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Mary Shelley Wollstonecraft Essay, Research Paper

Mary Shelley

Thesis: Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein incorporating similarities of her life into the novel.


A.Who was Mary Shelley

B.When Frankenstein was first published

C.What was Frankenstein about

D.Thesis statement

I. Mary Shelley



C.Parents background

II. Percy and Their Marriage

A. Dates




III. Frankenstein

A.Why/How was it written





IV. Facts on Frankenstein

A.Different point-of-views

B.Examples of Mary?s life portrayed in Frankenstein

C.Similarities between Mary?s life and Frankenstein


A.When was Frankenstein published

B.What was Frankenstein about

C.Who was Mary Shelley

D.State that thesis statement is true

Cameo Conley

Ms. Foley

English IV

1 December 2000

Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley was a prominent, though over looked literary figure during the Romantic Era of English Literature. Mary Shelley?s Frankenstein was first published in 1818. Mary started writing Frankenstein before she was nineteen and finished less than a year later. Frankenstein is about a man whose desire to create life drives him to build a monster, and ultimately results in his own ruin. (Shelley-inside cover) Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein incorporating similarities of her life into the novel.

Mary Shelley was born to Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin on August 30, 1797. Her mother was a famous feminist and her father was a philosopher and novelist. Mary Shelley had high expectations put on her since birth because of her parents? standings. Ten days after Mary was born her mother died from complications. Since her mother died, that left her father, Godwin, an undemonstrative and self absorbed intellectual to care for both Mary and Fanny Imlay, (Wollsonecraft’s daughter from an earlier relationship). (Abbey-245) Mary?s father remarried four years later, which brought a stepmother, and two step children into her life. These new additions to the family help Mary?s home life a little. The new Mrs. Godwin favored her own children which left Mary by herself and unhappy. Mary was never formally educated, but absorbed the intellectual atmosphere created by her father. Mary Shelley said ?My education was neglected, yet I was passionately fond of reading. These volumes my study day and night.? (L.M.S.-11) Mary read a wide variety of books, most of them were written by her mother, who she idolized. (Abbey-245) Mary?s favorite place to escape to was her mother?s grave in the St.Pancras churchyard. She would go there to read and write, and eventually to meet her lover, Shelly. Throughout her life there were many deaths she had to overcome, including her husband, her children, and her father. Mary published several novels and short stories in her lifetime. Mary Shelley died of complications of a brain tumor on February 1, 1851.

Percy Bysshe Shelley was a famous poet but admired Godwin, Mary?s father. Percy visited Godwin?s home and briefly met Mary when she was fourteen, but there attraction did not take hold until a following meeting two years later. Percy was twenty-two and his wife was pregnant with their second child when Mary declared her love for him. Mary agreed not to see Percy when Godwin condemned their relationship, but Percy?s dramatic threat to commit suicide convinced Mary to flee with him to France in July 1814. (Telgen-181) Except for two interludes in England, they spent the next several years traveling in Switzerland, Germany, and Italy. These years were characterized by financial difficulty and personal tragedy. Percy?s father, Sir Timothy Shelley a wealthy baronet, cut off his son?s generous allowance after his elopement. In 1816, Mary?s half sister Fanny committed suicide. Weeks later Percy?s wife, Harriet, drowned herself. Mary and Percy were married in London, mainly because they hoped to gain custody of his two children by Harriet, but custody was denied. Three of their children died in infancy, and Mary fell into a deep depression. Her depression finally started to go away after the birth in 1819 of Percy Florence, her only surviving child. The Shelley?s marriage also suffered. In the wake of their children?s deaths, and Percy formed romantic attachments to other women. In 1822, Percy drowned during a storm while sailing. After one mournful year in Italy, Mary returned permanently to England with her son. Mary?s life after Percy?s death was marked by depression and hardship as she struggled to support herself and her child. Mary published four novels after Percy?s death. She also contributed a series of biographical and critical sketches to Chamber?s Cabinet Cyclopedia. Occasionally, she also contributed short stories, which she considered, potboilers, to the literary annuals of the day. (Abbey-246)

While staying in Geneva, Mary and Percy spent most of their time with the poet Lord Byron. Lord Byron proposed that each of them write a ghost story to share with the others. (Nardo-34) While listening to a conversation between her husband and Lord Byron, helped her decided what to write her ghost story on. A story that would ?speak to the mysterious fears of our nature and awaken thrilling horror.? (Blooms-11) Another conversation she heard was the principle of life, the experiments of Dr. Darwin and the possibility of brining a corpse back to life. Mary had a dream/nightmare the night before she started to write ?Frankenstein.? This dream was what had the final effect on what she was going to write her story about. Her dream was:

?I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life?His success would terrify the artist; he would run away?hope that?this thing?would subside into dead matter?he opens his eyes; because the horrid things at his bedside, opening curtains?? (L.M.S.-3)

The next morning Mary realized she had found her story and began writing the lines that opened chapter IV of Frankenstein- ?It was on a dreary night in November.? Mary Shelley?s stay in Geneva also provided the location for the novel. ?The powerful natural landscape of Switzerland, and the nature itself, played a major role in the novel and exert a tremendous influence in the main characters.? (Blooms-11)

Mary Shelley completed the novel Frankenstein in May of 1817, but was first published January 1, 1818. This novel was basically about a man/scientist that was obsessed with the secrets of life that he wanted to create a perfect creature. When Dr. Victor Frankenstein gives his creature the spark of life, Frankenstein was so overwhelmed by how ugly and unnatural his creation was, that he abandoned him. After Frankenstein abandoned him, the creature went out into the world to seek acceptance. The creature was so ugly and horrifying that no one would even look at him as a person. After the creature found that no one would accept him, he sought revenge over Frankenstein, and eventually killed everyone Frankenstein loved. The creature found Frankenstein and asked him to make him a mate. Frankenstein agreed at first but then changed his mind. After the creature killed Frankenstein?s best friend Clerval and his love Elizabeth, he began to pursue him throughout Europe and eventually the Artic. After the creature found out that Frankenstein was dead, he felt satisfied. The creature took his leave and went away forever. (Shelley-11-251)

