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Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein The Irony and Danger in the Quest for Power
Images of “Frankenstein” What is your image of “Frankenstein”? Draw it or jot down a list of descriptive words. 1 2 3
Why is it a Classic? It speaks truths It warns us of human’s relentless search for power It reveals human fears
Thesis Influenced by the Romantic Period, the scientific inquiry of her time, and her own life, Mary Shelley’s Gothic novel, Frankenstein, presents a clear message on the irony and danger in the quest for power. u
Setting the Stage. . . What influenced Shelley to write this novel? u The Romantic Period u The Gothic Novel u Scientific Research u Her own life
The Romantic Period u u Time of political revolution and new ways of looking at the world (especially in the light of the French Revolution) A time of expression. Britain was becoming the most powerful nation in the world. Britain’s prosperity (Industrial Revolution) eventually created a sense of British righteousness. Critiqued the single-mindedness of the Enlightenment period; much more self-conscious. – “Whereas the Enlightenment period saw man in common, that is, as creatures endowed with Reason, the Romantics saw diversity and uniqueness. . . Discover yourself -- express yourself, cried the Romantic artist. . . instead of the motto, "Dare to know!" the Romantics took up the battle cry, "Dare to be!" The Romantics were rebels and they knew it” (Kreis).
Romantic Quest u During the Romantic period, a journey to find one’s self through nature, isolation, and meditation u Natural science should lead to discovery u Could be a physical journey or a mental, psychological, or spiritual one
The Gothic Novel u Out of the late Romantic social climate, the Gothic novel grew: “a new and fearful genre for a new and fearful time. A crumbling way of life emerges as a crumbling and haunted Gothic manor; the loss of English social identity becomes the Gothic hero or heroine's search for identity. ” (Ruotolo) u The revolutions in America and France helped developed a culture of fear present in society and represented in Gothic literature-*fear of imprisonment or entrapment, *fear of rape and personal violation, *fear of evil triumphing over good and chaos over order. Gothic literature gets its name from the Gothic architecture that often makes up its settings.
Characteristics of the Gothic Novel u u u Writing style is filled with: innovation, spontaneity, freedom of thought and expression, idealization of nature, etc. A lot of mysterious disappearances as well as other supernatural occurrences. The main protagonist is usually a solitary, egocentric character. u Nature is used frequently to create atmosphere. u Evoke terror. Show the dark side of human u Setting in a castle Omens, portents, visions Supernatural or otherwise inexplicable events High, even overwrought emotion Women threatened by a powerful, impulsive, tyrannical male
Scientific Research of the Time u In the Victorian period, “[s]cience begins to dominate public discourse, and even, according to some writers, partially displaces religion as a coherent world view. A[n outcome] of scientific dominance is the belief that when science advances, so does human society: science and progress, in other words, go hand in hand. Through most of the Victorian Era. . . science is not so specialized into isolated disciplines that the ordinary, welleducated citizen cannot follow its movements” (Drake).
Scientific Research of the Time u The Industrial Revolution led to massive leaps forward in engineering. u Formalization of the study of science at university; many men focused on the study of natural history. u Concept of Electricity and warmth led to the discovery of the Galvinization process (term for current electricity produced by Volta's battery invented in 1799)--key to the animation of life. u Scientist Johann Konrad Dippel (1673 -1734) a mad scientist who studied human anatomy. u The late 18 th century saw a revolution in Chemistry—change from alchemy to Chemistry (atomic theory of matter). This new theory suggested that elements could be put together to create matter.
The Author - Mary Shelley u “The desire to acquire knowledge and the intense passion for research and study is evident throughout the novel, Frankenstein and is demonstrated through the three narrators. . . the narrators’ quest for new knowledge and knowledge of origins parallel Mary Shelley's lifelong scholarly pursuit and her interest in her own biological origins due to her birth causing her mother's death” (Woodbridge). < Her Parents: Philosopher William Godwin; Feminist Mary Wollstonecraft Her Husband: > Writer Percy B. Shelley
The “Birth” of When Mary was nine, she hid under a sofa to hear Samuel Taylor Coleridge recite his Frankenstein poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, which later influenced her as she developed her ideas for Frankenstein. Due to the loss of her children, many critics have pointed out that thoughts of birth and death were much on Shelley’s mind at the time she wrote Frankenstein. Summer of 1816 Mary and Percy Shelley were living near the poet Lord Byron and his doctor-friend John Polidori on Lake Geneva in the Swiss Alps. During a period of incessant rain, the four of them were reading ghost stories to each other when Byron proposed that they each try to write one. For days Shelley could not think of an idea. Then, while she was listening to Lord Byron and Percy discussing the probability of using electricity to create life artificially, according to a theory called galvanism, an idea began to grow in her mind: Perhaps a corpse would be re-animated; galvanism had given token of such things: perhaps the component parts of a creature might be manufactured, brought together, and [endued] with vital warmth. The next day she started work on Frankenstein. A year later, she had completed her novel. It was published in 1818, when Shelley was nineteen years old.
Timeline of Mary Shelley’s Life u Aug. 30, 1797 Mary is born to well-known parents: author and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft and philosopher William Godwin. Mary Wollstonecraft dies giving birth to Mary. u 1813 Mary meets the young poet Percy B. Shelley, a devotee of her father`s teachings u 1816 They go to Geneva, this time spending time with Byron and his friend Polidori u 1816 In Geneva, Byron suggests they should all write a ghost story. Mary begins writing Frankenstein, the only story of the four that was ever published as a novel. u 1816 Percy`s wife drowns herself; Percy and Mary marry in December. 1818 Frankenstein Tragedies after Frankenstein u 1819 Mary suffers a nervous breakdown after the death of William. u 1819 Percy is born; only child of Mary`s to survive childhood. u 1822 Percy Sr. drowns during a sailing trip in the Bay of Spezia. u 1822 She has a dangerous miscarriage. u 1826 She writes The Last Man, which depicts the end of human civilization. u Feb. 1, 1851 Mary Shelley dies in London, possibly of a brain tumor. u
Style u Epistolary novel – Written as a series of letters from Captain Robert Walton to his sister, Margaret Seville – Often used to add greater realism, as it mimics the workings of reality – Offers multiple points of view without an omniscient narrator
Setting Overall: North Pole Frankenstein’s tale takes place primarily in Germany, Geneva (Switzerland), Scotland, and Ireland.
Paradise Lost u Epic poem written by John Milton (and his daughters) in 1667 u Follows the Fall of Lucifer, the Creation of Adam and Eve, and the eventual Fall of Mankind u Much of Frankenstein was influenced by “Paradise Lost; ” names (Victor) and characters (the monster) were modeled after characters within the epic poem. u Main themes used from it in Frankenstein: dedication of parents to their children, creation of life, and abandonment.
“The Modern Prometheus” Prometheus • In Greek mythology, he was a titan who created man in the image of the gods • Stole the gift of fire from Mt. Olympus and gave it to man • Punished by Zeus and chained to a rock on a mountain. Every day for 30 years, Zeus’ eagle would eat his liver