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GCSE: Mary Shelley

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Mary Shelly's biography

  1. 1 Mary Shelley was born in London in 1797, daughter of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, who were famous writers of the day. Her father was a political writer and her mother was a pioneer feminist writer.
  2. 2 Mary’s mother died ten days after her birth so she was brought up by her father who made sure she was educated well, by him and tutors, but her education failed to give her the emotional support she needed from a mother.
  3. 3 In 1814, through her father’s literary connections, she met and fell in love with the then unknown, but already married, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and in July they eloped to the Continent. In 1816, after Shelley’s first wife Harriet committed suicide, Mary and Percy were married.
  4. 4 Mary Shelley’s life with Percy was destined to be full of hardship and death; she bore four children but only one survived, Percy Florence. They lived in Italy from 1818 until 1822, when Shelley drowned, following his boat capsizing in a storm.
  5. 5 Mary returned to London with her son where she continued to live a very simple and difficult life as a professional writer until her death in 1851.

About the novel

  1. 1 Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus is a novel about a failed experiment that produced a monster. Shelley started writing the story when she was eighteen, and the novel was published when she was twenty-one. The first edition was published anonymously in London in 1818. Mary Shelley’s name appears on the second edition, published in France in 1823.
  2. 2 The story is set in the Geneva area where Mary Shelley and her future husband Percy Bysshe Shelley had travelled to with a group of other young writers of the Romantic movement. They were young and liberal-minded and their discussions included some of the ideas seen in the novel - galvanism, scientific developments and the occult.
  3. 3 Mary Shelley was talking with her three writer friends, Percy, Lord Byron, and John Polidori, when they decided they would have a competition to see who could write the best horror story. After thinking for weeks about what her possible storyline could be, Mary Shelley dreamt about a scientist who created life and was horrified when he saw his creation.
  4. 4 Frankenstein is infused with many elements of the Gothic novel and the Romantic movement and is also considered to be one of the earliest examples of science fiction. The novel has had a considerable influence across literature and popular culture and spawned a complete genre of horror stories and films.
  5. 5 The structure of Frankenstein begins in epistolary form with four letters from Robert Walton to his sister Margaret wherein he describes his experiences and his meeting with Frankenstein. After the fourth letter we have Frankenstein’s narrative then the Creature’s narrative, and the novel ends with Walton again addressing his sister, reminding the reader that the whole novel is, in fact, one long letter.

Writing about 'Frankenstein'

  1. 1 It is important to know the social, cultural and historical background of the text. Having this knowledge will help you better understand why Mary Shelley wrote the novel and how many aspects of her life are reflected in the characters and the themes.
  2. 2 You must show good understanding of the main characters and how they interact with each other - Robert Walton, Victor Frankenstein, and the Creature - and how they relate to other characters. The characters are revealed through a variety of stylistic features: letters, description, parallels and juxtaposition, the different narratives and how the characters communicate with each other.
  3. 3 There are several themes running throughout the novel: death, creation, isolation, prejudice, nature/nurture, fate and destiny, fathers and sons, dreams and religion.

    You must understand how the themes are woven through the text and how they link directly to the characters and the society portrayed in the novel. For example, both Frankenstein and the Creature link to the theme of isolation because Frankenstein chose to isolate himself from society when he was creating his being, whereas the Creature was isolated from society because of his unnatural appearance and subsequent rejection by everyone.
  4. 4 You must be able to analyse how Mary Shelley has used narrative structure, description, character development and language to create effects - her description and use of pathetic fallacy create a Gothic atmosphere and mood. Detailed analysis of these techniques is needed to achieve a high grade.
  5. 5 You must develop your own critical sense and personal response to the novel, showing that you have thought about it, and that you have ideas and reactions of your own, not just those of your teacher. You must never write to a formula or try to recreate an essay you have previously done; you must approach every essay with a fresh, open mind.

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  1. To name a villain in Frankenstein, one would be so quick to point a finger at the monster. The monster was the one who carried out the killing of the innocent therefore, is he the ultimate villain of the story?

    Once the creature awakes, Victor's reaction was "breathless horror and disgust" (55) at the monsters appearance and thus, abandons it. When he realized that the monster left his apartment, his reaction was "I couldn't believe that so great a good fortune could have befallen me... I clapped my hands for joy" (59). At this point, Victor's only concern is of his own, that the monster is gone and no longer has any obligation to it. He does not stop to think of the monsters well being, how will he survive in this new world or what might happened to other people that encounter him.

