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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
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  1. Marked by a teacher

    Frankenstein essay

    3 star(s)

    They visited Switzerland and stayed at the Villa Diodati near Lake Geneva, the home of poet Lord Byron. Whilst there it rained constantly and many storms passed by with lots of thunder and lightening. The occupants decided to have a competition to write a story and this is where Mary Shelley began to write "Frankenstein", aged only 19. The book begins with the explorer Robert Walton and his crew trying to find a passage through the North Pole. He then discovers a despaired Victor Frankenstein on the ice sheets. After being rescued, Victor begins to tell his story.

    • Word count: 640
  2. Peer reviewed

    Which character does the reader have more sympathy for: Victor Frankenstein or his creature?

    3 star(s)

    This ended up becoming the basis of the story. A gothic novel typically contains elements of mystery, horror and the supernatural. These types of novels often offer an ominous atmosphere that accentuate the unknown and encourage fear. They feature spooky settings such as haunted mansions and the plots typically involve plenty of mystery surrounding violence. The gothic genre is still used today in novels but was at it's height of popularity between the 18th and 19th centuries. The title that the novel is most commonly referred to, Frankenstein, has become tantamount with monster.

    • Word count: 854
  3. Peer reviewed

    Looking particularly at chapter 5 of the novel 'Frankenstein' explore how Mary Shelley creates feelings of horror and foreboding in the reader.

    3 star(s)

    Shelley creates gothic feel by using great detail while setting the scene. "It was a dreary night of November..." This helps the reader to imagine the scene and to involve them in Frankenstein's pursuit and awakening of the creature. The eerie feel is made clear to the reader, by the use of candle light. She writes, "My candle was nearly burnt out..." The reader may associate candle light with the gothic theme. The characterization of the creature creates a scene of horror by Shelley describing the "Lifeless thing" in detail. "I saw the dull eye of the creature open..."

    • Word count: 846
  4. Peer reviewed

    Frankenstein gives us a powerful impression of the delight and pleasures to be gained from science

    3 star(s)

    He shows the interest in the gaining of knowledge from books, he says, "The feeling changed to enthusiasm," on the matter of learning about science. When he goes to university he goes off in search of answers to the world. When learning about science he describes it as "genius" Frankenstein shows us the pleasure of science is the gaining of knowledge and the search of answers. Frankenstein shows a desire to learn about everything around him, he becomes fascinated with the lightening strike that hits a tree near his house when he is a child, this fuels his passion for science which results in him going to great lengths to acquire knowledge.

    • Word count: 844
  5. Many critics have commented that the creature is ultimately a character with whom we sympathise. Explore Mary Shelleys presentation of the creature in light of this

    the creature because they will have an understanding of the desire to be loved, and can begin to imagine the pain of having no-one in the world, "I was a poor, helpless, miserable wretch; I could distinguish, nothing, but feeling pain invade me from all sides, I sat down and wept". Perhaps also it is the outline not only of the creature's desire for basic human needs such as food, warmth and to be loved, but the expression of human emotions and the sympathy is created through the knowledge that he is in pain and suffering from emotional torment.

    • Word count: 604
  6. The Significance of Chapter 5 in the Gothic Horror Novel 'Frankenstein'

    It is where the creature is brought to life and when Victor comes to despise his work. Victor is disappointed at how much time he had spent in his work "worked for nearly two years" "the pain I had endeavoured to form". Victor had spent a vast amount of time in attempting to create life after death and when he finally does it, he is horrified with the result. Irony strikes Victor, his first idea of the monster and the final result ended up incomparable.

    • Word count: 958
  7. The significance of chapter five in Mary Shellys Frankenstein

    horror, the creating of the monster makes it more of a gothic horror because this chapter is the beginning of when the monster seeks revenge on Frankenstein for abandoning it. Frankenstein was written in 1816 to 1818 and was later published in 1818, when its author, Mary Shelley, was only 21 years old. The unique novel is a gothic horror and Mary shelly in chapter five creates a perfect contrast of setting the scene using a 'dreary night' and 'the rain pattered dismally' using these words sets a perfect atmosphere for something appalling to happen.

    • Word count: 872
  8. Frankenstein. Chapter 5 is the most important chapter as it is when he brings the monster to life but when the monster comes to life Frankenstein would not take responsibility.

    It shows that man should not play god if they are not willing to take responsibility for their action which Frankenstein didn't do. He runs out of his house "seemingly to detain me, but I escaped, and rushed down stairs." Just because he didn't want to take responsibility for the Monster. This chapter shows that he is a coward as he made the monster but when he saw it he was scary to him even though he was the one who made it.

