by Mary Shelley | Grades: 10-12 | Ages: 15 | Lexile Level: 790
About Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Written in 1816 when she was only 19, Mary Shelley's novel of 'The Modern Prometheus' chillingly dramatized the dangerous potential of life begotten upon a laboratory table. A frightening creation myth for our own time, "Frankenstein" remains one of the greatest horror stories ever written and is an undisputed classic of its kind.
While staying in the Swiss Alps in 1816 with her lover Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and others, Mary, then eighteen, began to concoct the story of Dr. Victor Frankenstein and the monster he brings to life by electricity.
Written in a time of great personal tragedy, it is a subversive and morbid story warning against the dehumanization of art and the corrupting influence of science.
Packed with allusions and literary references, it is also one of the best thrillers ever written.
Frankenstein; Or, the Modern Prometheus was an instant bestseller on publication in 1818. The prototype of the science fiction novel, it has spawned countless imitations and adaptations but retains its original power.
A Biographical Note About Mary Shelley
Mary Shelley (1797-1851) The daughter of Mary Wollestonecraft, the ardent feminist and author of A Vindication on the Right of Women, and William Goodwin, the Radical-anarchist philosopher and author of Lives of the Necromancers, Mary Goodwin was born into a freethinking, revolutionary household in London on August 30,1797. Educated mainly by her intellectual surroundings, she had little formal schooling and at sixteen eloped with the young poet Percy Bysshe Shelly; they eventually married in 1816.
Mary Shelly's life had many tragic elements. Her mother died giving birth to Mary; her half-sister committed suicide; Harriet Shelly--Percy's wife drowned herself and her unborn child after he ran off with Mary. William Goodwin disowned Mary and Shelly after the elopement, but--heavily in debt--recanted and came to them for money. Mary's first child died soon after its birth, and in 1822 Percy Shelly drowned in the Gulf of La Spezia-when Mary was not quite twenty-five.
Mary Shelly recalled that her husband was "forever inciting" her to "obtain literary reputation." But she did not begin to write seriously until the summer of 1816. One night following a contest to compose ghost stories, Mary conceived her masterpiece, Frankenstein. After Shelly's death, she continued to write Valperga (1823), The Last Man (1826), Ladore (1835), and Faulkner (1837), in addition to editing he husband's works. In 1838 she began to work on his biography, but owing to poor health she completed only a fragment.
Although she received marriage proposals from Trelawney, John Howard Payne, and perhaps Washington Irving, Mary Shelly never remarried. "I want to be Mary Shelly on my tombstone," she is reported to have said. She died on February 1, 1851, survived by he son, Percy Florence.