- Join over 1.2 million students every month
- Accelerate your learning by 29%
- Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month
GCSE: Mary Shelley
Meet our team of inspirational teachers
Mary Shelly's biography
- 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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.
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 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 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.
- Marked by Teachers essays 16
- Peer Reviewed essays 12
Evaluate the methods used by Shelley to present the relationship between the Creature and Victor, the creator4 star(s)
The power of nature is brought to life along with the clear view portrayed by Shelley that inevitably you cannot change or stop it. This represents the actions of the creature as he cannot be stopped nor is he able to become one with nature as he isn't natural, "the sight of the awful and majestic in nature". The mountains are something clean and new, "unstained snowy mountain-top, the glittering pinnacle", on the other hand the creature is something dirty and unnatural which is ironic as he is seeking tranquillity in something that isn't man-made.
- Word count: 1276
Which Character Did Mary Shelley Intend For The Reader to Have Most Sympathy On: Frankenstein or His Creation?4 star(s)
Frankenstein's creation is, up until the point of its animation, not described in detail. This could possibly symbolise Frankenstein's unwavering faith in the fact that his creation would be pure and good, and his tendency to bury his head in the sand when he has a goal in his mind. Once the creature has been given life, Frankenstein seems to get a metaphorical slap in the face and sees his creation in a new and terrifying light. Through a combination of prejudice against the physically repulsive and cruel intentions, Frankenstein's creation becomes a social outcast and takes out his grief and anger on Frankenstein's young brother, William.
- Word count: 1287
With Relation to social/historical context, how does Mary Shelley explore the theme of monstrosity in chapter five of Frankenstein?4 star(s)
The fact that Victor works by night suggests that he shouldn't be doing what he is. Furthermore the tension is continually built up as Victor attempts to bring the creature to life, 'It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out'. This description emphasises on the dull, rainy night, which sets a very grim atmosphere. This signals that things are not going to go well. The setting is very miserable. The words that Victor uses to refer to the creature are significant factors in the role of depicting the creature as monstrous.
- Word count: 1098
For example in the novel Victors curiosity to follow ambitions no matter what the consequence. Stereotypically monsters appear ugly or abnormal. Over time the meaning of the word monster has changed considerably. Throughout the ages society has been based on stark contrasts: good or bad, rich or poor, beautiful or ugly. These contrasts create negative morals which lead people to be prejorative. A monster can also be thought of as someone who knows the difference between good and bad yet still chooses evil over good. However if one is not taught these differences they should not be held accountable for their wrong actions.
- Word count: 1457
Compare the two books Frankenstein and Jurassic Park and pay particular attention to the language used, time in which the book was written and any other issues raised.4 star(s)
But he knows the only reason he can't is because of his gruesome looks. As the story continues Frankenstein's fears pretty much come true, and as the monster experiences more of humanity he realises he doesn't want to be part of it, just get revenge on it. The monster soon goes after his creator Frankenstein but instead of killing him straight away the monster makes it more painful and just kills all those close to him. But then you read about on Frankenstein's dieing day and his monster visits him but it is too late Frankenstein is dead and his monster is surprisingly devastated and wishes death upon himself as well.
- Word count: 1709
How does Mary Shelley make the description of the monster waking in chapter five of "Frankenstein" powerful and dramatic3 star(s)
This tells us how Frankenstein had tried to make the monster beautiful, but in the process had made the monster grotesque by bringing the different body parts together. This creates a very powerful image in our minds of what the monster looks like. Shelley also creates a very dramatic atmosphere by using pathetic fallacy to set the mood of the chapter by using the weather as a powerful tool to mimic how Frankenstein is feeling. For instance "It was a dreary night in November" and also "Morning, dismal and wet" makes us feel the depressed mood of the opening paragraph, and doing so adds a dramatic air of tension to the play.
- Word count: 1132
Frankenstein. Look at the significance of chapter five to the novella as a whole. Focus on the effect of the writers use of language to describe sittings and characters. How does this contribute to the gothic genre?3 star(s)
His obsession took the better of him, he neglected everything just to accomplish his dream. This is shocking to the reader. He thinks that he could crate life better than God. "I behelded the accomplishment of my toils" Shelley describes how Frankenstein is successful. This is playing God. Frankenstein on realising what he has done hubris runs away from the facts and abandoned his creation. Frankenstein has committed hubris by going against God, Frankenstein will be punished for this wrenched act of creating life which is wrong, similar to Prometheus he was punished by the Gods for giving people more power than they were capable of handling and he was severely punished by the Gods for going against them.
