Why did Mary Shelley write Frankenstein?
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The Introduction to the eNotes Study Guide for "Frankenstein by Mary Shelley" relates the familiar story of how she came to write the novel. She was married to the great English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822). They were visitiing the equally great English poet Lord Byron (1788-1824) at his residence on Lake Geneva in Switzerland in 1816 when Byron suggest that all three of them compose horror stories to entertain each other. Mary was only nineteen years old at the time. According to the eNotes Study Guide (see reference link below), much of the story occurred to the impressionable Mary Shelley in dreams. Her husband and their friend Byron did not go through with their commitments to writing horror tales of their own, but Mary finished hers and published it in 1819.
There have been many different interpretations of her horror tale, and it was made into a sensational Hollywood movie starring Boris Karloff, which was so popular that it was followed by numerous sequels. One way of looking at Mary Shelley's inspiration for writing the novel is that she was young and felt somewhat intimidated by the two greatest English poets of the time, one of whom was her own brilliant husband. A hidden message of this horror tale would seem to be that men can create all sorts of marvelous inventions, institutions, art works, and ideas, but that they have no business trying to create human life. Creating human life is something only a woman can do and should do. If a man tries to create human life, like Victor Frankenstein, he will only create a monster and bring terrible retribution upon himself and others. Without the continuous and loving creation of new human beings, the creations of men would be worthless.
Is not the tremendous strength in men of the impulse to creative work in every field precisely due to their feeling of playing a relatively small part in the creation of living beings, which constantly impels them to an overcompensation in achievement?
The name Frankenstein was originally that of the protagonist Victor Frankenstein, but it seems such a perfect name for a living-dead creature like the Monster in the novel that it has popularly come to be applied to the Monster himself.
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