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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. Who, in your opinion, is the real monster of Mary Shelleys Frankenstein. Is it the destructive, unnamed fiend or his creator, Victor Frankenstein?

    Another prime illustration of society changing at the time that is alluded to in 'Frankenstein' is the French Revolution. The lower class citizens of France were poorly looked after by the country's nobility, who were out of touch with the poverty and starvation amongst normal citizens. Eventually these people decided to pull together and rebel against the upper classes. The king and his wife were captured and put to death, followed by any members of the rich aristocracy who hadn't fled from the country.

    • Word count: 6003
  2. Frankenstein. I intend to tell you about the opening and also chapter five of the book Frankenstein

    And then on top of that her dream she had of her bringing her own baby back to life. So at the end of it all of these effects on her life gave her the idea to write the book Frankenstein. Frankenstein the book is an epistolary novel; this means it is told in diary entries or letters through many different peoples' views or opinions. The first part of the story is told by Captain Robert Walton through letters he sent while he was on the voyage.

    • Word count: 1045
  3. HOW DOES MARY SHELLY CREATE HORROR IN FRANKESTEIN

    Repulsive imagery is used to create horror. The monster is being described in many ways, "yellow skin", "watery eyes", "black lips", "yellow eye". With quotes like "black lips" it gives the impression to the reader that firstly the creature does not look a human being and, secondly, he is hideous in Frankenstein's eyes. The effect of this is that it makes the reader feel disgusted and the imagery emphasises the ugliness of the creature which adds to the horror of the event.

    • Word count: 1085
  4. How does Mary Shelley present Frankenstein the monster and what do we find out about fears of scientific progress in her lifetime?

    She probably played a vital part in raising the confidence of female writers and broke the deadlock for all female authors. The novel was about a young ambitious scientist who is keen to prove that he can create life. The scientists name is Victor Frankenstein. He accomplished his mission but all his dreams about this being were crushed when he realised what a monster he had created. Frankenstein ran away from the monster and left it to a life of loneliness.

    • Word count: 3534
  5. Frankenstein develop and shelly uses language to create and destroy sympathy

    The presence of science in the novel is very apparent. During the time the novel was created, Science was beginning to make discoveries which would change the way man looked at earth. Some people feared this new scientific generation and the fear was captured in Shelley's novel. At the forefront of the book, Shelley introduces the monster in an unsympathetic manner. At this point in the book, the narrator is Captain Walton; he describes the monster as a "being which had the shape of a man, but apparently of gigantic structure."

    • Word count: 2092
  6. How did Victor Frankenstein(TM)s personality change during chapters four and 5?

    This tells me that Victor thinks he is so good, the professors can't teach him anymore, maybe he is even smarter than the professors as Ingolstadt. Victor is very enthusiastic about natural science and chemistry. "From this day, natural science and particularly chemistry became nearly my sole occupation." This point says to me that almost all of Victor's time is taken up by biology and chemistry. Victor becomes obsessed with "infusing" life into a dead body, when he finds a way to do it; he becomes fully obsessed with doing so.

    • Word count: 1042
  7. Look at the significance of chapter five to the novel as a whole. Focus on the relevance and effect of writer(TM)s use of language to describe setting, character and what it shows about social and historical influences.

    This time period also encouraged uncertainty and superstition, and following your heart instead of applying logic to every situation. People tried to learn from direct personal experience instead of just learning theories and accepting what was widely acknowledged to be correct. Mary Shelley embraced these new ideas which were reflected both in her behaviour and that of Dr Frankenstein. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein in 1818 when she was just 18 years old. However, she published the novel under a pseudonym, and did not correct this for 13 years.

    • Word count: 3040
  8. '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
  9. 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
  10. Write a Letter to an Aspiring Witter giving advice on writing a Gothic Novel using Frankenstein as an Example?

    A Gothic Novel is a story in which supernatural terrors and an atmosphere of mysterious horror infiltrates the action. Often the setting is dark and menacing, to reflect the mood of the novel, one of the common characteristics of a gothic novel are the lonely frightening settings, this is also often within a castle. "In a solitary chamber or cell at the top of the house and separated by all other apartments by a separate staircase". This is a very good example of how to use solitary and lonely, Mary Shelley uses these settings to emphasise the solitude and isolation

    • Word count: 2011
  11. Explore how Mary Shelley uses language to create a sense of horror and terror in Chapter 5 of Frankenstein(TM)

    The modern audience respond differently perhaps because they know that bringing someone dead or creating a person through the methods on the book, are impossible, yet despite this the book will still create a sense of horror and terror through her language and writing style. The modern reader is less likely to fear resurrection because of the scientific progress, such as genetic engineering and cloning, which have become a real issue, not just superstition. In Chapter 5, Mary Shelley uses religion to instil fear into the 19th Century reader, she relates to Dant�, the author of 'the divine comedy', where

    • Word count: 1557
  12. Examine the complex story of Mary Shelleys novel Frankenstein.

    For example, in the use of lighting in the first shot, both movies tried to create a mysterious and tense atmosphere. James Whale uses a dramatic use of darkness in his first scene, showing a long shot of a dark castle on top of a hill with rain and lightning. The sound of rain and thunder are also used instead of music to create an extra sense of fear. In comparison, Kenneth Brannagh uses more subtle use of light in his opening shot showing a burning candle against a big red wall.

    • Word count: 1327
  13. 'Explore how we view creature based on what Victor says, and on what creature says.'

