Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

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Frankenstein is usually classed as a gothic novel. It fits into the

gothic tradition, purely because it contains typical features of the

gothic genre, such as: Fear, The supernatural, Terror, and Tragedy. It

also features exploration of what is forbidden and the dark side of

the human psyche; these were often explored by gothic authors, as they

were interested in them. Frankenstein fits into this tradition well.

Mary Shelley’s ideas came to her in a short stay in Switzerland. It

was raining and herself and her friend, Lord Byron, had thought up of

having a competition to see who could write the best ghost story. Mary

Shelley was, at that time, living in an age of scientific experiments

and research that could change the world forever. So, her ideas for

the story were influenced by experiments and scientific debates of

that time. She uses the concept of ‘Galvanism’ which was originally

known as ‘animal electricity’. This was the idea of ‘Luigi Galvani’,

he suggested that there was a form of electricity different from any

other, which was produced by lighting and the brain. This form of

electricity made muscles move rapidly. This lead to further

experiments on human corpses. Another experiment took place using

another form of electricity. It was on the body of ‘Thomas Forster’,

after he was hanged. The method was that wires were attached to the

body, through different sensory parts, and a current then sent

electricity around the body and the body began to move. Mary Shelley

knew about these experiments as these were often discussed the great

detail by popular newspapers, also pamphlets and lectures would have

discussed these ideas.

The novel is based on Victor Frankenstein creating a monster. This

monster is abominable. Victor is in from Geneva and in his early

childhood, his cousin (and lover later in the novel), Elizabeth, came

to stay with his family. In his late teens, his mother passed away and

he went to university in Ingolstadt, whilst there he creates a

monster. He never tells anyone about it, but spends long days and

nights working on his creation. After, the monster comes alive Victor

abandons it, and becomes very ill. His friend, Henry Clerval, nurses

Victor back to health. Victor gets better and returns home to Geneva,

but before returning home he receives a letter from his father stating

that his brother, William, has been murdered. Victor is distraught as

returns home as quickly as he can. Whilst at home, he goes to the

mountains, there he meets the monster and the monster admits that he

committed the murder and begs Victor for a companion.

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