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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. Discuss the presentation of monsters in Mary Shelly's "Frankenstein"

    The beginning of the novel starts with letters. This is called epistolary. It's like a story in a story. You have Waltons story, then Frankenstein's story, then the monsters story. Walton is a traveller who wants to be the first person to discover the North Pole. Like Frankenstein, he also wants his name to be glorified by humanity. Walton might seem monstrous because he is risking lives of people. "One mans life or deaths were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of knowledge." Frankenstein was interested in subjects like science and physics.

    • Word count: 1253
  2. Look at the significance of chapter 5 to the novel as a whole. Focus on the relevance and effect of the writer's use of language to describe setting, character and what it shows about social and historical influences.

    In many religions only God has the power of giving and taking life from beings hence, Frankenstein creating life through science is a strong offence towards religious people and is hugely frowned upon. When Frankenstein abandons his creation (child) he sleeps in a courtyard and in the morning sets eyes on the church of Ingolstadt and "its white steeple". The colour white symbolises purity or holy therefore signifies God, religion or even places of worship. Frankenstein seeing the church, after the trauma and guilt of producing the creature, is like he is turning to God for help or forgiveness.

    • Word count: 1486
  3. Frankenstien - 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.

    Mary Shelley wrote the novel for many reasons. As a child, she was exposed to lots of weird, off the wall ideas. Her father William Godwin and his colleagues had experimented Galvanism. (Passing an electric current through the limbs of a dead frog). Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was born on the 30th of august 1797. Mary Shelley's mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, was an author. She wrote 'A vindication of the rights of women' a feminist book encouraging women to think and act for themselves.

    • Word count: 1645
  4. Frankenstein - With particular reference to chapter 5 of Frankenstein, discuss how Mary Shelly creates a sense of horror for the reader.

    My first reaction to Mary Shelly's Frankenstein having not read the book before was that it is fantastic. I think this because for me it's fascinating how a young women of 18 years in 1826 could come up with this book about a man creating a body from parts of the dead, assembling them like a jigsaw, giving life to them with the help of electricity, and in addition, taking the role of God. She uses electricity which was scarce at that time, and was unavailable to everyone.

    • Word count: 1773
  5. Discuss Shelleys presentation of the creation as an outsider in Frankenstein

    None of these places that involve the creation would help him understand the notion of love, care and security. This starts to bring up the notion of an outsider. On the whole, this movement influenced a lot of the gothic atmosphere and the idea of nature versus nurture used in the novella. At first, Frankenstein's creation may appear to be a monster. 'His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of pearly whiteness'. This stark contrast implies that the monster is alarming at first glance and is bound to be an outsider.

    • Word count: 1294
  6. Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein"

    Shelly was born Mary Godwin Wollstonecraft in 1797 to Mary Wollstonecraft a famous feminist and William Godwin a philosophise who once said "there would be no need for laws in society if everybody acted sensibly". Sadly her mother died shortly after giving birth to her leaving Mary's father to raise her alone. She had a very modest and prominent upbringing, where famous and inspirational poets, literalists, philosophers and politicians, surrounded her. When Mary was 18 she fell pregnant, yet lost her baby during its birth.

    • Word count: 1776
  7. Frankenstein Essay

    In these films and dramas, the story of why the creature is driven to kill people is not always explained, and so many people just assume that he is a naturally bad being. However, in this book, we are shown that the creature is driven to do these terrible things by his life of rejection, loneliness and hatred. In this novel Victor Frankenstein creates a creature. He does this because of his two ambitions, one arrogant and one noble. The arrogant ambition is to be remembered and respected for the creation of a whole new species.

    • Word count: 1383
  8. Mary shelly Frankenstein has been widely read and enjoyed since its publication since 1818. With close reference to chapter five explain how Mary Shelley makes her narrative effective. Why do I think it has stood against time?

    A few years later his mother died giving birth to a baby boy. Victor was shocked and went to Ingolstadt where he studied modern science. He had met a professor waldman who had been stopped from trying to bring the dead back to life some years previously ago and tried to persuade him to give him his notes on the research but Professor Waldman refused and told him to let nature run it course. The professor and Frankenstein were giving vaccinations and a peasant had stabbed the professor since he did not want a vaccination and the professor die.

    • Word count: 1503
  9. Discuss the novel Frankenstein written by Mary Shelley. My aim is to decide if the reader has more sympathy for Victor Frankenstein or his creature.

    Frankenstein tells the story from his own perspective expressing his dreams and intentions. The story had an impact on modern society, the public believing that it was possible to create life, this was shown when the Sheep Dolly was cloned in an experiment to make an identical sheep. The films of this story are quite different from the book as they were released at a much later date, At this stage technology and science was more advanced and the fact that something as incredible as a monster being created was actually seen as being possible made the film version more realistic and have more of an impact on the audience.

