expulsion from the Garden.
As he begins to ponder his own creation, he remembers some papers he had snatched from Frankenstein’s lab before fleeing. He pulls them out of his pocket, discovering they are journal entries. As he begins to read, the monster becomes even more disgusted with himself and his unnatural creation. What is worse, he feels the pain from the obvious abhorrence of his creator. Discouraged by these discoveries, the monster hopes to befriend the occupants of the house. He decides to start with the old man. Since De Lacey is blind, he hopes he can convince him of his kindness, before any discover his deformities. Then, maybe, the old man can convince the rest of them of his gentle nature.
Finally, the day arrives when the three youngest people go for a walk. While they are gone, the monster gathers his courage and knocks on the door. As he is getting to know the old man and explaining his situation, the younger people come home. Horrified at the monster’s appearance, Felix attacks the monster and runs him off. This is when the monster begins to turn his anger away from himself and onto everyone else, especially his maker. He avoids people on his travels, but he sees a little girl on the verge of drowning in a lake. After he saves the little girl’s life, a man thinks he is attacking her and shoots him.
As his anger grows every day, the monster makes his way to Geneva. In the forest, he comes across the brother of Victor. When the boy mentions who his father is, the monster becomes blind with anger and strangles him. Then he finds the photo in his pocket and plants it on Justine. The monster wraps up his tale with the murder of Victor’s brother and then asks Victor to make him a mate. He is lonely and that is what he blames his violence on. He finally convinces Victor after he promises to move and to take his mate with him to the jungles of South America. Not trusting Victor, the monster says he will closely monitor his progress.
After leaving the monster, Victor starts to have doubts about his agreement with the monster. As his emotions become darker and darker, his father asks him if he is having doubts about his upcoming marriage to Elizabeth. Victor assures his father that Elizabeth is the only bright spot in his life. When his father offers to push the marriage up, he forgoes the offer. Victor wants to wait until his deal with the monster is done. Instead, he asks his father if he can take a trip first. He plans a trip to England and takes his friend, Henry along. Henry is tired of working for his father and anxious to get away. They plan a two-year journey.
When their tour of England is done, Victor becomes fretful to conclude his deal with the monster. In Scotland, Victor convinces Henry to stay with a friend of his while he tours around the area. His plans are to go to an island in the Orkneys, where he has a lab in a shack. As he works on the monster’s mate, he often thinks about the horror he is creating. His worst fear is that the two may be able to have children which would bring a race of monsters to the earth. As he is thinking about these terrors, the monster appears at the window and frightens Victor. This leads Victor into a frenzy. He destroys the creature he is working on. The monster is furious and decides the best revenge is to destroy Victor’s mate. He vows to see him again on his wedding night.
Victor takes his chemicals and the remains of the creature and rows a boat out to drop them in the ocean. Afterward, he falls asleep in the bottom of the boat. When he wakes, Victor has drifted out further than he expected. Upon finally reaching the shore, Victor finds he is under suspension of a murder from the previous night. The group of townspeople takes him to the magistrate, where he is called to see the body. It’s Henry Clerval, and it’s obvious the monster strangled him. Victor faints from shock.
Victor spends two months in prison and is ill the whole time. Finally, the magistrate, who has begun to have compassion for him, tells him his father has arrived. He goes with him to court, where because of lack of evidence, they dismiss the charges. Victor goes back to Geneva with his father.
When Victor gets back to Geneva, wedding plans commence. Remembering the threat from the monster, Victor thinks the monster will try to kill him on his wedding night. He resolves to fight him, whichever of them dies, it will end his misery. After the wedding, Victor and Elizabeth go to a remote inn. Victor takes a walk, hoping to keep Elizabeth from witnessing his battle with the monster. Suddenly, he hears her scream and finds her lifeless body. He realizes this is what the monster meant.
Victor is devastated, he goes to his father, when he tells him about Elizabeth, the man takes ill and dies two days later. Now Victor is completely alone in the world. He goes to the magistrate to tell him the whole story, but the man does not believe him. Victor then decides to devote the rest of his life to finding the monster and killing it. After many clues left by the monster, on purpose, to keep Victor trailing him, he has reached his current location. Victor begs Walton to continue the search after he is dead.
Robert Walton’s Letters
The story is back to Walton. He tells his sister that Victor’s health is up and down. He also believes the man’s story. The ship has been trapped in the ice since the men first saw the monster, and they beg him to turn around as soon as the ice releases them. Victor overhears their request and gives them a motivational speech about continuing the search. The speech is effective, for two days. Then they are asking to return to England, again. Walton reluctantly agrees.
On the day the ship breaks free, Victor dies. As Walton is readying the ship to leave, he hears a sound coming from his cabin, where Victor’s body lies. It is the monster, and he is just as horrible as Victor described him. He is weeping over the body. Then the monster laments his life as he relays his story to Walton. He regrets all he did to Frankenstein. Afterward, the monster jumps out of the window, “my spirit will sleep in peace”.