    • Word count: 1644
  2. Explore the ways in which Mary Shelley amnipulates the reader to feel sympathetic to the monster in Chapter 5 and at least one otehr chapter.

    The monsters inarticulate grunting and eagerness for affection should have driven home the fact that Frankenstein is responsible for him, but instead he flees. The reader is sympathetic towards the monster because of his childlike manner and his rejection from the first human being he has ever seen, who is essentially his Father, mirroring the treatment he will have to endure from humans for the remainder of the novel. Frankenstein does not have any more direct interactions with the monster until Chapter 10, and then his character has changed vastly from the inarticulate child he was in the first moments of his life.

    • Word count: 1505
  3. With Particular Reference to Chapters 4, 5, 9 and 24, consider the ways in which Shelley Portrays Victors Decline in Frankenstein.

    The quotes convey images of tranquillity and clarity. This fantasy was never to continue as Shelley's describes Victor's ambitions which lead him to become subdued and wicked. Chapter 4 opens up the cracks in the fortress for Victor; it sees Victor travel to the University of Ingolstadt to study further for his strive for scientific knowledge. This move sees Victor meet professors such as Waldman and Krempe who encourage him to study and give up the philosophical "nonsense" he has been reading.

    • Word count: 1812
  4. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

    Her husband, Percy Shelley, was also amazed at electricity. This is shown in Frankenstein. Mary Shelly changed the 'Gothic Horror' genre with the story Frankenstein. This story is not just about monsters, as it also has a meaning; that man can play god, and create something evil. She is able to create fear with this story as much now as back in 1818. During the first part of the book, Frankenstein works hard at creating like because he has a personal grief for his mother. It goes back to when he was younger, and his mother died during childbirth, this also links to Mary Shelley, whose mother also died in childbirth.

    • Word count: 1354

    In November 1816, Fanny, Mary's half-sister, committed suicide. A few weeks later, in December 1816, Shelley's first wife Harriet also killed herself and within two weeks, Percy and Mary were married in St. Mildred's Church in London on December 30th, 1816. Early the next year, the couple moved to Marlow, England and a third child, Clara Everina, was born. In 1818, the Shelley's moved to Italy and during this time, both small children died; Clara (September 1818) and William (June 1819). Mary was depressed yet recovered somewhat by September 1819 when she had her only child surviving until adulthood; Percy.

    • Word count: 1914
  6. Is Mary Shelley More Sympathetic Towards Frankenstein or His Creation

    It led to a gruesome obsession which left Victor Frankenstein isolated from his friends and family and extremely ill. He doesn't think about the consequences or the results of what he is embarking on, however he goes ahead and does it thinking only of the enormous discovery's he has made if he can successfully create life. 'his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of pearly whiteness; but these luxuriance's only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes' Page 58 This is the description of the creation as it comes to life, instead of the image of an innocent new born, he is described as almost and evil inhuman being.

    • Word count: 1449
  7. Frankenstein The Modern Prometheus

    Shelley's life and times effected how she illustrates the birth of Frankenstein's monster in an immeasurable way. The environment and time Shelley grew up in really does have a huge impact on the novel due to the techniques she uses and in the way she uses her language. A vast amount of scientific breakthroughs were made at this time helping dub the early 1800's as 'The Age of Enlightenment'. Shelley arguably has many monumental events in her life, but in my opinion none bigger the visit to Lord Byron's house which sparked her enthusiasm for this epic novel.

    • Word count: 1126
  8. Is the monster Evil?

    Victor realizes how dangerous the monster is. At this point Victor realizes that he has created something that is very powerful and evil and will be very hard to stop. He also realizes how it has the ability to cause unbelievable problems. Victor allows the monster to escape; he does not try to contain him. He unleashed a creature with the potential to do horrible things. Victor doesn't even realize this; he is just worried about confronting the monster. By avoiding the monster Victor is passing the burden of managing the monster onto the world.

    • Word count: 1072
  9. Frankenstein Is A Novel About The Absence Of A Nurturing Parent

    Victor Frankenstein, the protagonist, artificially creates being by reanimating lifeless body parts. The being is then rejected by his creator and society, resulting in disastrous consequences including the death of Victor's closest friends and family. 'Frankenstein' is definitely a novel about the absence of a nurturing parent and the effects which it can cause. I believe that it is a parent's responsibility and duty to love and care for their child, making sure to raise them sufficiently. Parents should teach their children morals and should set a good example for them to follow.

