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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. In what ways might the narrative structure of Frankenstein(TM) influence readers(TM) interpretations of the novel?

    For instance in some parts of the book Frankenstein tries, it seems, to beg the reader for forgiveness for making the creature but not for leaving it and hurting it physiologically. "But I was in reality very ill and surely nothing but the un-bounded and un-relenting attentions of my friend could have restored me to life" (Chapter 5) Also the way the Creature speaks to Victor once he has killed and hurt humans is like he is trying to shift the blame to Frankenstein for creating him and the human race for detesting him even though they know nothing of his inner feelings.

    • Word count: 1300
  2. frankenstein essay

    In my opinion Frankenstein's creation/the monster deserves more sympathy than Frankenstein himself. This essay wishes to explain why the reader can feel more sympathy for the monster but at the same time feel sympathy for Frankenstein. In chapter five, it is a dreary night in September this is pathetic fallacy because every time the monster is about to enter the story it is dark and rainy, this gives us the feeling that the monster is bad and makes us feel uneasy, the fact that Mary Shelley uses pathetic fallacy when the monster is about to enter the story means that we can predict what is going to happen and it gives us a vibe that the monster is not good.

    • Word count: 1525
  3. Frankenstein - How does Mary Shelleys description of the setting and her use of language in chapter 5 represent the social and historical context of Victorian England?

    This makes the monster angry and frustrated and tells victor he will get his revenge. Victors best friend Henry was later on discovered strangled. Victor was accused of this murder 'the miserable monster whom I had created' but shortly was released. Victor meets a man called Doctor Walton, who rescues him but victor dies soon afterwards. The 'monster' is devastated with what he had done and goes north to die on ice. The Victorians when reading 'Frankenstein' would have been frightened but fascinated, because they have been brought up to believe that a human could only be conceived through birth, but within this novel the monster was created through science, which would have made the Victorians fascinated but confused.

    • Word count: 1399
  4. How does Mary Shelleys description of the setting and her use of language on chapter 5 represent the social and historical context of Victorian England?

    When he finds him, the monster admits to the murder and begs for forgiveness, telling Victor that he is lonely monster. Victor starts to create a female but realises that this new creature will terrorise the world too, and destroys her. The monster sees this and plans for a revenge by killing Victor's wife on her wedding day. He kills Henry Clerval, and then Victor's new wife, Elizabeth. Victor is furious and plans for a revenge and starts searching for the monster.

    • Word count: 1155
  5. In the novel Victor creates this monster and then abandons it, this leaves the monster confused, scared, and unaware of his true identity.

    This makes us question ourselves and reflect on how we treat people or not falling into the typical stereotype of being normal and looking different on the outside. We would not like it if we were in their shoes, but why? Well we do it to cover our fear and how they are so different when infact they are jus same as us although that look different or do something different. Mary makes us think about equality and not to judge people by the way they look.

    • Word count: 1097
  6. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

    Where his outrageous experiments result in disastrous consequences, leaving him feeling resentful towards his creation. Victor is the main character, who Mary Shelley focuses on a majority of the time. The other main focus is on the monster himself who remains unnamed throughout which creates an air of mystery. Throughout the book Mary Shelley switches between the viewpoints of each of these figures, primarily the monster is unaware of Viktor's being; it's only when he's learnt to talk and understand does he realise and feel contempt towards Viktor. Through the tales and excited scribbles in a notebook victor had taken pleasure in noting down his discoveries and plans in his mad scientific days.

    • Word count: 1660
  7. Gcse Prose essay

    In the end these two differences meet where the monster kills Elizabeth, the combination of these two ideas produces a gothic but wonderful storyline. 1st Para The basic plot of Chapter 23 is that the monster is on the loose and kills Elizabeth. A search takes place with no success. Mary Shelley has used this chapter to express the feelings of the characters, mainly Victor. At the start it explains the thoughts of Victor and the monster through Pathetic Fallacy, using the weather to describe how the tension is building up and that it would be released soon.

    • Word count: 1980
  8. How does Mary Shelley use chapters 15 and 16 of Frankenstein to evoke the readers sympathy for the creature?

    The creature finally realised that humans would not accept him because of the way he looked so he fled. Here Shelley uses her own life to contribute to the novel as she fled to Switzerland with Percy Shelley, as her father did not approve of her being with Percy, as he was already married. The creature eventually ended up in a hovel where he learnt everything he did. He learnt from a friendly French family who did not even know he existed. Ass they unknowingly taught him, he did good deeds for them and became known as the good spirit of the forest.

