Sie sind auf Seite 1von 2

SCIENCE AND SOCIETY – FRANKENSTEIN; Mary Shelley

ABOUT MARY SHELLEY


Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein in 1817 as a teenager and published it in 1818.
Shelley was born into a very strong, yet unconventional family. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, was a
powerful feminist and philosopher and her father, William Godwin, was a radical writer. She was often
influenced by such discussions as they were openly debated in the Shelley home and are seen frequently
throughout her work.
Interestingly, Mary Shelley’s mother gave birth to her though she was only married to her father for five
months. It is said that the only reason her parents married was to ensure that Mary receives social
respectability, though her parents, as revolutionaries, were opposed to the idea of marriage.
It is also understood that Mary Shelley lived an irreligious life (also interpreted due to the lack of religion
in her novel (s)). Her father was a radical irreligious philosopher.
She had an intensely emotional as well as sexual relationship to Percy Shelley even while he was still
married to his first wife. Shelley understood that Mary had a commitment to the principles shared by her
parents and so, she saw her father’s ‘revolutionary philosophical personality’ within Percy Shelley.
Additionally, her affair with Percy Shelley shows her encouraging some of her mother’s ideologies such
as sexual freedom.
When Mary Shelley and Percy Shelley travelled to Switzerland with Jane Clairmont, Lord Byron and
John Polidori, they kept themselves entertained by reading ghost stories; after which Lord Byron
suggested a competition to see who could write their own horror story. This is when Shelley began her
work on Frankenstein: or The Modern Prometheus.
Shelley had also said that the idea for Frankenstein had come from a nightmare she had; “I did not sleep,
nor could I be said to think”. She thought “what terrified me will terrify others”. Her dream consisted of a
student who had created some form of a creature or monster that had “speculative eyes”, which was
directly used in her book.
Before Shelley wrote the book, she had given birth to her daughter who then passed a few weeks later.
She wrote Frankenstein in the awake of this tragedy and said that she dreamt “that [her] little baby came
to life again”.
There was a rumor about the Shelleys visiting Castle Frankenstein, which is said to have been her
inspiration for the title of the book. There, they would have learned about an alchemist (Konrad Dippel)
who tried to create an elixir that would allow people to live for over a hundred years. This alchemist was
rumored to have dug up graves to experiment on corpses, as did Victor Frankenstein in the book.

CONTEXT
Political

- The idea that Frankenstiens story showed his human cognitive state; Victor could not look past
his physical appearance. This is also reflective of the political nature of the 19 th century whereby
people would not have the same rights and not be equal due to their physical appearance. The
idea that the creature is seen as an outsider and as inferior with no place in society is symbolic of
how slaves were denied any human rights.
- Shelley’s father and husband were well-known radical thinkers and writers.
SCIENCE AND SOCIETY – FRANKENSTEIN; Mary Shelley
Social

- Her father believed that everyone should think with the good of mankind in concern. He believed
that otherwise, selfishness will rise and cause the ‘breakdown of society’. This influenced her
book as the creator, Victor, is a man who acts and cares only for himself. He disregards the
Monster’s wishes and put mankind in danger by giving the monster reasons to cause harm.
- A construction of Social Enlightenment “Victor now resembles the European intellectuals who…
actively promoted radical ideas at home but where aghast when overseas colonies chose to apply
[it] to their own condition” (Fred Randel). This is shown as Victor actively tries to critique the
traditional views of people towards human existence. Shelley uses this character to emphasize the
idea of enlightenment towards the ‘birth of science’.
- Shelley explores the notion of Marxism through Victor’s creature/monster. Frankenstein can
understand the justice behind the monsters claims however he cannot give him the same rights as
a man deemed necessities of life. The notions of Marxism is seen as the creature is called an
“unfinished citizen”, as Victor can see the human thoughts behind the creatures stories but cannot
move past his appearance to note him human and give him human rights.
o Shelley portrayed how people perceive beauty and humanness of a person depending on
physical appearances… not considering soul and mind.
Historical

- During the 19th century, science became to appear as a profession. The monster of Frankenstein is
symbolic of the ‘birth of science. ‘A man named Galvani had ‘re-animated dead tissue’, and
another man, Aldini, had used electricity to make a criminal’s corpse appear to move in small
places like his jaw and fist. Discoveries like so were discussed frequently within Shelley’s home.
- Ideas of industrialization; the idea of scientific and technological advancements as well as the
fears that arise with what is unknown.
- The Romanticism period was a literary movement. It valued nature and individualism.
Cultural

- It is set in the 18th century which was the end of the enlightenment period. Enlightenment
emphasized the lack of need to follow religious beliefs and introduced reasoning as well as
individualism. Such thinkers began welcoming scientific study and practiced skepticism, as did
Victor Frankenstein.
- Shelley also discusses the presentation of women within society. This is shown by Victors guilt
towards Justine as he lets her suffer. During the time when the novel was written, women had no
rights or say within society and culture. They were unprivileged and seen as inferior to men; with
the sole purpose of serving their needs. This is portrayed in Justine as she is a weak, unfortunate
and innocent woman who is used by Victor to outdo his sins. Shelley presents how women were
objects of society.