    • Word count: 659
  9. How does chapter five relate to the main themes and issues of the novel Frankenstein as a whole?

    But when man tries, he fails and this failure is represented by the monster that Dr. Frankenstein has created. In the novel, Mary Shelley writes, "Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created", after the monster first opens its eyes. Dr. Frankenstein refers to himself as a God like figure; he has given life to his creation. This was clearly an issue that was on Shelley's mind at the time, she asks the reader whether man has the right to play god. Dr. Frankenstein's immediately regrets his actions and abandons all hope, he refers to the monster as his enemy and is joyful at the news the monster had fled the town.

    • Word count: 708
  10. How does the Language and Themes in Frankenstein Lodge the Novel Firmly in the Romantic Period of Literature

    In This text I will examine how Shelley's language and themes made her novel so famous in her era. The monster created by Frankenstein is a romantic hero because of the rejection he must bear from normal society. Romanticism shows compassion for others, disregarding their status in society. Shelley is attempting to show the readers how many people in normal society reject the less than average or disfigured souls who live on the borders of our society.

    • Word count: 421
  11. How Does Mary Shelley Convey Effect Though Use of Binary Opposites in Waltons Letters 1-4 in Frankenstein

    dark, good vs. evil and many others. A popular binary opposite is the idea of 'Isolation and friendship.' Frankenstein strays away from his friends and family to pursue a career of science whilst Robert Walton sets sail on a ship to the Pacific. The use of this binary opposite suggests two major important themes in the novel. Binary opposites add drama and uncertainty to the text as they are two contrasting ideas meaning the reader does not know what to expect. It also helps grab the reader's attention. Frankenstein when he was living with his family was happy but after he pursued his career in science his morale went down and he became depressed.

    • Word count: 539
  12. Frankenstein creates a monster to try and cheat death.

    By choosing the words horror and disgust Mary Shelley influences the reader to feel guilt and sorrow towards the creature. At birth the monster is being portrayed as ugly and horrible. These words maximise the effect, as we will see the creature as completely disfigured. Sometimes when we prepare so much for an event or project that when the time reaches for us to encounter our finished product we are disappointed, we automatically give up or abandon our work. This is exactly what Frankenstein does.

    • Word count: 659
  13. Who is the monster - Victor or the Creature?

    Sympathy is also created through its speech, its actions, and the mistreatment it suffers. I think the creature should be pitied, rather than criticised. 3. It first speaks in Chapter 10, after Victor has called it "Devil" and threatened to kill it. Instead of reacting with similar venom, the Monster states simply: "I expected this reception."

    • Word count: 462
  14. How does Mary Shelley create a sense of horror at the creation of the monster in chapter 5 of Frankenstein?

    The novel attempted to illustrate what may happen if science went past the limitations it should respect. Mary Shelley uses language to create a sense of horror. One example is the use of use was 1st person narrator an example of this is 'how can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe?' This means that he is amazed at what he has done and that he can't explain his feeling towards the disaster by using the word catastrophe the reader gets a sense of just how wrong this has gone, it is a disaster.

    • Word count: 832
  15. The presentation of Frankenstein in chapters 11 16

    It's said that the inspiration of the story came in a form of a nightmare while she was enjoying a holiday in Geneva with her family. The story was published in London in 1818. The tale had a large impact across literature and sparked the birth of gothic horror in books and films. The novel has 2 settings; the North Pole and Geneva, her holiday location. The title of the novel refers to a scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who learns how to create life and creates a being in

    • Word count: 472
  16. Frankenstein. I think Mary decided to write Frankenstein because of all the things that had happened to her (everyone died). Also that she would like to bring someone back to life from her family.

    Also that she would like to bring someone back to life from her family. It is important to discuss what the world was like at the time Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. There was a great thrust for knowledge and many people believed that science would solve all our problems. Lots of things in the world can be seen in this novel. Captain Walton put people's lives on the line just so he could discover the North Pole. Victor also experiments with trying to create a creature. Scientists today are even experimenting with cloning. Mary Shelly knew the dangers of science.