    • Word count: 1480
  9. Sympathy in Chapter 5 of Frankenstien

    Some scientists have said that unlocking the key to cloning will represent the greatest human achievement since the discovery of fire. Other people may disagree and think that cloning is bad purely because it does not involve the "sacred" union of a man and a woman, and because it leaves God out of the creation process. 'The texts subtitle is 'The Modern Prometheus'. Prometheus is the Greek titan honoured for stealing fire from the gods and giving it to mortals for their use.

    • Word count: 1544
  10. How far does Mary Shelley(TM)s presentation of the monster in Frankenstein lead you to sympathise with him?

    The story of Frankenstein is written in 3 volumes; Shelley cleverly uses these volumes to link the beginning and the ending together as the book starts and ends in letterform through Captain Walton. Captain Walton's letters are told in first person which shows the reader how he thinks and feels; these expressions and emotions show Captain Walton's character to the reader and cautions them of his madness of obsession. Shelley purposefully chose to tell the story in first person narrative as the reader can then gather information about the character, the story is told from many points of view by three narrators; Captain Walton, Victor Frankenstein and the Monster.

    • Word count: 1717
  11. Compare and contrast the authors portrayal of Victor and the creature in Mary Shelleys Frankenstein.

    But now science had taken over, there was a big interest in scientific discoveries. Mary Shelley had realised that scientists were trying to prove that it's not only God that can bring us back to life for example, the myth of Prometheus which is "who was said to have created or recreated mankind by animating a figure made out of clay." And also the myth of Rousseau "a man abandoned to himself to the midst of other men from birth would be the most disfigured of all. These two myths will have had a major influence on Shelley and make her feel more confident that people believe the same as she does.

    • Word count: 1113
  12. The novel Frankenstein is as relevant and terrifying as it was when it was first published in 1818. Explain how Mary Shelley makes her narrative effective and why it has fascinated and shocked audiences for nearly 190 years! Refer to chapter 5 in particul

    This torment continues as Victor refuses to help the 'wretch' he brought into the world and realises he must kill the monster, so that the murders can stop seeing as victor is so adamant he shall not help the monster. As the story is narrated by the sea captain the whole time, one may think that this could make the story less scary but this appears not to be true as readers almost forget that it is narrated. This is probably because it refers to how the characters feel and gives accounts of both Frankenstein and his creations story.

    • Word count: 1413
  13. Look at the significance of Chapter 5 to the novel as a whole. Look at the relevance and affect of the writer's use of language to describe setting, character, and what it shows about social and historical inferences.

    The first sentence of this paragraph is written with the use of pathetic fallacy, 'dreary night of November'. This sets the mood instantly for the reader and creates an atmosphere of portentousness in the story. Pathetic fallacy is used again in this paragraph, 'rain pattered dismally'. This is done deliberately by Mary Shelley as she wants the first paragraph to contrast with the emotions of Frankenstein. A mood of bleakness is set which contrasts with Frankenstein's enthusiasm. Frankenstein embarks with a feeling of excitement as he is bringing to life the monster, with this, he quotes the words 'anxiety', 'spark', but interrupts himself with extreme distress as he realises he has brought to life a corpse of a creature which shouldn't have been summoned to life.

    • Word count: 1386
  14. Does Mary Shelley instill antipathy or aympathy for the monster in Frankenstein?

    Victor abandoned him and society rejected him and it was only as a result of this he turned bad. He was referred to as a 'demon' and 'too horrible for human eyes,' by Victor. This makes you empathise for the monster because even his creator is disgusted at him. It makes you think 'how could Frankenstein do such a thing?' There are many individual decisions that are made in Frankenstein, that lead to feelings of sympathy and antipathy towards various characters.

    • Word count: 1495
  15. 'Frankenstein's savage patterns suggest that he not the apparently more civilised creature is the true monster.'

    A reason as to why it may not fit neatly into the genre of Gothic horror is because Shelley would have been reflecting upon the development of science that was happening at that time. She created a twist of terror into the concept of the fast development of science while she was writing her novel. In the novel there is a constant theme of alienation and is expressed through several characters throughout the book. Victor, alienates himself to begin with, yet eventually is alienated from everyone he loves thanks to the monster.

    • Word count: 1975
  16. Chapter 5 of Mary Shellys' Frankenstein

    The fact that the eye is yellow also suggests that this is an animal rather than a human. 'How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe,' she used the word catastrophe to define Frankenstein's emotions. Catastrophe means widespread disaster, this also relates to gothicism because disaster is a word branching of 'sudden sadness,' Also Mary Shelly used 'how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form?' this is a rhetorical question which makes the reader think about Frankenstein's creation. The word 'wretch,' means an unfortunate or unhappy person at the time, This could describe Frankenstein as a wretched person at the time, and also is gothic because unhappy relates to the gothic genre.

