Frankenstein Study Guide
Frankenstein: Chapter Summaries
Frankenstein: Critical Essays
Frankenstein: Multiple-Choice Quizzes
Frankenstein: Questions & Answers
Frankenstein: Biography of Mary Shelley
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.