There are many different point-of-views on how and why this story was written. Most people believe that Dr. Victor Frankenstein was just a made up character for this story. Others believe that Mary used Dr. Frankenstein and this story line to portray her life. There are a lot of similarities between Mary?s life and the events that happened in this story. (L.M.S.-14)

Mary Shelley seemed to have had a lot of problems in her childhood. Not having both her parents there and not having a formal education made her childhood harder then it already was. As Mary got older her problems still existed. Her and her husband, Percy, had a troubled marriage, and had a lot of deaths she had to overcome. (Evans- 138) Mary seemed to use the novel Frankenstein to portray her life in a way that?s not obvious. There are a lot of things that may have just been coincidental, but there are some that could not have been.

In the first two chapters of Frankenstein, facts about Victor Frankenstein?s childhood and family were being introduced. In the novel it said that Victor was born into a well-known family. It also said how his mother adopted a girl named Elizabeth. (Shelley-29-42) Those two examples are similarities to Mary Shelley?s life. Mary?s parents were well known and when her father remarried there were two new children in her life, almost like they were adopted.

In chapters three and four, it explains how Victor?s mother dies and how Victor went off to a university to get an education. Victor?s mother died from nursing her adopted daughter, Elizabeth from scarlet fever. (Shelley- 43-59) These are both similarities to Mary?s life. Mary?s mother died ten days after she was born, due to complications during birth. Mary never got a formal education but it was something that she always wanted. In these chapters it also explains how Victor found abilities he had that he never knew he had. This is a similarity with Mary because she never had a formal education, but every time she tried something new, things would come to her naturally.

In chapters seven through nine, there was basically one major event that portrays Mary?s life. The one major event was that Victor?s brother was murdered. (Shelley-76-104) This is a similarity to Mary because her half-sister committed suicide. Victor and Mary both lost someone that meant a lot to them, a sibling. This was one event that really made it seem like Mary was portraying her life with Victor Frankenstein?s.

In chapters ten through seventeen, the creature was learning about himself and life. The creature was slowly learning the concepts of life, and why things happen the way they do. He had a real hard time understanding why people were afraid of him. Due to his physical appearances people would run from him. While in the woods, the creature came upon a child, approached him seeking friendship. The child was horrified, and started yelling. The creature killed this young innocent child because he himself was terrified, and could not understand why this child was scared. (Shelley- 105-170) This is a very vague similarity, but the creature getting to know himself is a similarity because Mary would learn about herself and her family through reading and writing. It was hard for Mary to except why the things happened in her life the way they did. The child that the creature killed seems to be symbolizing her children that died in infancy.

In chapters twenty-two and twenty-three, two obvious events happen that are similarities to Mary?s life. These events are that Victor and Elizabeth marry and Elizabeth dies. (Shelley- 210-226) Victors mother adopted Elizabeth when she was an infant, but Victor still married Elizabeth. This has the basic similarity as Mary and Percy. Percy was practically part of the family, but Mary still married Percy. In the end of the novel Elizabeth dies. This portrays Mary?s life with Victor?s because Elizabeth was to Victor, as Percy was to Mary.

In the final chapter, Victor Frankenstein dies. (Shelley- 227-236) This is a similarity to Mary?s life in several different ways. Victor did not just let himself die. He put up a fight and tried to stay tough through it all. Mary also did the same. There were several incidents in her life that she could have ended her life and probably been happier, but she never gave in and tough everything out. She went through tough times in her life, just as Victor did. They both lost everyone they ever loved, but still kept living their lives.

There are several other similarities between the novel, Frankenstein, and Mary Shelley?s life. There were a lot of minor things like the books the creature read, some quotes, and things to that extent. There were also something?s that could have been similarities depending on the way you look at it like where certain things took place, when they took place and who was involved. In some parts of the novel it seemed like Mary gave Victor qualities of herself, but then in other parts it seemed like Mary gave them to the creature. There were times when Victor went through basically the same events in his life, as did Mary. Victor lost his mother at a very young age, and one of his siblings died. There were also times when the creature went through basically the same events, as did Mary. The creature had to learn about life, and himself on his own. He seemed to have to learn the hard way, and he had nothing handed to him for free.

Mary Shelley?s Frankenstein was first published in 1818. Frankenstein is about a man that is so obsessed with the secrets of life that he is driven to create a perfect creature. Frankenstein has been re-made into movies, and books. None of the new versions of Frankenstein will ever compare to the famous, Mary Shelley?s Frankenstein. Mary Shelley was a prominent, though over looked literary figure during the Romantic Era of English Literature. (L.M.S.-1) Mary Shelley was only nineteen when she finished this novel. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein incorporating similarities of her life into the novel.

Abbey, Cherie D, Ed. Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism volume 14. Detroit, MI:

Gale Research Co., 1987.

Bloom, Harold. Mary Shelley?s Frankenstein Bloom?s Notes. Broomall, PA: Chelsea

House Publishers, 1996.

Bloom, Harold. Modern Critical Views; Mary Shelley. New York: Chelsea House

Publishers, 1985.

Evans, Denise and Mary L. Onorato, Eds. Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism

volume 59. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1997.

Life of Mary Shelley, The. 1996. http://www.studyabroad.co.200ct.2000

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