Frankenstein (Shelley)

Frankenstein 
Mary Shelley, 1818
Penguin Random House
352 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780141439471



Summary
The world’s most famous work of horror fiction: a devastating exploration of the limits of human creativity.

Mary Shelley’s timeless gothic novel presents the epic battle between man and monster at its greatest literary pitch. In trying to create life, the young student Victor Frankenstein unleashes forces beyond his control, setting into motion a long and tragic chain of events that brings Victor to the very brink of madness.

How he tries to destroy his creation, as it destroys everything Victor loves, is a powerful story of love, friendship, scientific hubris, and horror.

Based on the third edition of 1831, this Penguin Classics edition, with an introduction and notes by Maurice Hindle, contains all the revisions Mary Shelley made to her story, as well as her 1831 introduction and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s preface to the first edition. It also includes as appendices a select collation of the texts of 1818 and 1831 together with "A Fragment" by Lord Byron and Dr John Polidori’s "The Vampyre: A Tale." (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—August 30, 1797
Where—London, England, UK
Death—February 1, 1851
Where—London, England, UK
Education—home tutored


Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (nee Godwin) was an English novelist, short story writer, dramatist, essayist, biographer, and travel writer, best known for her Gothic novel Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus (1818).

She also edited and promoted the works of her husband, the Romantic poet and philosopher Percy Bysshe Shelley. Her father was the political philosopher William Godwin, and her mother was the philosopher and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft.

After Wollstonecraft's death less than a month after her daughter Mary was born, Mary was raised by Godwin, who was able to provide his daughter with a rich, if informal, education, encouraging her to adhere to his own liberal political theories. When Mary was four, her father married a neighbour, with whom, as her stepmother, Mary came to have a troubled relationship.

In 1814, Mary began a romance with one of her father’s political followers, the then married Percy Bysshe Shelley. Together with Mary's stepsister Claire Clairmont, Mary and Shelley left for France and traveled through Europe. Upon their return to England, Mary was pregnant with Percy's child. Over the next two years, she and Percy faced ostracism, constant debt, and the death of their prematurely born daughter. They married in late 1816, after the suicide of Percy Shelley's first wife, Harriet.

In 1816, the couple famously spent a summer with Lord Byron, John William Polidori, and Claire Clairmont near Geneva, Switzerland, where Mary conceived the idea for her novel Frankenstein. The Shelleys left Britain in 1818 for Italy, where their second and third children died before Mary Shelley gave birth to her last and only surviving child, Percy Florence Shelley.

In 1822, her husband drowned when his sailing boat sank during a storm near Viareggio. A year later, Mary Shelley returned to England and from then on devoted herself to the upbringing of her son and a career as a professional author. The last decade of her life was dogged by illness, probably caused by the brain tumour that was to kill her at the age of 53.

Until the 1970s, Mary Shelley was known mainly for her efforts to publish her husband's works and for her novel Frankenstein, which remains widely read and has inspired many theatrical and film adaptations. Recent scholarship has yielded a more comprehensive view of Mary Shelley’s achievements.

Scholars have shown increasing interest in her literary output, particularly in her novels, which include the historical novels Valperga (1823) and Perkin Warbeck (1830), the apocalyptic novel The Last Man (1826), and her final two novels, Lodore (1835) and Falkner (1837).

Studies of her lesser-known works, such as the travel book Rambles in Germany and Italy (1844) and the biographical articles for Dionysius Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopaedia (1829–46), support the growing view that Mary Shelley remained a political radical throughout her life.

Mary Shelley's works often argue that cooperation and sympathy, particularly as practised by women in the family, were the ways to reform civil society. This view was a direct challenge to the individualistic Romantic ethos promoted by Percy Shelley and the Enlightenment political theories articulated by her father, William Godwin. (From Wikipedia. Retrieved 2/24/2016.)



Discussion Questions
1. The horror story is just as popular today as it was in Shelley’s early nineteenth century England. What is the appeal of this genre? Discuss elements from Frankenstein that parallel characteristics of modern horror tales such as Stephen King’s, or contemporary films such as Nightmare on Elm Street. What are the effects of these elements on the audience, and how might that explain our fascination?

2.Dr. Frankenstein finds himself unable to "mother" the being he creates. Why does Shelley characterize Victor in this way? What does this choice say about the role of women during Shelley’s era? Discuss the significance of parent-child relationships and birth references throughout the novel.

3. Dreams and nightmares play a recurrent role throughout Shelley’s novel. Trace the use of dreams throughout the book, with emphasis on how they relate to changes in Victor’s character.

4. Why are there so many references to sickness and fever in Frankenstein? Trace these references throughout the novel. What broader theme might Shelley be expressing?

5. Re-visit some of your pre-reading activities, such as the journal entry on the "Philosopher’s Stone" and the anticipation guide on parenting. Now that you have completed Frankenstein, have your views changed? Why or why not?

6. Ice is a prevalent image and an integral plot device in Shelley’s Frankenstein. How is it appropriate that the novel ends in ice? What is the symbolism of ice for the characters and the story?

7. In his afterword in the Signet Classics edition of Frankenstein, Harold Bloom asserts that "all Romantic horrors are diseases of excessive consciousness, of the self unable to bear the self." Does this Romantic characteristic apply to Victor and his treatment of the creature? Explain. Consider the fact that Victor never gives the creature a name.

8. Place Frankenstein’s creature in modern times. Suppose he had a family that raises him, includes him, and even enrolls him in school. How might today’s society treat Victor’s creature differently? How would it mimic the time period of the novel?

9. Consider the character of Justine Moritz. While her story only takes two chapters of Shelley’s novel, her role as a secondary character is significant. What is Shelley’s purpose in telling Justine’s story? What truths about her time is Shelley revealing?

10. The patriarchal society of Frankenstein is one in which men pursue their goals against hopeless odds. In light of this work ethic, is Robert Walton a failure when he turns his ship around at the end of the novel? How would Victor Frankenstein answer this question? What would Mary Shelley say? What do you think?
(Questions from A Teachers Guide issued by Signet Classics.)

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