Critical Context

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 196

Mary Shelley was only eighteen when she wrote Frankenstein in response to a proposal by the poet Lord Byron, whom she and her husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, were visiting in Switzerland, that they each create a ghost story. Out of that evening’s entertainment, Frankenstein was born. Shelley discusses...

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Mary Shelley was only eighteen when she wrote Frankenstein in response to a proposal by the poet Lord Byron, whom she and her husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, were visiting in Switzerland, that they each create a ghost story. Out of that evening’s entertainment, Frankenstein was born. Shelley discusses the inspiration for the novel in a preface that is included in most editions.

Widowed at the age of twenty-four, Shelley supported herself and her son through her writing. In addition to critical editions of her husband’s works, she wrote six other novels. None of them attained the popularity of Frankenstein, which she revised and republished in 1831. The novel spawned numerous stage adaptations, beginning as early as 1823. With the invention of film, the story saw new life in even greater variety. Of note among literary spinoffs of the basic tale is Brian Aldiss’ Frankenstein Unbound (1975), which features a time warp in which a contemporary American meets Mary Shelley and the monster. The original text of Frankenstein remains a complex and richly rewarding novel that invites readers to ponder their personal goals and ambitions as well as the direction toward which modern life is moving.

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