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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. Frankenstein. Chapters 4 and 5 in the novel are important because this is when Frankenstein starts to create the monster and when the monster is brought to life. These two chapters are full of description and Shelley uses many language techniques to creat

    The monster eventually starts killing Victor's family and the novel serves as a warning about how dangerous science can be. Chapters 4 and 5 in the novel are important because this is when Frankenstein starts to create the monster and when the monster is brought to life. These two chapters are full of description and Shelley uses many language techniques to create an eerie atmosphere and to build tension. When the creature comes to life, Frankenstein says, "breathless horror and disgust filled my heart".

    • Word count: 2165
  2. With Particular Reference to Chapters 4, 5, 9 and 24, consider the ways in which Shelley Portrays Victors Decline in Frankenstein.

    The quotes convey images of tranquillity and clarity. This fantasy was never to continue as Shelley's describes Victor's ambitions which lead him to become subdued and wicked. Chapter 4 opens up the cracks in the fortress for Victor; it sees Victor travel to the University of Ingolstadt to study further for his strive for scientific knowledge. This move sees Victor meet professors such as Waldman and Krempe who encourage him to study and give up the philosophical "nonsense" he has been reading.

    • Word count: 1812
  3. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

    Her husband, Percy Shelley, was also amazed at electricity. This is shown in Frankenstein. Mary Shelly changed the 'Gothic Horror' genre with the story Frankenstein. This story is not just about monsters, as it also has a meaning; that man can play god, and create something evil. She is able to create fear with this story as much now as back in 1818. During the first part of the book, Frankenstein works hard at creating like because he has a personal grief for his mother. It goes back to when he was younger, and his mother died during childbirth, this also links to Mary Shelley, whose mother also died in childbirth.

    • Word count: 1354
  4. Frankenstein Literature coursework

    This is because the new science could capture the imaginations of people because it was not fully understood. The main part of the novel is about galvanism which is a branch of science that came about when a person named Luigi Galvini (hence why it is called Galvanism) made frog muscles twitch by jolting them with a spark from an electrostatic machine. The significance of the title "the modern Prometheus" is trying to say that humans should not "play god".

    • Word count: 2267
  5. WHO IS THE MONSTER IN FRANKENSTEIN?

    In November 1816, Fanny, Mary's half-sister, committed suicide. A few weeks later, in December 1816, Shelley's first wife Harriet also killed herself and within two weeks, Percy and Mary were married in St. Mildred's Church in London on December 30th, 1816. Early the next year, the couple moved to Marlow, England and a third child, Clara Everina, was born. In 1818, the Shelley's moved to Italy and during this time, both small children died; Clara (September 1818) and William (June 1819). Mary was depressed yet recovered somewhat by September 1819 when she had her only child surviving until adulthood; Percy.

    • Word count: 1914
  6. Is Mary Shelley More Sympathetic Towards Frankenstein or His Creation

    It led to a gruesome obsession which left Victor Frankenstein isolated from his friends and family and extremely ill. He doesn't think about the consequences or the results of what he is embarking on, however he goes ahead and does it thinking only of the enormous discovery's he has made if he can successfully create life. 'his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of pearly whiteness; but these luxuriance's only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes' Page 58 This is the description of the creation as it comes to life, instead of the image of an innocent new born, he is described as almost and evil inhuman being.

    • Word count: 1449
  7. 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
  8. Frankenstein The Modern Prometheus

    Shelley's life and times effected how she illustrates the birth of Frankenstein's monster in an immeasurable way. The environment and time Shelley grew up in really does have a huge impact on the novel due to the techniques she uses and in the way she uses her language. A vast amount of scientific breakthroughs were made at this time helping dub the early 1800's as 'The Age of Enlightenment'. Shelley arguably has many monumental events in her life, but in my opinion none bigger the visit to Lord Byron's house which sparked her enthusiasm for this epic novel.

    • Word count: 1126
  9. Is the monster Evil?

    Victor realizes how dangerous the monster is. At this point Victor realizes that he has created something that is very powerful and evil and will be very hard to stop. He also realizes how it has the ability to cause unbelievable problems. Victor allows the monster to escape; he does not try to contain him. He unleashed a creature with the potential to do horrible things. Victor doesn't even realize this; he is just worried about confronting the monster. By avoiding the monster Victor is passing the burden of managing the monster onto the world.

    • Word count: 1072
  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. English coursework - Frankenstein

    This clearly describes an abhorrent and monstrous exterior where even the few human qualities detract from his overall appearance. The muscles and arteries protruding through the yellow skin, the peculiar eyes and sockets, and the repulsive lips create a disturbing imagine, however it's the human qualities of the white teeth and lustrous black hair that make his appearance sound so sickening, as if qualities that a human desire simply worsen his overall exterior then he must be the most inexcusably grotesque creature ever created.

