Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus is a novel written by English author Mary Shelley (1797–1851) that tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist who creates a hideous, sapient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment. Shelley started writing the story when she was 18, and the first edition of the novel was published anonymously in London on 1 January 1818, when she was 20. Her name first appeared on the second edition, published in 1823.
Shelley travelled through Europe in 1814, journeying along the river Rhine in Germany with a stop in Gernsheim, which is 17 kilometres (11 mi) away from Frankenstein Castle, where, two centuries before, an alchemist was engaged in experiments. Later, she travelled in the region of Geneva (Switzerland)—where much of the story takes place—and the topic of galvanism and occult ideas were themes of conversation among her companions, particularly her lover and future husband, Percy Shelley. Mary, Percy and Lord Byron decided to have a competition to see who could write the best horror story. After thinking for days, Shelley dreamt about a scientist who created life and was horrified by what he had made; her dream later evolved into the novel's story.
Frankenstein is infused with elements of the Gothic novel and the Romantic movement. At the same time, it is an early example of science fiction. Brian Aldiss has argued that it should be considered the first true science fiction story because, in contrast to previous stories with fantastical elements resembling those of later science fiction, the central character "makes a deliberate decision" and "turns to modern experiments in the laboratory" to achieve fantastic results. It has had a considerable influence in literature and popular culture and spawned a complete genre of horror stories, films and plays.
Since the novel's publication, the name "Frankenstein" has often been used to refer to the monster itself. This usage is considered erroneous, but some usage commentators regard it as well-established and acceptable. In the novel, the monster is identified by words such as "creature", "monster", "daemon", "wretch", "abortion", "fiend" and "it". Speaking to Victor Frankenstein, the monster says "I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel" (which ties to Lucifer in Paradise Lost, which the monster reads, and which relates to the disobedience of Prometheus in the book's subtitle).
or, The Modern Prometheus
Volume I, first edition
|Genre||Gothic novel, horror fiction, science fiction|
|Published||1 January 1818 (Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor & Jones)|
Frankenstein is written in the form of a frame story that starts with Captain Robert Walton writing letters to his sister. It takes place at an unspecified time in the 18th century, as the letters' dates are given as "17—". In the story following the letters by Walton, the readers find that Victor Frankenstein creates a monster that brings tragedy to his life.
The novel Frankenstein is written in epistolary form, documenting a fictional correspondence between Captain Robert Walton and his sister, Margaret Walton Saville. Walton is a failed writer and captain who sets out to explore the North Pole and expand his scientific knowledge in hopes of achieving fame. During the voyage, the crew spots a dog sled driven by a gigantic figure. A few hours later, the crew rescues a nearly frozen and emaciated man named Victor Frankenstein. Frankenstein has been in pursuit of the gigantic man observed by Walton's crew. Frankenstein starts to recover from his exertion; he sees in Walton the same obsession that has destroyed him, and recounts a story of his life's miseries to Walton as a warning. The recounted story serves as the frame for Frankenstein's narrative.
Victor begins by telling of his childhood. Born in Naples, Italy, into a wealthy Genevan family, Victor and his brothers, Ernest and William, all three being sons of Alphonse Frankenstein by the former Caroline Beaufort, are encouraged to seek a greater understanding of the world through chemistry. As a young boy, Victor is obsessed with studying outdated theories that focus on simulating natural wonders. When Victor is five years old, his parents adopt Elizabeth Lavenza, the orphaned daughter of an expropriated Italian nobleman, with whom Victor (allegedly) later falls in love. During this period, Victor's parents, Alphonse and Caroline, take in yet another orphan, Justine Moritz, who becomes William's nanny.
Weeks before he leaves for the University of Ingolstadt in Germany, his mother dies of scarlet fever; Victor buries himself in his experiments to deal with the grief. At the university, he excels at chemistry and other sciences, soon developing a secret technique to impart life to non-living matter. Eventually, he undertakes the creation of a humanoid, but due to the difficulty in replicating the minute parts of the human body, Victor makes the Creature tall, about 8 feet (2.4 m) in height and proportionally large. Despite Victor selecting its features as beautiful, upon animation the creature is instead hideous, with watery white eyes and yellow skin that barely conceals the muscles and blood vessels underneath. Repulsed by his work, Victor flees when it awakens. While wandering the streets, he meets his childhood friend, Henry Clerval, and takes Henry back to his apartment, fearful of Henry's reaction if he sees the monster. However, the Creature has escaped.
Victor falls ill from the experience and is nursed back to health by Henry. After a four-month recovery, he receives a letter from his father notifying him of the murder of his brother William. Upon arriving in Geneva, Victor sees the Creature near the crime scene and climbing a mountain, leading him to believe his creation is responsible. Justine Moritz, William's nanny, is convicted of the crime after William's locket, which had contained a miniature portrait of Caroline, is found in her pocket. Victor is helpless to stop her from being hanged, as he knows no one would believe his story.
Ravaged by grief and guilt, Victor retreats into the mountains. The Creature finds him and pleads for Victor to hear his tale.
