The novel Frankenstein is as relevant and terrifying today as it was when it was first Published in 1818. Explain how Mary Shelly makes her narrative effective and why it has fascinated And shocked audiences for nearly 190 years! Focus on Chapter 5, but refer to the novel as a whole. Mary Shelley was born on August 30th, 1797, in London. Her parents were two free thinkers of this era. Her father, William Godwin, was a celebrated philosopher and historian. Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary’s mother was every bit as much a radical thinker as Godwin.
She believed strongly in women’s rights. Mary was brought up as an individual and encouraged by her parents to be a free thinker. Both her parents thought that her potential as a writer could be developed and treated her as if she had been born under a lucky star. Through her childhood there were many famous people who came to visit the Godwin’s – philosophers, writers and poets, Mary would have spent time listening to their conversations and talking to them.
At 16 years old Mary ran away to live with the poet Percy Shelly who was married. Her parents disowned her for running off and living with a married man. It was while she was living with Shelly she wrote Frankenstein. Mary and Shelly went to stay with the poet Byron at his house in Switzerland. Byron was having a party and it was at this party that a challenge was set for the partygoers to write the scariest novel ever written. As well as being disowned by her parents Mary also had some other terrible things happen.
Her half sister Fanny committed suicide and so had Shelly’s wife. During this time she had a nightmare in which she thought her sister came to visit, Mary was still only 19 years old. All these events inspired Mary Shelly to write Frankenstein. Mary married Shelly after his wife died and they had 2 children but the first died. Percy drowned when Mary was 24 leaving her with small children. At one time in her life she nearly committed suicide, and this is reflected in the book.
The book had a sub title – The Modern Prometheus, referring to the Greek god who gave human beings the secret of fire, (an element that previously belonged only to the gods) and just as Prometheus was punished for trying to make human beings like gods, chained to a rock, endlessly disembowelled by a ravaging eagle, Frankenstein, who attempts to make himself a god by creating a new kind of man, finds himself emotionally tortured, not by god, but by his own monstrous invention as it systematically destroys everyone he loves.
Chapter 5 begins with a description of the weather – it is a ‘dreary night,’ the rain ‘pattered dismally’ and this immediately sets the scene. Frankenstein is about to bring his creation to life and is dreading the meeting. Mary Shelly makes the description of the weather fit his mood. When the creature does come to life Victor talks of it as a ‘catastrophe’. He describes the creature on one hand as being ‘beautiful’, with ‘lustrous black hair’ and ‘pearly white teeth’ but also with ‘horrid,’ ‘yellow skin’ and ‘watery eyes’ in ‘dun-white sockets’. James Duckworth 10XB Coursework
Using contrasts in this way Mary Shelly helps the reader to create a more detailed picture of the creature in their minds. Victor’s creation is grotesque and a long way from the scientific triumph he had wanted – ‘now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart. ‘ Unable to bear the sight of the creature Victor runs away to his bedroom to think and 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.
‘ This long sentence reflects the length of the night. He does not sleep well – ‘I slept indeed, but I was disturbed by the wildest dreams’. His dreams reflect the horror of what he has done and predict the future, he sees Elizabeth ‘I embarrassed 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 funnel’. This prepares the reader for Elizabeth’s death in Ch 23 and connects it to the creation of the monster.