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Free Essays: Literary Sources of Frankenstein

analytical Essay
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Literary Sources of Frankenstein

Frankenstein is considered to be the greatest Gothic Romantic Novel. It is also generally thought of as the first science fiction novel. I have always been impressed and amazed by the fact that Mary wrote this novel when she was eighteen years old. What experiences and powers of imagination led to such an innovative and disturbing work?

The idea for the novel arose in the summer of 1816 when Mary Shelley was staying at Lord Byron's villa in Geneva Switzerland. Not only did Mary incorporate experiences from that summer into her novel, she also utilized the sources that she had been reading and studying. Two in particular were the Metamorphoses by Ovid and Paradise Lost by Milton.

It is believed that Mary studied Ovid in April and May of 1815. The major element that Ovid supplied to the theme of Frankenstein, was his presentation of the Prometheus legend. This is acknowledged in the subtitle: Frankenstein, Or the Modern Prometheus. The creation of the monster is similar to this passage from Ovid:

Whether with particles of heav'nly fire, The God of Nature did his soul inspire; Or earth, but new divided from the sky, And, pliant, still retain'd th'ethereal energy; Which wise Prometheus temper'd into paste, And, mix't with living streams, the godlike image cast... From such rude principles our form began; And earth was metamorphos'd into man.

Lines from Frankenstein that reflect the above passage are; "I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet." (p.51)

"...that I may extinguish the spark which I so negligently bestowed." (Frankenstein p.101)

The second important literary influence was Paradise Lost by Milton. ( If you have not read this, it is really worth the time. It is difficult, but is well worth the effort. I find that it is helpful to have a copy of Bullfinch's Mythology when reading it. Almost all of Milton's mythological references are explained in Bullfinch.)

The influence of Milton's Paradise Lost can be seen directly from the epigraph of the 1818 edition of Frankenstein.

"Did I request thee, Maker from my clay to mould me man? Did I solicit thee, from darkness to promote me?"

The spirit of Paradise Lost permeates Frankenstein throughout the novel.

In this essay, the author

  • Opines that frankenstein is considered the greatest gothic romantic novel and the first science fiction novel. mary wrote it when she was 18 years old.
  • Explains that mary shelley's idea for the novel arose in the summer of 1816 when she was staying at lord byron’s villa in geneva.
  • Opines that mary studied ovid in april and may of 1815. the major element that he supplied to the theme of frankenstein was his presentation of the prometheus legend.
  • Analyzes how prometheus temper'd into paste, and mix't with living streams, the godlike image cast.
  • Analyzes the lines from frankenstein that reflect the above passage: "i collected the instruments of life around me, that i might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet."
  • Recommends having a copy of bullfinch's mythology when reading paradise lost by milton.
  • Explains the influence of milton's paradise lost can be seen directly from the epigraph of the frankenstein 1818 edition.
  • Asks, "did i solicit thee, maker from my clay to mould me man?"
  • Analyzes how the spirit of paradise lost permeates frankenstein throughout the novel.
  • Opines that the fallen angel becomes a malignant devil. yet even that enemy of god and man had friends and associates in his desolation.
  • Explains that mary shelley's knowledge of paradise lost was admired by mary and percy in the godwin household. she incorporated it into the novel by having it be one of the three works that the monster studied.
  • Describes how they were united by no link to any other human being, and considered satan as the fitter emblem of their condition.
  • Analyzes how frankenstein's creature evolves into a self-acknowledged satan who swears eternal revenge and war upon his creator and all the human race.
  • Analyzes how frankenstein refers to the monster in paradise lost. both master and creature are torn by internal conflicts from misapplied knowledge.
  • Explains that paradise lost and the metamorphoses were mary shelley's inspiration for frankenstein.
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