    • Word count: 630
  17. 'Chapter 5 Frankenstein'How the reader is made to fear

    that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet." is very important in informing the reader on Frankenstein's emotions, "...thing..." is an extremely important part of the quote, as it portrays Frankenstein's feeling of repulsion on what he is about to do. The word "...thing..." implies that this creature is not living, is otherworldly and that in itself is quite frightening. "I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open..." This quote presents us with a terrifying situation for Frankenstein. The quote "...dull..." implies that this creature is not truly alive, that it should and technically still is dead and gives a religious message which implies that only

    • Word count: 896
  18. Look at the significance of chapter 5 to the novel as a way to focus on the relevance and effect of the writers(TM) use of language to describe setting and characters and what it shows about the social and historical influence?

    Chapter 5 is a crucial moment because this is when the monster is brought to life. Mary Shelley's opening sentence of chapter 5 is Dr Frankenstein telling us 'It was a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils'. He goes on to say 'It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes'. The dismal setting contrasts with Dr Frankenstein's expectation and anxiety he is feeling just moments before his creation is brought to life.

    • Word count: 818
  19. Frankinstein - Chapter 5

    In theory the novel is a crucial warning about the dangers of science with an emphasis on the idea that humans should not play the part of God in creating life. At the time 'Frankenstein' was written, there was a lot of conflict between religious society and scientists. There is a unique structure to this novel as it has 3 different narrators giving 3 different perspectives. Chapter 5 is a crucial part in the novel as it was the chapter in which Frankenstein speaks about the birth of his creation.

    • Word count: 919
  20. Frankenstein, Scientific Context, Oral

    Giovanni Aldini, Galvani's nephew took 'animal electricity' and applied it to "the body of an freshly executed criminal", Aldini observed and published in An Account of the Late Improvements of Galvanism, "The jaw of the deceased began to quiver, the adjoining muscles were horribly contorted, and one eye opened....the right hand was raised and clenched, and the legs and thighs set in motion". Aldini's observations almost parallel that of Victor's when the creature comes to life, "I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and convulsive motion agitated its limbs."

    • Word count: 922
  21. Marry Shellys Frankenstein.

    Robert Walton would have been seen as a Romantic hero because of his rebellious ways. Mary Shelly choose Robert Walton's character because she wants him to be a rebel, which also links him to Victor Frankenstein as victor is a rebel as well. Mary Shelly links Robert Walton to Romantics. Firstly Romantics have interest in nature, rather like Robert Walton who is going on a voyage to the North Pole. Also Romantics rebelled against social rules. Robert Walton is rebelling against what Shelley calls the rules of nature as he goes on an expedition to the undiscovered.

    • Word count: 736
  22. English - Romeo and Juliet

    Juliet and the nurse show their strong relationship because the nurse was Juliet's wet nurse. For example, "Were not thyne only nurse, I would have sucked thy wisdom from thy teat." This quote proves how the Nurse has motherly feelings for Juliet, mothers in that time usually employed wet nurses so this would be unusual for a modern audience as this is not something a lot of people do. However, a previous, older audience would react differently because it was common to have a wet nurse.

    • Word count: 954
  23. Discuss the techniques Mary Shelley uses to create tension in chapter five of Frankenstein and evaluate their effect upon the reader.

    Frankenstein endures not only because of its infamous horrors but for the richness of the ideas it asks us to confront; human accountability, social alienation and the nature of life itself. Chapter five contains many conventions of the Gothic genre. It has sensational and macabre events, such as the monster's appearance and awakening, or when a member of Victor's family dies. It also has a sensual appeal, when the monster's manifestation is described as beautiful and alluring . When the monster is brought to life, Frankenstein realizes the foolishness of bringing a being back to life and also sees the monster's ugliness when it is awake.

    • Word count: 952
  24. Significance of chapter 5 in Frankenstien

    Chapter Five is a crucial moment in the novel because this is where Frankenstein brings the monster to life. The chapter opens with "It was a dreary night of November". This is building up an atmosphere, and it shows that it is dark, gloomy and that potential events are ahead. Frankenstein is feeling very emotional at this time, when he says "How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe". This is because he thought that bringing the monster to life would be great, even though it turns out to be a big disappointment and too much for him to handle.

    • Word count: 651
  25. Was Frankenstien modern day Prometheus?

    He has a gift that only the Gods should have and was punished for this eternally. Frankenstein was the same, he stole something from God for the convenience of man, and for this, Frankenstein was punished severely. When Frankenstein was being written there were new experiments and scientific break through happening all the time. Many people, especially amongst Christian religions, frowned upon Science. In the "Bird in the Air Pump" picture, you can see a lot of different views being portrayed; some people were staring at it in awe while other were afraid to look; some people were unsure about of what to make of the new Science and one was encouraging others to see the marvel instead of being frightened.

    • Word count: 901

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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