Frankenstein is a gothic novel written by Mary Shelley in a writing competition between friends. Mary Shelley’s life may have greatly influenced what happened in the text and which character the sympathies of the reader were aimed at. Her mother died because of complications with the birth of Mary, and at 16 Mary eloped with the writer/poet Percy Shelley, together they had four children but three of them died. After the first child died Mary had a dream in which she had brought the child back to life by warming it near the fire.
These events in Mary Shelley’s life may have influenced her writing, for example the dream about giving life to the dead child links to Victor Frankenstein’s ambition to create life. It was written during an early phase of the Industrial Revolution, at a time of dramatic advances in science and technology. The idea that creation rebels against its creator can be seen as a warning that the application of science can lead to unintended consequences. The story has a huge impact on modern society, and has opened up a huge debate on modern day cloning.
Some scientists have said that unlocking the key to cloning will represent the greatest human achievement since the discovery of fire. Other people may disagree and think that cloning is bad purely because it does not involve the “sacred” union of a man and a woman, and because it leaves God out of the creation process. ‘The texts subtitle is ‘The Modern Prometheus’. Prometheus is the Greek titan honoured for stealing fire from the gods and giving it to mortals for their use.
This subtitle could act as a warning that people who disrupt or play god could cause serious effects on mankind. The novel Frankenstein was written in 1818 by Mary Shelley; in places it adheres to, and in places effectively subverts the conventions of Gothic fiction. The said subversions create tension and a sense of defamiliarisation in a reader, this is effectual in creating a sense of unease but can be a little disconcerting all the same; much like the calm before the storm.
I believe that when Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, she intended for the sympathy of the reader to be evoked in favour of the protagonist Victor Frankenstein in preference to his antagonistic creation; although this character is habitually referred to sympathetically. Although we see Victor as a suffering, lonely man we also clearly see that he is egocentric, unsympathetic and irresponsible where as the Creatures violent, unjustified killings are countered by his childlike, innocent approach to the world surrounding him.
Frankenstein’s creation is shunned and persecuted from the very day of its re-resurrection up until the day of its bereavement. The absolute personification of this discrimination is when its own creator, to whom the creation owes his very existence to, turns against it on the night of its animation and is horrified by what he has done ‘How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form?
‘ Frankenstein’s creation was offered no choice of whether it was to be re-awakened or left to lie in peace where its components were originally laid to rest. This evokes sympathy in a reader as numerous people were brought up in poor homes and large families and can perhaps empathise with the creation’s sense of incompatibility in society. Most people who have not read the novel believe the monster is evil committing numerous crimes against humanity. However, Shelley carefully makes the reader aware that the Monster can in part be excused for these crimes, and is at heart a decent, kind and good creature.