Mary Shelley 's Frankenstein : An Age Of Enlightenment And The Birth Of Modern Medicine

Mary Shelley 's Frankenstein : An Age Of Enlightenment And The Birth Of Modern Medicine

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Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is best characterized today by modern readers as an interesting yet fictitious story, but in the 1800s, this was far from the case. Criticized by many readers and scientific elite alike for the unorthodox practices described in the book, it quickly received criticism. These practices however, no matter how unorthodox, were anything but fictitious. In fact, the practices mentioned in the book were derived from the latest medical advancements. It is for this reason that Frankenstein, to an extent, was a story conceived by Mary Shelley using her knowledge of the latest medical advancements of the 1800s.
While Frankenstein takes place in the late 1700s, Mary Shelley wrote the book in the early 1800s. These time periods are important in that they marked what many considered to be an age of enlightenment and the birth of modern medicine. The medical field grew rapidly as scientists were learning more about the anatomy of the human body and how it worked. The science depicted in Frankenstein was of the more radical and highly debated practices that no one had quite understood at the time.
In order to understand how Mary Shelley was so familiar with the latest scientific and medical discoveries at the time, one must be aware of the works of William Lawrence. William Lawrence, a personal friend and physician of Mary Shelley and her husband, Percy Shelley, played a key role on the book. Lawrence, who worked as a professor at the Royal College of Surgeons, was an experienced physician and helped both Mary Shelley and her husband in their writings. Marilyn Butler 's "Frankenstein and Radical Science" describes their friendship and at one point mentions that he most likely ensured that they both "wrote more accur...


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...ever did not stop Mary Shelley from adapting this would be medical breakthrough to her own personal use. She used the idea of blood transfusions and adapted it to body parts which allowed Victor to create the monster from multiple corpses. As Jonathan Bate points out in "Frankenstein and the State of Nature", the monster is made of “bits and pieces” (Bate,480).
Frankenstein is a book that received critical acclaim and criticism upon its release. Its use of radical medical and scientific procedures shocked the readers and infuriated much of the scientific community. The book was even considered blasphemous and was under consideration for a ban. It helped shed light on how many scientists conducted their research, similar to that of Victor Frankenstein. Its success was the result of the recent medical advances of the 1800s that inspired Mary Shelley to write the book.

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