    • Word count: 1114
  10. Free essay

    How does Mary Shelley make the audience sympathise for the monster?

    Victor's reactions to the monster are a bit more than simple rejection in the way that he doesn't want to reject it as he made it, so effectively; it is 'his child'. Victor's dream contains a series of events which makes Victor feel guilt. In the dream, Victor is with his girlfriend when she turns first into a corpse and then his mother. This shows symbolism because it is significant that his girlfriend changed into his mother's corpse which shows how he feels that everything good in his life has turned bad.

    • Word count: 1781
  11. Frankenstein. Mary Shelley creates the sense that Frankenstein is a monstrous character because he abandoned the creation after he saw how hideous it was.

    Frankenstein then dies of the flu. This novel is linked to Mary Shelley's life. As Mary Shelley's mother died giving birth to her, and in the novel Frankenstein's mother died giving birth to him. The creation of the monster could be due to Frankenstein's loneliness, which is something that Mary Shelley may have wanted to do herself. Mary Shelley creates the sense that the monster is beyond human and super human at the end of the novel it is Frankenstein chasing the monster across the North Pole because it killed his wife and his father for revenge, for him abandoning him when he was created.

    • Word count: 1079
  12. Frankenstein. The Novel makes the reader question itself if the monster was born evil or became evil in the process of being neglected and mistreated.

    Victor Frankenstein has committed an awful thing because he has created life but has not cared for the monster which is mentally like a child because he has no morals or values but has been judged by the look on his face. In doing so we wonder if Victor Frankenstein really is the monster in this play. Chapter five is very significant and turning point to the novel as a whole because it is the part where the monster is finally completed.

    • Word count: 1230
  13. Frankenstein. I intend to tell you about the opening and also chapter five of the book Frankenstein

    And then on top of that her dream she had of her bringing her own baby back to life. So at the end of it all of these effects on her life gave her the idea to write the book Frankenstein. Frankenstein the book is an epistolary novel; this means it is told in diary entries or letters through many different peoples' views or opinions. The first part of the story is told by Captain Robert Walton through letters he sent while he was on the voyage.

    • Word count: 1045

    Repulsive imagery is used to create horror. The monster is being described in many ways, "yellow skin", "watery eyes", "black lips", "yellow eye". With quotes like "black lips" it gives the impression to the reader that firstly the creature does not look a human being and, secondly, he is hideous in Frankenstein's eyes. The effect of this is that it makes the reader feel disgusted and the imagery emphasises the ugliness of the creature which adds to the horror of the event.

    • Word count: 1085
  15. How did Victor Frankenstein(TM)s personality change during chapters four and 5?

    This tells me that Victor thinks he is so good, the professors can't teach him anymore, maybe he is even smarter than the professors as Ingolstadt. Victor is very enthusiastic about natural science and chemistry. "From this day, natural science and particularly chemistry became nearly my sole occupation." This point says to me that almost all of Victor's time is taken up by biology and chemistry. Victor becomes obsessed with "infusing" life into a dead body, when he finds a way to do it; he becomes fully obsessed with doing so.

    • Word count: 1042
  16. Explore how Mary Shelley uses language to create a sense of horror and terror in Chapter 5 of Frankenstein(TM)

    The modern audience respond differently perhaps because they know that bringing someone dead or creating a person through the methods on the book, are impossible, yet despite this the book will still create a sense of horror and terror through her language and writing style. The modern reader is less likely to fear resurrection because of the scientific progress, such as genetic engineering and cloning, which have become a real issue, not just superstition. In Chapter 5, Mary Shelley uses religion to instil fear into the 19th Century reader, she relates to Dant�, the author of 'the divine comedy', where

    • Word count: 1557
  17. Examine the complex story of Mary Shelleys novel Frankenstein.

    For example, in the use of lighting in the first shot, both movies tried to create a mysterious and tense atmosphere. James Whale uses a dramatic use of darkness in his first scene, showing a long shot of a dark castle on top of a hill with rain and lightning. The sound of rain and thunder are also used instead of music to create an extra sense of fear. In comparison, Kenneth Brannagh uses more subtle use of light in his opening shot showing a burning candle against a big red wall.