    • Word count: 3191
  13. Frankenstein Is A Novel About The Absence Of A Nurturing Parent

    Victor Frankenstein, the protagonist, artificially creates being by reanimating lifeless body parts. The being is then rejected by his creator and society, resulting in disastrous consequences including the death of Victor's closest friends and family. 'Frankenstein' is definitely a novel about the absence of a nurturing parent and the effects which it can cause. I believe that it is a parent's responsibility and duty to love and care for their child, making sure to raise them sufficiently. Parents should teach their children morals and should set a good example for them to follow.

    • Word count: 1114
  14. 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
  15. How is the creature presented in chapters 11-16 of Frankenstein?

    To a further extent, uncertainty of reciprocation is also present as Elizabeth is doubtful whether Frankenstein loves her and wants to get married. Tension and uncertainly are elements of romantic novels; this is why 'Frankenstein' is also known as a romantic tale. Shelley referred to 'Frankenstein' as the 'Modern Prometheus'. This is because both stories have similarities and parallel ideas which they emphasise. Prometheus stole the embers of fire which destroyed him. This suggests fire burns as he had no right to have ownership of the fire.

    • Word count: 3705
  16. 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
  17. How is the creature presented in chapters 11-16 of Frankenstein?

    Another quote is when Frankenstein says, 'unable to compose my mind to sleep'. Here the doctor presents the creature as a nightmare. This is because Frankenstein was not able to go to sleep after looking at the monster. This thought of Frankenstein realising what he had done haunted his mind making it dysfunctional and unable to go to sleep. A further quote where the creature is illustrated negatively is when Frankenstein compares it to the work of Dante. 'A thing such as even Dante could not have conceived'. Dante during the 1800's was known for his images of Satan and his home...Hell!

    • Word count: 3644
  18. Free essay

    How does Mary Shelley make the audience sympathise for the monster?

    Victor's reactions to the monster are a bit more than simple rejection in the way that he doesn't want to reject it as he made it, so effectively; it is 'his child'. Victor's dream contains a series of events which makes Victor feel guilt. In the dream, Victor is with his girlfriend when she turns first into a corpse and then his mother. This shows symbolism because it is significant that his girlfriend changed into his mother's corpse which shows how he feels that everything good in his life has turned bad.

    • Word count: 1781
  19. Frankenstein. Mary Shelley creates the sense that Frankenstein is a monstrous character because he abandoned the creation after he saw how hideous it was.

    Frankenstein then dies of the flu. This novel is linked to Mary Shelley's life. As Mary Shelley's mother died giving birth to her, and in the novel Frankenstein's mother died giving birth to him. The creation of the monster could be due to Frankenstein's loneliness, which is something that Mary Shelley may have wanted to do herself. Mary Shelley creates the sense that the monster is beyond human and super human at the end of the novel it is Frankenstein chasing the monster across the North Pole because it killed his wife and his father for revenge, for him abandoning him when he was created.

    • Word count: 1079
  20. 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
  21. Frankenstein. The Novel makes the reader question itself if the monster was born evil or became evil in the process of being neglected and mistreated.

    Victor Frankenstein has committed an awful thing because he has created life but has not cared for the monster which is mentally like a child because he has no morals or values but has been judged by the look on his face. In doing so we wonder if Victor Frankenstein really is the monster in this play. Chapter five is very significant and turning point to the novel as a whole because it is the part where the monster is finally completed.

    • Word count: 1230
  22. 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
  23. Who is the Monster in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

    The novel begins, set in the late 1700's, with a series of letters from scientifically ambitious explorer, Robert Walton. In these letters he ensures his sister of his well being and increasing confidence for the task at hand - being the first man to reach the North Pole. Upon his voyage he encounters a man whose "limbs were nearly frozen, and his body dreadfully emaciated by fatigue and suffering". Later this man is revealed to be the real protagonist, Victor Frankenstein.

    • Word count: 3413
  24. How does Mary Shelley influence the readers response towards Victor Frankenstein and the creature?

    The night also has a more horrific and gloomy touch as the 'candle was nearly burnt out'. The way the candle is burning out gives the reader the impression that Victor's sprits and energy running out. Already the reader is gripped with the silent horror that Victor is going through at 'one in the morning', Mary Shelley also uses the words such as 'toils',' agony' and 'dismally' to direct sympathy towards Victor as we see the hardship that Victor goes through to accomplish his dream, this shows that Mary Shelley wants the reader to direct their sympathy towards Victor only.

    • Word count: 2114
  25. 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

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