    • Word count: 1848
  17. How are family and domestic affection explored in Mary Shelleys Frankenstein

    deeply smitten with the thirst for knowledge" This thirst for knowledge became apparent when he was a young boy where by he was intrigued by science but his dad would not let him read it. "My dear Victor, do not waste your time upon this: it is sad trash" This disregard and dismissal of knowledge that Victor so badly required was one of the reason Victor created the horror that he did. When Victor reached the age of 17, his parents resolved that he should become a student at the University of Ingolstadt.

    • Word count: 1644
  18. Analyse and explain the religious themes in the film Frankenstein.

    Unfortunately, he created a monster. It was made up from the remains of corpses. The creature escapes into a wood to avoid being attacked by village people and teaches himself to read and feel like a human. The ugly, repulsive monster leads to the death of Victor's brother. The monster is dying for the love from Victor, but Victor can't give him love because Victor is afraid of him. The creature asks for a female companion. But the mad monster can't control him and rips out Elizabeth's heart on the wedding day of her and Victor.

    • Word count: 1251
  19. mary shellys frankenstein

    At this time in the scientific world, it was a time of progress and discovery. Scientists were only just starting to understand the concept of how the human body worked, so to transplant vital organs from one to another was a huge leap forward. Victor believes that if he creates life successfully his name will be put down in history and his memory will live on. By trying to create life, Victor was greatly challenging the accepted beliefs of the time. Organ transplants were unheard of, which is basically what Victor is doing. The scene I am writing about is at a crucial moment in the novel, as there are vast amounts of consequences to what Victor is doing.

    • Word count: 1054
  20. Frankenstein: How and Why Does Mary Shelley Create Sympathy For The Monster?

    But here, Shelley creates sympathy by giving the monster an opportunity to communicate with the reader, and tell his account of what has happened to him. As we learn of the unjust abuse and suffering the monster has endured and the emotional and mental torment he is burdened with, we realise that he is not evil, as Frankenstein believes, but merely confused, lonely and angry. This narrative gives us the opportunity to empathise with the monster, which I feel helps us to understand the reasons behind the crimes that he commits throughout the novel.

    • Word count: 1878
  21. Frankenstein essay

    The text's subtitle is 'The Modern Prometheus'. Prometheus is the Greek titan honored for stealing fire from the gods and giving it to mortals for their use. This subtitle could act as a warning that people who disrupt or play god could cause serious effects on mankind. There are three characters in the story which each act as narrator and tell their own story in first person narrative. The variation in narrators has a huge impact on the sympathy felt for Victor Frankenstein and the creature.

    • Word count: 1678
  22. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

    In the 1800s there were many experiments being conducted over the use of electricity and a lot of scientific discoveries were being made. In 1802 Luigi Galvani experimented with frogs and believed that he had discovered electricity in human limbs. In 1803 Aldini attached a battery to a corpse of a criminal. In 1818 the first (unsuccessful) blood transfusion was at Guys Hospital in London. At the time many people were interested in science and the discoveries being made. Edward Jenner discovered vaccination and many people disagreed with the fact that science was messing with God.

    • Word count: 1934
  23. How does Mary Shelley manipulate you response to the characters of Frankenstein and his monster as the story develops?

    He Describes his creation as a 'thing' a 'catastrophe' a 'Wretch' and a 'Demoniacal corpse'. The monster's appearance was not as Frankenstein had intended. 'His limbs were in proportion. He had yellow skin, which barely covered the arteries and muscles underneath. His hair was a lustrous black, and flowing. His teeth were pearly white. But this formed a horrid complexion with his eyes that were the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set and it had a shrivelled complexion and straight black lips'. Frankenstein thought that his creation would be beautiful.

    • Word count: 1660
  24. Frankenstein - Look at the significance of chapter five to the novel as a whole. Focus on the relevance and effect of writers use of language to describe setting, character and what it shows about social and historical influences.

    If she had published it under her own name she would have been ridiculed and the book wouldn't have sold. The novel is still popular today because of its relevance. Scientists are still discovering new scientific advances that could enable them to clone people and make designer babies. The question is how far will scientists go? Chapter 5 is so significant to the novel because this is where everything starts to go wrong. Frankenstein had to make a few choices and decided to abandon the monster because he was so disgusted with what he had created.

    • Word count: 1091
  25. Free essay

    How effectively does the director create sympathy for the creature in Kenneth Branagh's Frankenstein?

    Kenneth Branagh uses many techniques to begin to create sympathy, one of which being symbolism which is used throughout the entire film. In the birth scene, where the creature is first brought to life, it seems that Victor Frankenstein's monster is actually being born. The amniotic fluid and the metal container in which the creature is enclosed are compared to a real birth with the container symbolising a womb. It contains the amniotic fluid which Victor earlier says is needed to create life. When the creature is actually born, it is unable to stand similar to a newly born baby.

    • Word count: 1009

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