What historical events and social issues influenced Mary Shelley's Frankenstein?

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At the time when Frankenstein was written huge strides were being made in the natural sciences. To many, it seemed that science held the key to the truth and would one day solve all the mysteries that had perplexed the mind of man since the dawn of civilization.

Yet there were those, like Mary Shelley, who were much more cautious in regard to the power of science. Though by no means hostile to science, Shelley was nonetheless concerned about the damaging consequences that could easily follow from its abuse. And it is this concern that forms the central theme of the story, where Victor Frankenstein, a gifted scientist, abuses his genius to create a hideous monster that proceeds to bring havoc into the lives of many.

Whereas many people in Shelley's day saw only the benefits of science, she saw the downsides. While acknowledging the power of science to do good, she also understood that, in the wrong hands, it could cause considerable harm. As a political radical, Shelley believed that science could be harnessed to transform society for the better. But in the unforgettable character of Victor Frankenstein, she also shows us how overweening vanity, combined with an abuse of science, can cause great damage to society.

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