History behind Frankenstein

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Mary Shelley, a Romance author, began writing during the period of the French Revolution (1789-1799). Members of the Revolution believed that the few individuals who were leading them were going to change the world. After the wars that followed the French Revolution had taken their toll, it became evident that these leaders could not even succeed in maintaining authority. The hundreds that followed them were forced to accept abandonment by their leaders and a new order.

Shelley’s first novel, Frankenstein, expresses this disillusionment that was experienced by herself and those around her. In this novel a young scientist’s selfish ambition becomes the ruin of his world, “Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow” (p. 48). Frankenstein is a fictional story about a young man who creates a human. He makes this creature with the physical attributes of a man, eyes, ears, mouth, mind, and the senses. Victor’s motivation was personal glorification, “A new species would bless me as its creator and source, many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me”p.49. Similarly the revolutionaries sought distinction in the creation of a new order or nation. Soon after its birth, however, Victor abandons his creation because of his inability to accept the responsibility that came with completion. This is similar to the leaders of the revolution in Shelley’s time. They began a powerful movement that promised glory, but which they could not control. The result of their abandonment caused death in the wars that followed. As the sto...

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...apse of the French Revolution, without leadership it could not be successful. There had been no reconciliation and it had died away among scattered wars.

Frankenstein seems to represent an unfinished tale to an unfinished portion of Shelley’s life. She could not write an end to her revolution because the French Revolution had dissolved into an unrecognizable idea. I would not simply categorize Frankenstein as a science fiction novel. Mary Shelley was writing on her life and times. She and other Romance writers were impacted by the crush of the French Revolution and the high ideals which it promised. These disappointments are evident in Frankenstein as Victor Frankenstein creates, abandons, and is eventually destroyed by his selfish ambition, as were the revolutionaries.

Works Cited

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein
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