Victor Frankenstein – a brilliant scientist, who brings the dead to life. At the beginning of the novel, Victor is a young boy with an interest in natural philosophy and alchemy. At his home in Geneva, he has scoured all the books in is father’s library on the subjects, then when he goes to university, he learns how outdated those books were. Science is an ever-changing field. At university, he changes to studying chemistry and other sciences, such as anatomy. Quickly, he absorbs all his professors can teach him and goes on to his own experiments.
Victor’s thirst for knowledge alienates him from his friends and family, while it takes a toll on his health. By the time he reaches the pinnacle of his experiments, and brings the monster to life, his health is at it’s lowest. Throughout the novel, Victor battles with physical and mental illnesses, while the monster he created is destroying his life. In the end, Victor seeks to destroy the monster.
The monster – eight feet tall and grotesque. Victor Frankenstein created him from body parts and animated him with electricity and some other unknown chemical. At the beginning, the monster is like a newborn, and must learn how to do everything. But, he is alone, since Victor abandoned him. He tries to assimilate with people, but his outward appearance repels and terrifies them. The monster is intelligent and learns quickly. Within a comparatively short time, he learns to be articulate and how to read, by observing a family, secretly.
When the monster discovers his creation, he is horrified. Deciding that as an Adam, he needs an Eve, the monster finds his creator, Victor Frankenstein to demand one. Along the way, the monster kills Victor’s brother and frames an innocent woman for the murder.
After he convinces Victor to create a mate for him, he becomes murderous when Victor, who has come to regret his creation of the monster, destroys the woman and refuses to make another. The monster goes on a murderous rampage of revenge against Victor, finally killing the man’s bride. The rest of the story is a tale of cat and mouse, with the monster leading Victor on a hunt. Victor is the cat and the mouse is the monster. Finally, when Victor succumbs to his torments, the monster regrets his actions and kills himself.
Robert Walton – the captain of the ship that rescues Victor Frankenstein. Some of the stories are told through his letters to his sister. The captain is in need of some intelligent conversation and feels that Victor is becoming a friend. As Walton nurses him, Victor relates his story. In some ways, Walton is somewhat like Victor. He is an intelligent man who is trying to discover something that has never been done before. Walton, who is hoping to find a northern passage to the Pacific Ocean, is also hoping to learn more about the Earth’s magnetic core, while near the North Pole. If all else fails, he hopes to at least step on previously undiscovered earth.
Mary Shelley Biography
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, born in 1797 to William Godwin, a British philosopher and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, a British author and feminist. Her mother died less than a month after her birth, and her father remarried when Mary was four years old. The woman was a neighbor, who Mary never got along with very well.
Mary received most of her education from her father, who taught her his liberal political theories. He often took her on educational outings and gave her free access to his extensive library. She also had tutors to fill in the spaces he missed in her education. She met many of the intellectual people of the time that would have visited him, including the poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the former vice president of the United States, Aaron Burr.
When she was sixteen she fell in love with Percy Bysshe Shelley, a poet and one of her father’s political followers. At the time he was married, but after his wife committed suicide, in 1816, he married Mary. On a trip to Switzerland, Mary wrote her famous story, “Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus”. Her husband helped her to publish it in 1818. The two had one child that lived, a son, Percy Florence Shelley in 1819.
In 1822, her husband drowned when his boat sank during a storm near Viareggio. After his death, Mary returned to England where she devoted her life to raising her son and writing. Mary wrote novels, short stories, and essays. She was a biographer and travel writer. She also edited and promoted the works of her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Although Mary Shelley is famous for her story, “Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus”, and the promotion of her husband’s work, recent scholars have been bringing her other work to the light of day. Stories such as “Valperga; or, the Life and Adventures of Castruccio, Prince of Lucca”, published in 1823, it is a story based on the life of Castruccio Castracani (1281- 1328) a cruel tyrant, who successfully commanded Ghibelline forces in Tuscany against the Guelphs. In this battle, Shelley weaves the story of her fictional heroines.
She was also gaining notoriety for her story, “The Last Man”, published in 1826. It is an apocalyptic story of the end of the world by a plague. She included her husband and Lord Byron in the story, in the characters of the Earl of Windsor, Adrian, and Lord Raymond. It tells a tragic love story of how imagination and art fail to redeem the doomed characters.
Mary Shelley was an individual thinker. Her works show that she did not follow her husband’s political leanings of individual Romantic ethos or her father’s of the Enlightenment politics. She supported Radicalism. The Radical Party wanted changes in England. The party wanted a radical reform of the electoral system in the United Kingdom. Some of them wanted republicanism, to abolish titles, to redistribute land, and they wanted freedom of the press.
In 1851, after suffering from headaches and partial paralysis, Mary died of what her doctors thought was a brain tumor. Although she had asked her son and his wife to bury her with her parents, in St. Pancreas, they judged the graveyard to be in too much disrepair. Instead, they buried her in St. Peter’s Church, Bournemouth, near their home at Boscombe.
On the first anniversary of her death, her son and his wife, opened her desk to discover locks of hair from her children that had died, a notebook that she had shared with Percy Bysshe Shelley and a copy of his poem, “Adonai’s”. A page of the poem was folded around a silk parcel that contained some of the ashes from his cremation and the remains of his heart.