Mary Shelley, the author of the legendary Frankenstein, was no commonplace nineteen-year-old teenager. In a matter of way, she was a literary novice in her own respect, right from childhood. Being the daughter to the thinker, novelist and publisher William Godwin and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, she basked amongst literary elite right from her early days.
Whilst girls of her age attended to ball frocks and hair-do’s she was more occupied with contemporary Gothic novels; Paradise Lost by Milton, Paradise Regained, Areopagetica, Lycidas and Comus. On the other end, Shelly digested the works of her poet-husband Pryce Shelley, Byron, Wordsworth, and Coleridge and while writing down the notorious Frankenstein, she was going through Gulliver’s Travels by Swift.
So, Frankenstein was more of a girl’s wonder that owed to childhood feasts on dark and peculiar fantasies.
According to Gilbert and Gubar, “Frankenstein is a Romantic and Feminist review of the Paradise Lost by Milton.” Maybe this feminism is what marks this classic as timeless.
How was Frankenstein Born: One Dark Stormy Night
Lord Byron’s Villa
Lake Geneva, Switzerland
It started one stormy night at the residence of Lord Byron where a group of contemporary literati were assembled. Mary Shelly was also visiting, accompanied by her childhood sweetheart and poet Percy Shelley. During this stay, the weather outside played havoc and storms followed forcing the group to seek indoor activities. To pass the stormy days and nights, the literary assemblage took turns in reading each other, ghost stories from an ancient volume. It was one such night, that Lord Byron threw the group a challenge to write the scariest ghost story ever, and the same night Mary Shelly saw her monster’s first silhouette in dream.
When I placed my head upon my pillow, I did not sleep, nor could I be said to think. . . . I saw__with shut eyes, but acute mental vision__I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavor to mock the stupendous Creator of the world.
~Mary Shelley: Introduction to the Third Edition of Frankenstein~
Why Did Marry Shelly Want to Write the Story of a Grotesque Creature?
Man, by nature borrowed the sprinklings of his Creator. Deep within the folds of human conscientious, there rests a need to control and rule. Ironically, the pursuit of power is always attributed to Man__the Martian creature yet there are times when Venus takes heed. Writing Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus (1818) is one such occasion.
Latent reasons behind Mary Shelley’s account of Frankenstein included the death of her first child, Willy, whom she had thoughts about, restoring to life. Additionally, hers was an era of scientific exploration and biological experimentation. Galvanism was regarded as a way to call upon life in corpses through electrification, leading to mythical qualities. Also, there had been successive deaths in her family shaping her infant brain to see the traumatic side of life and escapism.
The dream, in the after math of Lord Byron’s challenge coupled with Mary Shelley’s contemporary and domestic situation lead her to write the story of Frankenstein’ monster, a creature cursed by his own plight.