- Word count: 1498
From Your Reading Of Mary Shellys Frankenstein, Which Character Do You Think Is The Real Monster And Why?3 star(s)
These two characters from the novel are the 'Creature' itself and the creator of the creature, Dr Victor Frankenstein. One candidate who might be believed to be the monster is Dr Victor Frankenstein. At the age of seventeen Victor's parents' suggested that he should become a student at the university of Ingolstadt. Unfortunately Victor's mother passed away while giving birth to his brother. The death of his mother shocked him and caused him to search for ways to extend life. After the death of his mother, Victor took his parents' advice and went to university. "My departure for Ingolstadt which had been deferred by these events...it appeared to me sacrilege so soon to leave the repose, akin to death, of the house of mourning and to rush into the thick if life".
- Word count: 1709
With close reference to the original text analyze the changes in relationship between Victor Frankenstein and his creation as the novel progress3 star(s)
In 'Frankenstein' the scientist, Victor Frankenstein, creates a living being from dead body parts. Shelly's subtitle was 'The Modern Prometheus' because Shelly called the book this because Prometheus was a Greek mythology character who created human life and was punished for taking pity on his creation. Victor on the other hand is like Prometheus as he too creates life, but he does not show his creation in any kindness. My first impressions if Victor Frankenstein were mixed really. His positive qualities are that he's devotion and obsession where leading him towards his work. The work and time he put into his work was for a reason an inspired reason to try to bring back
- Word count: 1648
formed a horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips." The appearance of the monster is the key reason that he becomes isolated and removed from society, receiving prejudice from human society. Again the monster's appearance is the key to the subjects' relationship, it is the Monster's appearance that made Frankenstein abandon him, "Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room".
- Word count: 1018
Frankenstein conceals himself away and does not function with society as he states in his own narrative 'I shunned my fellow creatures'. As human beings are social beings, who enjoy the company of others, it is unusual to 'shun' others; hence it is arguable that Frankenstein is being inhuman and in turn, more monstrous. This phrase also suggests that Frankenstein has accepted his animalistic tendencies through the use of the word 'creatures'. The way the creation is presented in the novel also portrays a sense of monstrosity as he is described as 'yellow skin', 'horrid...
- Word count: 1885
Frankenstein. How does Mary Shelley present the creature created by Frankenstein? How does she show fears about early scientific progress?4 star(s)
Frankenstein is portrayed as similar to Walton; as they both appear obsessed with their goals. Frankenstein is extremely determined; and who's over-enthusiastic over ambitious attitude which is very dangerous as he is bordering on the verge of madness and neglecting his own health "my cheek had grown pale with study, and my person had become emaciated with confinement," this is seen as very disturbing by the reader. It is made clear by Shelley in the novel that over ambition leads to obsession which is extremely dangerous.
- Word count: 1244
Frankeinstein. Look at the significance of Chapter 5 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.4 star(s)
In this chapter we (the audience) are introduced to the gothic genre of the novel �It was on a dreary night of November" and "the rain pattered dismally against the panes." Both indicate the shady and gloomy atmosphere of the gothic era. We are brought to the place where the creation is created and is first described �his yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath�; with fear Victor runs away from his apartment leaving the �monster� alone and abandoned.
- Word count: 1531
There were some notable characters that were around in Mary Shelley's time that could have been inspiration for Dr. Victor Frankenstein. One of the most famous was Aldinei Galvani was one of the most gruesome and macabre scientists, he once preformed an experiment in which he took two criminals severed heads and attached them to each other with electricity. Aldinei and Frankenstein also shared some of the same of the same personality traits; they were both arrogant and obsessive about their work. Andrew Your was another notable character, he actually tried to revive corpses. Your, like Frankenstein, thought of people as machines with no souls, he wanted to control life, and much like Frankenstein he was detached.
- Word count: 1682
Percy and Mary shared a love of language and literature; they both enjoyed reading and discussing books together. During May 1816, the couple travelled to Lake Geneva along with Claire. Forced to stay indoors one particular day, the group of writers decided to have a ghost story writing contest. One person came up with The Vampyre, which later was the influence on Bram Stoker's Dracula. Other guest wrote tales of equal horror, but Mary found herself unable to invent one.
- Word count: 1557
I shall commit my thoughts to paper, it is true; but that is a poor medium for the communication of feeling. I desire the company of a man who could sympathise with me; whose eyes would reply to mine. You may deem me romantic, my dear sister, but I bitterly feel the want of a friend." This is effective because Walton is saying that he has no one to share his feelings with, no one to talk to that truly understands him.
- Word count: 1317
In what ways does Mary Shelley challenge the readers perception of The Monster; in the novel Frankenstein? Refer closely to the text; commenting on the readers changing sympathies.3 star(s)
He spent years researching and creating this being known in the novel as The Monster. Frankenstein was very enthusiastic about his work, "His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God!" He was proud of what he was creating. However when he brought The Monster to life he started to regret what he had created. "I beheld the wretch - the miserable monster whom I had created". Frankenstein was disgusted at the being before him. He described The Monster as "ugly" and "a wretch". The image created of the being from Frankenstein's words is that of a stereotypical monster so when The Monster is abandoned the reader does not feel sorry for him and agrees with what Frankenstein is saying about The Monster.
- Word count: 1141