    • Word count: 1327
  18. 'Explore how we view creature based on what Victor says, and on what creature says.'

    As his narrative continues we see the doctor as the Victim. This could be because he is talking about his own experiences and could be biased. In chapter 5 the work he has done for 2 years is about to reveal. He hasn't been to Geneva for ages and hasn't been replying for any letters as he says "caused me also to forget those friends who were so many miles absent, and whom I had not seen for a long time."

    • Word count: 1871
  19. The film Jaws based on the novel written by Peter Benchley , discuss the Director's techniques of raising tension.

    Towards the end of the opening scene as a sign of the shark getting closer, the music builds up to a climax at the end. This brings the watcher right in and gets their attention right from the start. At the moment in the film, the watcher does not yet know where the movie is set, so the shark could be far out in the sea or about to attack somebody, this keeps you hooked. Also there is no life in the sea which either can be interpreted as the shark is so mighty that nothing is seen near it or that the sea is empty and hence there is normally no danger there.

    • Word count: 1364
  20. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley - Critique of Society for Causing the Creture's Actions

    This is justified by nothing but the Creature's demeanour. Although the Monster eventually becomes a murderer, the cause of this is society's constant and unflinching rejection of him, after he continually attempts to reach out to others for help and affection. An underlying message in Frankenstein is mankind's responsibility as the corrupters of the innocent and the creators of the evil that exists in the world. The Monster reads from the book Ruins of Empires, after which the creatures states 'For a long time I could not conceive how one man could go fourth and murder his fellow,....but when I heard details of vice and bloodshed my wonder ceased and I turned away with disgust and loathing.'

    • Word count: 1194
  21. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley - Femal Characters Who Challeng The Gender Stereotype

    She contradicts the stereotype that women should adopt a mother-like role as a carer and guardian. She challenges the domesticated, family orientated and victimised imagery of women who are dependant on men to support their lifestyle. Safie's contradictory personality is shown through certain quotes in the novel, such as when it is stated that, "When alone, Safie resolved in her own mind the plan of conduct that it would be her to pursue...." The use of the phrase 'resolved...in her own mind' indicates a level of individual thought that the other females do not posses due to the restraints placed on them by society and the men who exert control over them.

    • Word count: 1609
  22. Frankenstein, narrative techniques positioning the protagonists

    During the Creature's story he retells how society discriminated and judged him purely upon his physical appearance rather than his deeds and actions, because he was foreign and unnatural. "I was benevolent; my soul glowed with love and humanity; but am I not alone, miserably alone?", and curses Victor for creating him, "Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust". The Creature saves a peasant's daughter from drowning and in return is rewarded with being shot, the only human ever being to accept the Creature for who he is the

    • Word count: 1193
  23. Frankenstein Prose

    To Mary, Shelley personified the genius and dedication to human betterment that she had admired her entire life. Although she was cast out of society, this inspirational liaison produced her masterpiece, Frankenstein. During her marriage, Mary and Percy had 3 children, two of which died at birth. Their first child died early in their relationship, shortly after birth. Mary never recovered from the traumas, never the less, she empowered herself to live and love her remaining child. Shortly after the death of her first child, Mary had an imaginary dream. She dreamt that if she left her child's body next to fire/electricity, the child would come back to life.

    • Word count: 1875
  24. Mary Shelleys, Frankenstein.

    The use of language, "pattered dismally" mirrors his emotions. It also has a double meaning; is candle was literally burning out, and the time of day. It suggests he is tired and Shelley sets the scene creating tension before going on to terrify the reader. Shelley maintains the use of horrible descriptive language throughout the first chapter such as the description of the monster. For example she describes it as "yellow eyed"- a signal of disease and quite an evil picture in context. Especially since it is also said the eyes describe someone's true self, 'a window to the soul'.

    • Word count: 1316
  25. Frankenstein - The novel has three narrators. What impression does the reader get of the monster from each of the three narrators?

    Frankenstein is typically classed as a gothic novel as it encompasses aspects such as terror, death, decay, madness and the supernatural. However, it is also a work of science fiction as it includes scientific principles that contradict known laws of nature. The book is a fascinating amalgamation of different genres; Shelley mixes up Romantic, Gothic and Science Fiction ideas to create a novel that appeals to a wide audience. The first of the three narrators is sea captain Robert Walton, trying to reach the North Pole.

    • Word count: 1635

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