    As his narrative continues we see the doctor as the Victim. This could be because he is talking about his own experiences and could be biased. In chapter 5 the work he has done for 2 years is about to reveal. He hasn't been to Geneva for ages and hasn't been replying for any letters as he says "caused me also to forget those friends who were so many miles absent, and whom I had not seen for a long time."

    • Word count: 1871
  14. To what extent is Frankenstein typical of the Gothic genre?

    Also recurrent in the gothic genre is the concept of the doppelganger or double. This idea-that characters are linked together with a common bond or bonds-can be seen in novels such as Doris Lessing's "The Fifth Child" and "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" by R.L Stevenson. In Britain, Gothic fiction began with Horace Walpole's "The Castle of Otranto", a novel which is a good example of the genre as it contains extreme emotions such as terror, love and anger, as well as including a haunted castle, unnatural and horrific events and a menacing villain.

    • Word count: 4944
  15. 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
  16. "Who is the real monster in Frankenstein: Victor, the Creature or Society?

    Victor bases his decision of sheer convenience, however although convenient for him, Victor dooms the Creature to be hated for being so abhorrently different. It is obvious that the Creature should not solely be judged on its appearance alone, yet it appears that it is not the only monstrous aspect of the Creature. Throughout the novel, the Creature kills three people directly and two people indirectly through the consequences of his actions. In all but one exception the Creature targets people who have caused him no pain or anguish therefore it can be said that the Creature is brutal and evil in his actions: "Frankenstein!

    • Word count: 2120
  17. The film Jaws based on the novel written by Peter Benchley , discuss the Director's techniques of raising tension.

    Towards the end of the opening scene as a sign of the shark getting closer, the music builds up to a climax at the end. This brings the watcher right in and gets their attention right from the start. At the moment in the film, the watcher does not yet know where the movie is set, so the shark could be far out in the sea or about to attack somebody, this keeps you hooked. Also there is no life in the sea which either can be interpreted as the shark is so mighty that nothing is seen near it or that the sea is empty and hence there is normally no danger there.

    • Word count: 1364
  18. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley - Critique of Society for Causing the Creture's Actions

    This is justified by nothing but the Creature's demeanour. Although the Monster eventually becomes a murderer, the cause of this is society's constant and unflinching rejection of him, after he continually attempts to reach out to others for help and affection. An underlying message in Frankenstein is mankind's responsibility as the corrupters of the innocent and the creators of the evil that exists in the world. The Monster reads from the book Ruins of Empires, after which the creatures states 'For a long time I could not conceive how one man could go fourth and murder his fellow,....but when I heard details of vice and bloodshed my wonder ceased and I turned away with disgust and loathing.'

    • Word count: 1194
  19. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley - Femal Characters Who Challeng The Gender Stereotype

    She contradicts the stereotype that women should adopt a mother-like role as a carer and guardian. She challenges the domesticated, family orientated and victimised imagery of women who are dependant on men to support their lifestyle. Safie's contradictory personality is shown through certain quotes in the novel, such as when it is stated that, "When alone, Safie resolved in her own mind the plan of conduct that it would be her to pursue...." The use of the phrase 'resolved...in her own mind' indicates a level of individual thought that the other females do not posses due to the restraints placed on them by society and the men who exert control over them.

    • Word count: 1609
  20. 'Frankenstein' English Essay.

    As a result, the monster decides to scout revenge on his creator for making him so abominable. On the monster's return to Geneva, Switzerland, he kills Victor's younger brother during his rage. As Victor hears of his sibling's death, he returns to Geneva and runs into the monster. The monster demands that Victor must create a female companion. Victor is obviously sceptical due to the results of his first project but the monster blackmails Victor into doing this by threatening to kill Elizabeth - Victor's childhood sweetheart.

    • Word count: 2003
  21. 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
  22. Frankenstein, narrative techniques positioning the protagonists

    During the Creature's story he retells how society discriminated and judged him purely upon his physical appearance rather than his deeds and actions, because he was foreign and unnatural. "I was benevolent; my soul glowed with love and humanity; but am I not alone, miserably alone?", and curses Victor for creating him, "Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust". The Creature saves a peasant's daughter from drowning and in return is rewarded with being shot, the only human ever being to accept the Creature for who he is the

    • Word count: 1193
  23. Frankenstein Prose

    To Mary, Shelley personified the genius and dedication to human betterment that she had admired her entire life. Although she was cast out of society, this inspirational liaison produced her masterpiece, Frankenstein. During her marriage, Mary and Percy had 3 children, two of which died at birth. Their first child died early in their relationship, shortly after birth. Mary never recovered from the traumas, never the less, she empowered herself to live and love her remaining child. Shortly after the death of her first child, Mary had an imaginary dream. She dreamt that if she left her child's body next to fire/electricity, the child would come back to life.

    • Word count: 1875
  24. Mary Shelleys, Frankenstein.

    The use of language, "pattered dismally" mirrors his emotions. It also has a double meaning; is candle was literally burning out, and the time of day. It suggests he is tired and Shelley sets the scene creating tension before going on to terrify the reader. Shelley maintains the use of horrible descriptive language throughout the first chapter such as the description of the monster. For example she describes it as "yellow eyed"- a signal of disease and quite an evil picture in context. Especially since it is also said the eyes describe someone's true self, 'a window to the soul'.

    • Word count: 1316

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