    • Word count: 1921
  10. How does Mary Shelley create tension in chapter 5?

    He tries to bring the bodies to life with electricity. Then the monster comes to life and Frankenstein immediately regrets what he had done. The monster then wants a wife but Frankenstein will not create him one; so the monster decides to kill Frankenstein wife. Frankenstein chases the monster to the North Pole this is were Victor Frankenstein was killed by the monster In chapter 5 it starts in a "dreary night in November" and "The Lifeless monster opens his eyes; Frankenstein then realises that the monster is ugly and that only god can create life, then he leaves the laboratory.

    • Word count: 1093
  11. Frankenstein by Mary Shelly and looking at how she manipulates the reader to favour the creature and feel sorry for him and make the reader feel anger towards Victor

    the Alps and the North Pole and these are where the creature meets Victor. In the time of Mary Shelly's life there were many scientific happenings as electricity was a new and major thing and there were many experiments happening using dead animals and Human Corpses to try to bring them back to life and in one of them a frog twitched and people thought it was alive for a few seconds. Also there was a Human Corpse electrocuted and also twitched but an eye had opened as well.

    • Word count: 1304
  12. Perfume Essay - Is Grenouille evil?

    Grenouille is not purposefully evil, but his actions are regarded by humankind as certainly considered evil. Suskind challenges the reader to judge what they consider good and evil is. In the beginning of the novel, Suskind shows Grenouille as an unlucky orphan child, whose mother is happy to see him die. His mother doesn't want Grenouille, and wants to cast him aside and let him die in a pile of fish guts. But Grenouille's ability to overcome difficulties that normal humans could not dream of is what keeps him alive here. Although Suskind has described Grenouille as a repulsive person in the opening sentence of the novel, he still manages to make the reader feel a sense of warmth and understanding to Grenouille and his dreadful situation.

    • Word count: 1485
  13. To what extent can Mary Shelleys Frankenstein be seen as a Gothic Novel?

    These views are certainly portrayed in Frankenstein. Before the story starts the book contains a number of letters. These are letters are from Robert Walton to his sister. He is talking about his travels to the Northwest Passage. This is a part of the arctic that is particularly difficult to get to: "floating sheets of ice continually pass us, indicating the dangers of the region towards which we are advancing" Shelley uses the example of Robert Walton to show how society is moving into a state of danger and unrest 'the dangers of the region towards which we are advancing'.

    • Word count: 1755
  14. Novels usually draw readers in and work to avoid us thinking this is 'fiction'. In an essay of not more than 1500 words, asses this claim with reference to one of the following novels: Great Expectations, Fathers and Sons, Frankenstein the novel

    Events are sequential and we can identify both cause & effect. Invariably the story will be told through an omniscient narrator or single character in which the reader can trust. However, from the outset Shelley draws our attention to the fictionality of her novel. Through her use of episolatory and biographical styles relating to Walton and Victor's stories respectively, Frankenstein in effect begins twice (The Realist Novel, p62). In its structure Shelley's novel is akin to the Gothic genre. It is non-linear; presenting instead an elaborate series of narratives (Walton, Frankenstein, the Monster, Frankenstein and Walton), enfolded within one another.

    • Word count: 1640
  15. Shelley's representation of Victor and the Monster in Frankenstein

    The latest Mrs Godwin's strict manner repelled that of Mary Shelley's - a growing youth with a rebellious nature. Typically, Shelley retaliated and in 1814 eloped to France; consequently she forged strong links with the most publicised theme at that time. Towards the close of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th, a particular movement known as 'Romanticism' voiced people's fears, hopes and aspirations. Evidently, Romanticism encouraged romantics of the era or amorous-writing poets and novelists. It encouraged people to express their emotions by any means including the appreciation of the natural landscape and weather. At this moment in time, many of the famous British romantics were: William Godwin, William Blake, Mary Shelley, James Hogg and lastly Percy Bysshe Shelley, to whom Mary Shelley married in 1816.

    • Word count: 1713
  16. In what ways does Mary Shelley make the reader sympathise with the monster?

    The 'monster' created from discarded human limbs is later rejected for its ugliness and inhumanity. The creature, unwanted, untutored in normal human behaviour and finally driven away by rejection to a murderous revenge on Frankenstein and his family. With this happening to the monster throughout the novel, Mary Shelley created the affect on us the reader of sympathy and concern towards the monster. By examining this novel, I will try to uncover how Mary Shelley makes us, the reader, sympathise with the monster.

    • Word count: 1058
  17. Personally I have sympathy for both Victor and the monster. But if I had to choose one it would be the monster

    The novel has many layers as it is told from two different perspectives, story-telling and letters. The genre of the novel is Gothic. When the story was first published it was unpopular because in that time people was against females to write. Mary Shelley's name was originally 'Mary Wollstone Godwin.' She was born on 30th august 1797, her mother died whilst giving birth to her. Both her parents were famous in the publishing world and she was the lover of the infamous romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley. When she was seventeen, she eloped to France and became pregnant.

