Introduction to Frankenstein

Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus is an epistolary novel by Mary Shelley. It was published anonymously in London in 1818, when Shelley was only twenty years old. Combining elements of gothic, Romantic, and horror fiction, it narrates the life of Victor Frankenstein, a scientist who set out to defy death by creating life. However, the being he brings to life is monstrous in appearance, and Victor flees, abandoning the creature to a life of isolation and fear. Told in retrospect, the novel details the subsequent miseries of both Victor and the creature he has arrogantly created, highlighting Victor’s—and by extension humanity’s—ineptitude as a would-be god. 

The intersection of science and faith is of particular importance to the time period in which Shelley was writing; as humans expanded their understanding of science, many people began to fear that such knowledge may trespass upon the laws of the natural world. For its portrayal of this theme, Frankenstein is sometimes regarded as the first science fiction novel. 

Frankenstein has been adapted extensively since its publication, with different productions focusing on different aspects of Shelley’s work. Many adaptations have focused on the horror aspects of the novel, giving rise to the contemporary notion of “Frankenstein” as an inarticulate green monster. However, other interpretations focus on Shelley’s ruminations on topics such as the definition of monstrosity, inner versus outer beauty, and the arrogance of science in presuming to defy nature.

A Brief Biography of Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley (1797–1851) was an English writer who is best known for her gothic novel Frankenstein, which is often considered one of the earliest works of science fiction. Shelley began writing Frankenstein at the age of eighteen during a summer in Switzerland, and the book remains one of the most influential novels of the last two centuries. However, two things are even more impressive than Shelley's young age when she wrote the book: that the creature she created has moved into our shared reference like a modern myth, and that her work could speak to so many people and still be so deeply personal as the novel was to her. Frankenstein is rooted in Shelley's life, her family, her philosophies, and her loves.

Frequently Asked Questions about Frankenstein

Frankenstein

Victor Frankenstein got the human body parts to make his creature by stealing them from the graves of the recently deceased. He tells Captain Walton that he "dabbled among the unhallowed damps of...

Latest answer posted October 3, 2020, 1:06 pm (UTC)

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Frankenstein

The answer to this question depends on your understanding of what constitutes a zombie. Zombies are often understood to be corpses that have been reanimated by witchcraft or magic of some sort. In...

Latest answer posted October 2, 2020, 11:30 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Frankenstein

One important moral lesson that Mary Shelley conveys is that it is dangerous to interfere with natural processes or “play God.” Closely connected to this lesson is the danger of pride. Victor’s...

Latest answer posted May 13, 2021, 5:05 am (UTC)

3 educator answers

Frankenstein

At the end of the novel, as recorded by Walton, Victor Frankenstein is so sick and worn down from pursuing his creature across the Arctic that the ship's surgeon says he will die in a few hours....

Latest answer posted October 2, 2020, 11:42 am (UTC)

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Frankenstein

By the time of this fateful moment in Frankenstein, the monster has longed for companionship for quite some time. Ignored and rejected by Victor, his creator, he begs for Victor to gift him some...

Latest answer posted October 3, 2020, 11:13 am (UTC)

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Frankenstein

Frankenstein's "monster" does indeed have a soul. Although grotesque, he is made of human parts and therefore is made in the image of God. From a Christian perspective, this would be convincing...

Latest answer posted October 3, 2020, 11:35 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Frankenstein

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein tells the story of a scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who creates a creature from the body parts of deceased people. His goal is to create a being and...

Latest answer posted October 3, 2020, 12:01 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Frankenstein

Despite the longstanding enmity between them, the creature laments Victor's death at the end of the novel. He feels remorse for all the pain he has caused his creator. He regrets having killed...

Latest answer posted October 3, 2020, 11:16 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Frankenstein

When people ask this question, they are often making a common mistake: referring to the monster as "Frankenstein." Because popular culture has taken the early renditions of the monster in film and...

Latest answer posted October 3, 2020, 12:37 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Frankenstein

Some readers do argue that the creature which Victor Frankenstein assembles is not the real monster in the novel, and that readers should avoid calling this creation a "monster" for that reason....

Latest answer posted October 3, 2020, 11:42 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Frankenstein

Near the end of Frankenstein, when Victor dies aboard Robert Walton's ship, the monster becomes so stricken with grief that he vows to take his own life. Whether or not the monster stays true to...

Latest answer posted October 3, 2020, 12:33 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Frankenstein

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus was first published in 1818. At this time, the world was evolving and shifting from an agriculture-driven way of life to...

Latest answer posted October 3, 2020, 12:27 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Frankenstein

Mary Shelley’s gothic novel Frankenstein is aptly subtitled The Modern Prometheus, since the main point of the novel somewhat mirrors the main theme found in the ancient Greek mythological tale of...

Latest answer posted October 3, 2020, 12:49 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Frankenstein

Though considered a classic and a firm staple in popular culture worldwide, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein has had its share of controversy over its two-hundred-year existence. When first published in...

Latest answer posted October 2, 2020, 11:45 am (UTC)

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Frankenstein

The event which prompted the creation of Frankenstein was a writing contest between Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, and Lord Byron. The Shelleys had traveled to Lake Geneva with Mary's stepsister,...

Latest answer posted October 2, 2020, 11:23 am (UTC)

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Frankenstein

I would not describe Victor himself as rich, but the Frankenstein family is certainly quite well off. Early on, Victor says that his family is one of the “most distinguished” in his home republic...

Latest answer posted October 2, 2020, 11:38 am (UTC)

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Frankenstein

Before he can create his creature, Victor Frankenstein needs some raw material from which he can shape a new being, and he envisions that this being will look humanlike. He thus turns to a practice...

Latest answer posted October 2, 2020, 11:35 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Frankenstein

Victor Frankenstein is a man driven by ambition. He wants to do great things in the field of science, become famous, and leave his mark on the world. As a young man, he is attracted by the...

Latest answer posted October 2, 2020, 11:15 am (UTC)

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Frankenstein

This question is best answered by going into the background of how Mary Shelley came to write the novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus and consulting an essay she wrote about how she came...

Latest answer posted October 2, 2020, 6:02 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Frankenstein

In her popular 1818 novel Frankenstein, Mary Shelley never actually gives a specific name to the monster. Throughout the book, the creature is referred to as "the thing," "the fiend," "the devil,"...

Latest answer posted October 2, 2020, 12:26 pm (UTC)

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Summary