Frankenstein Context

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Biographical

Mary Shelley was the daughter of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecroft (novelist, philosopher) - expected to be educated, academic.

Her mother died when she was 10 days old - lack of female in her life

Her father remarried and she couldn't accept her stepmother - again, lack of female, grudge against father

She ran off with Romantic poet Percy Shelley - Influenced by Romantic themes (emotions, nature, alienation, wanderlust)

She fell pregnant and her father didn't speak to her for 2 1/2 years - grudge against male

Her first child died at 2 weeks old. - Her creation didn't succeed.

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Scientific

Erasmus Darwin animated some vermicelli (1802). Shelley cites Darwin in her 1831 introduction as her inspiration for Frankenstein.

Humphrey Davy, a family friend, was a chemist who was conscious of how the increase in human knowledge is potentially negative. He thought respect and responsibility were important in science. Percy owned his textbook and it is likely both Mary and Percy read it (1802). He also published a lecture which Mary probably read whilst she was writing Frankenstein (1816).

Luigi Galvani reanimated frogs legs by using electricity (1780). This was very popular science.

Science was very much present in Shelley's life. Her father and her husband were also interested in it and she often attended lectures with Percy.

Science was seen as masculine whilst raising a child was seen as feminine. - Victor may have succeeded in his science but he did not succeed in taking responsibility for the creature. Without a female at the birth of the creature he turns from a creature to a monster.

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Political

The French Revolution had just ended (1799) and England was very aware of it and afraid something similar would happen.

In the French Revolution the common poor man started a rising against the wealthy. There was a dramatic shift in power. - The creature turns against Victor after he destroys the female creature because he no longer needs him. Victor is now the one chasing after the creature. Because Victor and the creature die this suggests Shelley thought that violent protest would ultimately fail.

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