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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.

  • Marked by Teachers essays 16
  • Peer Reviewed essays 12
  1. Marked by a teacher

    Explore the way Mary Shelley presents the character of the Monster in Frankenstein

    3 star(s)

    He was so determined to complete it that he was willing to break the law to gain his resources. Frankenstein already knew what he wanted the Monster to look like in which Shelley describes I resolved, contrary to my first intention, to make the being of a gigantic statured; that is to say about eight feet in height and proportionally large Readers would have been shocked and horrified by Shelley's description of the Monster. The way the Monster is depicted before he is even created, it is obvious that this novel is heading for disaster. The main concern of the readers at this point will be how society will be able to accept the Monster.

    • Word count: 3130

Conclusion analysis

Good conclusions usually refer back to the question or title and address it directly - for example by using key words from the title.
How well do you think these conclusions address the title or question? Answering these questions should help you find out.

  1. Do they use key words from the title or question?
  2. Do they answer the question directly?
  3. Can you work out the question or title just by reading the conclusion?
  • "Considering the social ideals of time, discuss the social restraints of the female characters compared with the freedoms of the male".

    "In conclusion, it is quite obvious that there were strong constraints upon the women, that is, that they were weaker, bringing around the restraints like the men should be the ones to earn the money, while the women are the ones to stay at home with the house, also other factors like the men have freedom, not so much the women. With further people taking this more seriously, the men become the ones who later feel it is their job to protect the women and the like. It is clear that these ideas were shown in the book 'Frankenstein', most probably to help her make the book seem more realistic. The characters split into two groups: males and females, act as nearly complete opposites and like how I first mentioned in the introduction, i.e. the men go out to work while the women stay at home. Probably the best comparison of these is Victor and Elizabeth, the two main characters of their sex in the book, who display all that I have said in this essay, almost in a copied manner. Jason Dealey English Coursework-Frankenstein Miss Kitson 10N W28 Page 1"

  • 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.

    "language was clearer. Another part of it would have to be that I found it easier to relate with the characters in Jurassic Park as they seemed more normal than good old Victor and of course being from the same period of time as them helps. Chricton's book gives the reader more of an action packed thrill ride, whereas Shelly's was more of an emotional book although still gruesome and quite enjoyable and it is much more mature book and didn't give u the impression it is deliberately accessible it also is a lot more personal and had Shelly's views all the way through but between the lines. But a great man once said: "Don't let acceptance exempt your expression.""

  • With Particular reference to chapters 5 and 11, compare and contrast the Authors portrayal of Victor and the creature in "Frankenstein".

    "In conclusion, Shelly has created two very extreme characters that given different circumstances could have flourished with one another, yet quite the contrary happens with them leading to each others destruction. It asks many questions about the morality and ethics surrounding science and inspires responsibility above all else upon the scientists both to think about what they are doing and also why they are doing what they are doing. Answering the why can sometimes be very much more difficult than answering what. By Andy Lawson 11I"

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