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Frankenstein or, The Modern Prometheus





plot and structure



Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was born on August 30 1797, she was the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, a pioneering feminist, and William Godwin, a prominent political philosopher. Early Influences: Mary's parents were intellectuals who played a crucial role in shaping her early education and worldview. Her mother's feminist ideas and her father's radical political beliefs contributed to Mary's intellectual development. Romantic Relationships: Mary's life was marked by passionate romantic relationships. At the age of 16, she fell in love with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Their relationship was scandalous at the time, as Percy was already married. Their elopement to Europe in 1814 had a profound impact on Mary's perspective and experiences, influencing the themes of love and rebellion in her writing. Lake Geneva Summer: In the summer of 1816, Mary, Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and John Polidori spent time together near Lake Geneva. Due to adverse weather conditions that confined them indoors, they engaged in a ghost story competition. This led Mary to conceive the idea for "Frankenstein," a novel that explored themes of scientific hubris, creation, and the consequences of playing god. Husband's dead: In 1822 Percy drawned at sea and she returned to England where she continued to write and publish. Mary died in 1851 of a brain tumor.

mary shelly

Frankenstein is not told chronologically. It is written as an epistolary novel, in the form of letters, and uses embedded narratives, or stories within a story. It is composed of three narratives, with three different narrators and three different points of view: Frankenstein, Walton, and the creature.


A young English explorer, Robert Walton, is on an expedition to the North Pole. One day, when the ship is surrounded by ice, a man in a bad condition is taken aboard; his name is Victor Frankenstein. He was a Swiss scientist, after years of labour, he succeeded in creating a human being by combining parts he had taken from corpses. But when the creature finally came to life, Frankenstein was horrified by what he had done. A tragic chain of events began, and everything Frankenstein loved, including his new wife Elizabeth, was destroyed by this monstrous creature. At the end of the novel, Frankenstein dies on Walton's ship, wishing he had killed his creation. The monster, upon seeing his creator's dead body, disappears into the Arctic declaring that he will kill himself.

Victor Frankenstein: The protagonist and a young Swiss scientist obsessed with unlocking the secrets of life and death. He creates the creature but abandons it out of horror and disgust, setting off a chain of tragic events. Victor is tormented by guilt and the consequences of his actions throughout the novel.The Creature (often referred to as "Frankenstein's monster"): Victor's creation, assembled from various body parts and brought to life through scientific experimentation. Despite his grotesque appearance, the creature is intelligent, sensitive, and capable of deep emotion. He experiences rejection and loneliness, leading to feelings of bitterness and a desire for revenge against his creator.Robert Walton: An ambitious explorer on a journey to the North Pole. He serves as the frame narrator of the novel, writing letters to his sister Margaret. Walton encounters Victor in the Arctic and hears his story, providing a narrative device for Victor's tale to be told.


Ambition and Hubris:Victor Frankenstein's ambition to conquer death leads him to create life, but his hubris blinds him to the consequences of his actions. His unchecked ambition ultimately leads to tragedy and destruction. Responsibility: The novel examines the theme of responsibility from multiple angles. Victor abandons his creation, shirking his responsibility as a creator, which leads to the Creature's suffering and vengeful actions. Similarly, the Creature grapples with the responsibility of his own actions and seeks accountability from his creator.Revenge and Justice: Revenge is a central theme as the Creature seeks revenge against Victor for abandoning him and causing him suffering. However, the novel also raises questions about the nature of justice and whether revenge truly brings resolution or perpetuates a cycle of violence. The Limits of Science and Technology: "Frankenstein" explores the ethical and moral implications of scientific discovery and technological advancement. Victor's reckless pursuit of knowledge and manipulation of natural forces without regard for the consequences serve as a cautionary tale about the dangers of unchecked scientific ambition.Loss and Isolation: Loss and isolation are pervasive themes in "Frankenstein." Characters experience loss of loved ones, loss of innocence, and loss of identity. The resulting isolation contributes to their emotional turmoil and moral decay.


Gothic Elements:"Frankenstein" incorporates many features of the Gothic novel, such as a dark and foreboding atmosphere, a fascination with the macabre and the supernatural, and a focus on intense emotions and the protagonists' torment. Shelley uses vivid descriptions of landscapes to enhance the novel's mood and reflect the characters' inner turmoil.Romanticism:The Romantic movement's influence on Shelley is evident in her emphasis on emotion, nature, and the critique of Enlightenment reason. The novel expresses a deep reverence for the natural world, juxtaposing its beauty and sublimity with the human capacity for destruction and hubris. The characters' intense emotional experiences and the quest for identity and understanding also reflect Romantic ideals.Philosophical and Ethical Exploration:The novel is rich in philosophical discourse, particularly in the dialogues between Frankenstein and his creature, and in Frankenstein's reflections on his own actions.Language and Imagery:Shelley's use of language is sophisticated and poetic, with a strong use of imagery and symbolism. The creature's eloquence, in particular, contrasts with its monstrous appearance, challenging preconceptions about beauty, virtue, and intelligence. The novel is replete with references to classical literature, the Bible, and contemporary works, which enrich its themes and deepen its cultural commentary.In summary, the style of "Frankenstein" is marked by its Gothic and Romantic elements, its complex narrative structure, its philosophical depth, and its poetic use of language. These stylistic choices contribute to the novel's enduring power and its ability to engage with timeless questions about humanity, ethics, and the natural world.


The novel makes a clear reference to the myth of The Greck giant Prometheus. He stole the fire from the Gods and gave the knowledge of fire to humanity and was then eternally punished for his deed. Victor, attempting to become a modern Prometheus as he seeks to give humanity the secret of life itself, he is punished through the death of his loved ones and finally through his own death as he attemps to destroy the monster he has created.


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