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What socially or culturally significant events are occurring at the time of the setting...

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jodieshore | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 11, 2013 at 3:16 PM via web

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What socially or culturally significant events are occurring at the time of the setting of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein?                                                                  

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 14, 2013 at 8:26 PM (Answer #1)

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Since the letters of Walton to his sister are dated in the winter of "17--," the reader initially knows only that the setting is in the 18th century. However, later there are some dates given that illustrate the timeline of the novel:

1770 - Victor Frankenstein is born
1771 - Robert Walton is born
1775 - Elizabeth is adopted by the Frankensteins
1777 - Victor meets Henry Clerval
1792 - Victor creates life
1793-  The Creature hides at the DeLacey's and learns to speak                  and read
1796 - Victor creates a female for the Creature, but destroys it later.
1796-1797 - Victor falsely confesses to the murder of Henry, but ends up in an asylum.
1798 - After being released from the asylum, Victor begins his pursuit of the Creature.
1799 - Walton rescues Victor from the icy waters.

During this period of history in England, the Industrial Revolution began; accompanying this boom of the production of machinery came many new scientific studies.  These events greatly disturbed Romantics such as Mary and her husband Percy Bsyche Shelley along with many other intellectuals, for they felt that technology could pose threats to the spiritual make-up of people. Mary Shelley's novel resonates with moral considerations such as the social dangers of unbridled scientific ambition and philosophical questioning of the nature of man. She also perceived science and machinery as dangerous to the spirit of man which requires nurturing from nature. There are, for instance, chapters in which Victor Frankenstein's unstable mind and spirit is restored as he delights in the sublime. In Chapter 9, for example, he describes his rapture with Nature,

Sometimes I could cope with the sullen despair that overwhelmed me:  but sometimes the whirwind passions of my soul drove me to seek...relief from my intolerable sensations....My wandering were directed towards the valley of chamounix....The weight upon my spirit was sensibly lightened as I plunged yet deeper in the ravine of Arve. The immense mountains...the dashing of the waterfalls...the valley assumed a more magnificent and astonishing character.

It is, indeed, this examination of the dangers of science and industry set against the harmony and beauty of nature and the spirit that gives rise to much of the discussion of the themes of Frankenstein.

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