    • Word count: 1370
  18. Frankenstein's Monster: Monster or victim

    Also William (Victor's brother) is murdered by the creature, where as William (Shelley's son) died at age 3 1/2, about the same age as William in the novel. The novel was written as a challenge set by Lord Byron when trapped in the alps during a long winter. The novel is called Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus this is because the myth of Prometheus was where Prometheus, a Greek God, gave the gift of fire to primitive man against Zeus' will, for which he was punished by being shackled to the side of a crag, high in the Caucasus Mountains.

    • Word count: 1605
  19. How and Why has Mary Shelley's Frankenstein achieved enduring popularity?

    Frankenstein's main character is the crazed scientist Victor Frankenstein, a young Swiss boy, he grows up in Geneva reading the works of ancient and outdated alchemists, a background that serves him ill when he attends university at Ingolstadt. After mastering all that the professors have to teach he becomes captivated by the " secret of life". After discovering the secret he begins work on his master race and those who "bless me creator". Unfortunately when he sees the hideousness of the monster he runs and later finds the monster gone.

    • Word count: 1371
  20. The creature is the man victor can never be

    The creature however is not perfect, once he is divorced from the De Laceys he becomes incredibly vindictive and spends the rest of the novel inflicting pain. The way in which the creature does this to Victor is by hurting Victor deeply then waiting for him to recover from the loss of another family member, then hurts him again. These murders are also pre meditated, he kills essentially in cold blood which may be a product of his upbringing but it makes him a killer.

    • Word count: 1174
  21. How has Kenneth Branagh adapted the creation scene from Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein' to suit the tastes of a 20th century audience?

    A book such as Frankenstein would have been taken very seriously, where as, nowadays the general opinion of films is less serious, topics such as a recreation of a human life would be taken much more light heartedly, looked upon more as humorous horror or scary, rather than gothic horror, such as the original Frankenstein novel. As the acceptance for such books and films has grown the more books and films have been written in this style, even to the extent that 'spoof' films such as Scream, which a made to make you laugh rather than be scared.

    • Word count: 1477
  22. In my assignment I am going to discuss the beliefs and attitudes of the time that Frankenstein was written and also discuss th

    Surging the energy through it would contort the body and would begin to have movement this is like our defibrillation that we use now. The society of Mary Shelly's time had an interest in the supernatural and terror horror theme that was in Frankenstein. Frankenstein also involved Gothic Romance, A Gothic novel or Romance is when you use dark terror and death and gothic settings. Frankenstein has many of these techniques that include graveyards moonlight, dissecting rooms that were used to create an eerie monstrous atmosphere.

    • Word count: 1097
  23. I am going to explore the character of Victor Frankenstein in the opening chapters of the novel. Showing his ambitious, arrogant and insane side in the novel. This novel was written in the eighteenth

    Firstly, this novel is using flashback on Frankenstein's life to tell the reader. In the beginning of the novel, Shelley introduces Walton to the reader before she introduces Victor to the reader. The reason for that is because Shelley wants the reader to compare the character of Walton and Victor. In Walton's letter, there's a quote that Victor said to Walton "Unhappy man! Do you share my madness? Have you drunk also of intoxicating draught? Hear me; let me reveal my tale, and you will dash the cup from your lips!" This is like a warning for Walton and the reader from Victor.

    • Word count: 1815
  24. Who is the real monster, Frankenstein or his creation?

    She is trying to emphasise the point that his appearance doesn't reflect his inner being. Inside he's a beautiful butterfly. Other conventions of a gothic horror novels which are definitely specific to Frankenstein is the use of pathetic fallacy; after being informed of his younger brother's death and returning to his home town the weather is stormy and reflective of the events which have occurred. The dark and dank settings used in Frankenstein are another superb example of necessary conventions for a gothic horror, ones such as the charnel houses and the laboratory where the creature's parts were found and put together, respectively.

    • Word count: 1651
  25. In the 21st Century what is the enduring appeal of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein"

    Its sophisticated language and interesting structure makes this novel appealing to the modern reader. "Frankenstein" is undoubtedly one of the greatest gothic novels ever written. It was written in the gothic horror tradition which means Shelley emphasises the grotesque elements, the mysterious, the desolate environments, the horrible and terrifying and, ultimately, the abject fear which can be aroused in the reader which is at the heart of its appeal. Throughout the novel, Shelley keeps a sense of mystery and remoteness by use of wild and desolate backgrounds to the events taking place. She uses indefinite locations such as somewhere in Ireland and "some remote spot of Scotland" and places which would be unfamiliar to the reader.

    • Word count: 1814

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