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By Mary Shelley
Author Biography � Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was born in London in 1797. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, was one of the first feminists. She died when Shelley was ten days old. Her father, William Godwin, was a political journalist. � Mary Godwin was a bright and rebellious child. She published her first poem at ten, and she ran away to France at the age of sixteen with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, whom she later married.
Author Biography � During the summer of 1816, the Romantic poet Lord Byron challenged her to write a ghost story, and thus the story of Frankenstein was born. � The inspiration came from a number of sources, including her interest in the scientific experiments of the time and a dream she had, in which she 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 a uneasy, half vital motion. ”
Author Biography � Shelley was only nineteen when Frankenstein was published. Her husband wrote the preface to the first edition, and many thought that he had written the entire novel. The book was a runaway success, though critical reviews were mixed.
� � Shelley’s life was filled with tragic losses: she lost her husband to drowning and two of her children to diseases within the span of four years. Only one of her children survived. Mary Shelley herself died in 1851. The story of Frankenstein has inspired over fifty films.
Book Summary – Background � Frankenstein is a challenging novel because, like most classics, it deals with themes and ideas that continue to have resonance today. � Our modern technological advances in prolonging life (via transplants) and creating life (through cloning) and the attendant ethical questions they raise make the novel even more relevant today. Frankenstein’s setting and subject matter place it squarely in the Gothic genre; Frankenstein’s treatment of that setting and subject matter mark it as the first example of mature Gothic literature. �
Book Summary - Background � � Frankenstein allows for a serious discussion of the unique qualities of the horror novel and its significance in the world of literature. Popular writers such as Stephen King and Anne Rice build upon what Mary Shelley created.
Book Summary - Setting � Victor Frankenstein’s story begins in Switzerland but ranges widely across Europe, from Ingolstadt in Germany to the Orkney Islands in Scotland. Parts of the tale take place in Arabia, and the novel starts and ends in the inhospitable Arctic. � Such exotic and forbidding realms were part and parcel of the Gothic.
Book Summary, Setting � � The Gothic novel, designed to inspire terror in the minds of its readers, typically includes a fascination with the occult, ghosts, monsters, and the un-dead. Gothic novels also usually include mysterious castles, strange or unusual places, wild animals, and a focus on the dark side of humanity.
Character List � Victor Frankenstein: A young scientist from Geneva and the creator of the monster. � The Monster: The product of Victor’s work—the reanimation of the dead. � Robert Walton: A young English explorer obsessed with finding the Northwest Passage. He, like Victor, wants to help mankind and become famous in the process. � Alphonse Frankenstein: Victor’s father, an official in the government of Geneva.
Character List � Ernest Frankenstein: Victor’s younger brother. � William Frankenstein: Victor’s youngest brother. � Elizabeth Lavenza: Victor’s adopted sister, the orphaned daughter of an Italian nobleman. � Justine Moritz: A Frankenstein servant but almost like one of the family. The Frankensteins took her in when she was twelve, after her father died because her mother “treated her very ill. ”
Character List � Henry Clerval: The epitome of a Romantic and Victor’s childhood friend. � M. Krempe: One of Victor’s professors at the University of Ingolstadt. He is arrogant in his outright dismissal of occult science. � M. Waldman: Victor’s understanding professor at the University of Ingolstadt. It is Waldman who encourages Victor to continue his studies in natural science, especially chemistry.
Character List � Father of Safie: A Turkish aristocrat who stumbles into trouble with the law and is imprisoned. � M. De Lacey: A fallen aristocrat who is eventually exiled from France after becoming involved in the political trial of Safie’s father. � Felix De Lacey: The young, impulsive son of M. De Lacey, who is in love with Safie.
Character List � Agatha De Lacey: The daughter of M. De Lacey and the sister of Felix. � Safie: The daughter of the Turkish Muslim. She is the woman with whom Felix has fallen in love and for whom he risks his family’s place in society to help her father escape from prison. � Mr. Kirwin: An Irish magistrate who is in charge of overseeing a murder trial. � Margaret Saville: Robert Walton’s sister. She is married with children and lives in England. It is to her that Robert Walton writes.