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Frankenstein is considered to be the greatest Gothic Romantic Novel. It is also generally thought of as the first science fiction novel. Mary Shelley wrote this amazing novel when she was only nineteen years of age, which is quite talented. She completed the novel in May of 1817 and was published January 1, 1818. Many of her experiences and lots of power from her imagination led to such an innovative and disturbing work. She wrote the novel while being overwhelmed by a series of calamities in her life. At the age of sixteen Mary ran away to live with the twenty-one year old Percy Shelley, the unhappily married radical heir to a wealthy baronetcy. To Mary, Shelley personified the genius and dedication to human betterment that she had admired her entire life. Although even her father cast her out of society, this inspirational liaison produced her masterpiece, Frankenstein. The worst of these calamities were the suicides of her half-sister, Fanny Imlay, and Shelley’s wife, Harriet. After the suicides, Mary and Shelley reluctantly married.
The summer of 1816 greatly inspired Mary Shelley to put together such an outstanding piece of work. Mary Shelley spent the greater part of the summer of 1816, when she was nineteen, at the Chapuis in Geneva, Switzerland. The followers included her stepsister, Claire Clairmont, Shelley, Lord Byron, and John Polidori, Byron’s physician. Lord Byron rented the Villa Diodoti on the shores of Lake Geneva, which John Milton, the author of Paradise Lost, had visited in the 1600’s. Mary considered the area to be sacred to enlightenment.
All contributing events that summer intensified on the night of June 16th. Mary and Percy could not return to Chapuis, due to an incredible storm, and spent the night at the Villa Diodati with Byron and Polidori. The group read aloud a collection of German ghost stories, The Fantasmagoriana. In one of the stories, a group of travelers relate to one another supernatural experiences that they had experienced. This inspired Byron to challenge the group to write a ghost story. Shelley wrote a forgettable story, Byron wrote a story fragment, and Polidori began the ?The Vampyre? the first modern vampire tale. Unfortunately, Mary was uninspired and did not start writing anything. On June 22nd, Byron and Shelley were scheduled to take a boat trip around the lake. The night before their departure the group discussed a subject from de Stael’s De l’Allemagne: ?whether the principle of life could be discovered and whether scientists could galvanize a corpse of manufactured humanoid?. When Mary went to bed, she had a ?waking? nightmare:
I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the 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 rush away…hope that…this thing…would subside into dead matter…he opens his eyes; behold the horrid thing stands at his bedside, opening his curtains…
The next morning Mary realized she had found her story and began writing the lines that open Chapter IV of Frankenstein – ?It was on a dreary night in November?-
The reading of many reviews, persuaded me to believe that Mary Shelley was obsessed with children and having that perfect baby with no abnormalities, and then the question arose, out of her own fears, if she was capable enough to raise a normal child. Mary incorporated this obsession into the novel. For approximately nine months Victor Frankenstein labored on the creation of his “child”. Finally on a ?dreary night in November: he witnesses the ?birth?:
?I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.? Frankenstein pg. 51
Instead of reaching out to his child, Victor rushes out of the room disgusted by the abnormality of his creation. When the creature follows after him, Victor runs away in horror completely abandoning his child. These are Mary’s worst fears coming alive throughout her novel.
?I gnashed my teeth, my eyes became inflamed, and I ardently wished to extinguish that life which I has so thoughtlessly bestowed? pg. 87
Frankenstein is one of the classic scary tales teenagers tell one another on dark dreary nights, one other horror flick that comes to mind is Friday the 13th. This shows similarities to the masterpiece of Mary Shelley?s work. Jason supposedly drowned in Crystal Lake in 1957, age 11 due to a lack of supervision of the teenaged camp councilors. From flashbacks in the film, it is evident that the young Jason suffered from deformity of the head and hair loss. Jason was abnormal and much like a monster. Jason lacked the attention that was given by his friends, peers and adult figures in his life. Jason?s mother was also guilty of not being there for her child. This child was abandoned much like Frankenstein was. Frankenstein represents the classic case of an abused and neglected child growing up to be an abuser, just as Jason does but after the fact that he is dead. Frankenstein is also dead in a way because he was man-made, not conceived by both man and women.
The monster, himself, realizes that a child that is deprived of a loving family becomes a monster. The creature repeatedly insists that he was born good but compelled by others to do evil. Mary Shelley bases this argument in Rousseau’s Emile and Second Discourse. Mary Shelley read Rousseau’s Emile in 1816. Rousseau stated that:
?God makes all things good; man meddles with them and they become evil.?
Rousseau specifically attributed moral failings to the lack of a mother’s love. Without mothering and a loving education ? a man left to himself from birth would be more of a monster than the rest.? Thus, Mary Shelley is suggesting that a rejected and un-mothered child can become a killer, especially a killer of its own family. Jason, in Friday the 13th did just that; went around killing his family throughout each sequel, just has Frankenstein does in the novel. It is almost as if we are to feel sorry for these monsters because in reality this cruel and harsh world made them this way. That is the exact reason that makes her work so romantic. Feeling sorry for a monster? Emotion rather than reason; the heart opposed to the head. -Sand. Sand defines Romanticism through that phrase. How am I suppose to feel sorry for a monster that is killing everyone around him, Frankenstein gives you that emotion to feel free to feel. Instead of reason you look inside your heart and find overwhelming emotion that can relate to everyone around.
?In general a thing is romantic when, as Aristotle would say, it is wonderful rather than probable; in other words, when it violates the normal sequence of cause and effect in favor of adventure. The whole movement is filled with praise of ignorance, and of those who still enjoy its inappreciable advantages, -the savage, the peasant, and above all the child.? -Babbitt. Babbitt defines romanticism in the previous phrase and Mary practically nails this definition to the front of the novel. ?…And above all the child.?; this alone gives grave detail to her work. Her novel is centered on the heart of a child, and how un-nurturing this cruel world can be. This whole story violates the normal sequence of cause and effect; a being was brought to live through the evil master plan of a psycho, madman/genius. The novel is a classic and will always be because of the effect it has on our emotions and the many twists and turns it takes throughout its course.
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