The novel Frankenstein is an shockingly complex work--especially considering that the author, Mary Shelley, was only 18 years old when she began writing it. Published in 1818, this gothic novel calls into question man's never-ending quest for knowledge, the idea of nature versus nurture, and ultimately asks the question, "who is the true monster of the story?"
The name "Frankenstein" itself was taken by Shelley during her trip through Europe in 1814. She came across Frankenstein Castle in Germany, where an alchemist allegedly performed experiments. It is no coincidence that the science Victor Frankenstein studies in Shelley's novel is alchemy.
Shelley engaged in a horror story writing competition with Percy Shelley (a poet and her future husband), Lord Byron (a poet), and John Polidori (creator of the vampire genre). It comes as no surprise that someone who surrounded herself with so many prolific writers would also become an incredible author.
The novel itself falls into three significant categories: gothic fiction, romantic fiction, and science fiction. It is considered one of the most famous gothic novels of all time, and is considered one of the first science fiction novels. Frankenstein also helped to create and shape the horror genre.
Although Frankenstein was originally intended to be a short story, Percy Shelley encouraged Mary to extend it to become a full novel. It is likely through the act of extension that Mary Shelley was able to include references to works such as "Paradise Lost" and "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."
The monster himself actually reads Paradise Lost while he is hiding away in the DeLacey's house, which he describes in chapter 15. The reading of this book likely helped him to understand the evil in the world, and contributed to his knowledge of the unfairness of his situation and his desire to seek vengeance on Frankenstein in the same way that Satan and his conspirators seek vengeance on God.
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is referenced in letter 2 when Walton claims that he will not kill any albatross. This relates to the poem, where a man kills an albatross and is haunted thereafter because of that action.