Intelligent and articulate, the Creature relates his first days of life, living alone in the wilderness and finding that people were afraid of and hated him due to his appearance, which led him to fear and hide from them. While living in an abandoned structure connected to a cottage, he grew fond of the poor family living there, and discreetly collected firewood for them. Secretly living among the family for months, the Creature learned to speak by listening to them and he taught himself to read after discovering a lost satchel of books in the woods. When he saw his reflection in a pool, he realized his physical appearance was hideous, and it terrified him as it terrifies normal humans. Nevertheless, he approached the family in hopes of becoming their friend. Initially he was able to befriend the blind father figure of the family, but the rest of them were frightened and they all fled their home, resulting in the Creature leaving, disappointed. He traveled to Victor's family estate using details from Victor's journal, murdered William, and framed Justine.
The Creature demands that Victor create a female companion like himself. He argues that as a living being, he has a right to happiness. The Creature promises that he and his mate will vanish into the South American wilderness, never to reappear, if Victor grants his request. Should Victor refuse his request, The Creature also threatens to kill Victor's remaining friends and loved ones and not stop until he completely ruins him.
Fearing for his family, Victor reluctantly agrees. The Creature says he will watch over Victor's progress.
Clerval accompanies him to England, but they separate at Victor's insistence at Perth, Scotland. Victor suspects that the Creature is following him. Working on the female creature on the Orkney Islands, he is plagued by premonitions of disaster, such as the female hating the Creature or becoming more evil than him, but more particularly the two creatures might lead to the breeding of a race that could plague mankind. He tears apart the unfinished female creature after he sees the Creature, who had indeed followed Victor, watching through a window. The Creature later confronts and tries to threaten Victor into working again, but Victor is convinced that the Creature is evil and that its mate would be evil as well, and the pair would threaten all humanity. Victor destroys his work and the Creature vows that he will "be with [him] on [his] wedding night". Victor interprets this as a threat upon his life, believing that the Creature will kill him after he finally becomes happy. When Victor lands in Ireland, he is soon imprisoned for Clerval's murder, as the Creature had strangled Clerval to death and left the corpse to be found where his creator had arrived, causing the latter to suffer another mental breakdown in prison. After being acquitted, Victor returns home with his father, who has restored to Elizabeth some of her father's fortune.
In Geneva, Victor is about to marry Elizabeth and prepares to fight the Creature to the death, arming himself with pistols and a dagger. The night following their wedding, Victor asks Elizabeth to stay in her room while he looks for "the fiend". While Victor searches the house and grounds, the Creature strangles Elizabeth to death. From the window, Victor sees the Creature, who tauntingly points at Elizabeth's corpse; Victor tries to shoot him, but the Creature escapes. After Victor gets back to Geneva, Victor's father, weakened by age and by the death of his precious Elizabeth, dies a few days later. Seeking revenge, Victor pursues the Creature to the North Pole, but collapses from exhaustion and hypothermia before he can find his quarry.
At the end of Victor's narrative, Captain Walton resumes the telling of the story, closing the frame around Victor's recounting. A few days after the Creature vanished, the ship becomes trapped in pack ice and multiple crewmen die in the cold, before the rest of Walton's crew insists on returning south once it is freed. Upon hearing the crew's pleas to their captain, Victor, angered, lectures them with a powerful speech: it is hardship, not comfort and easiness, that defines a glorious undertaking such as theirs; he urges them to be men, not cowards. The ship is freed and Walton, owing it to the will of his men, albeit regretfully, decides to return South. Victor, even though in very weak condition, states that he will go on by himself.
Victor dies shortly thereafter, telling Walton, with his last words, to seek "happiness in tranquillity and avoid ambition". Walton discovers the Creature on his ship, mourning over Victor's body. The Creature tells Walton that Victor's death has not brought him peace; rather, his crimes have left him completely alone. The Creature vows to kill himself so that no others will ever know of his existence. Walton watches as the Creature drifts away on an ice raft that is soon "lost in darkness and distance", never to be seen again.
The author, Mary Shelley, had a tragic life from the beginning. Shelley's mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, died shortly after giving birth to her. Since Shelley did not know her mother, she had a close attachment to her father. Shelley's father, William Godwin, hired a nurse to care for her and her half sister but she left and her father ended up remarrying. Shelley's stepmother did not like the close bond Shelley had with her father. This caused Godwin to favor his other two daughters and sons.
Her father was a famous author himself and her education was of great importance. Shelley grew up surrounded by many different writers and persons of political importance because of her father. This inspired her authorship at an early age. Shelley met Percy Bysshe Shelley, who later became her husband, at the age of sixteen while he was visiting with her father at their home. Her father did not agree with their relationship so they fled to France along with her stepsister, Claire Clairmont. Later, she gave birth to their first child and soon after lost the child.
Both Mary and Percy went away with Claire to visit her lover Lord Byron, in Geneva during the summer of 1816, the infamous Year Without a Summer. Percy and Mary became good friends with Byron and used their time with him to discuss literature, politics, and science. One evening after being trapped in the house because of storms Byron suggested they all have a competition of writing the best ghost story. This is how Frankenstein was brought to life. Mary was eighteen years old when she wrote this novel. Shelley won the contest by her creation of the novel, Frankenstein.
Shelley was heavily influenced by both of her parents works. Her father was famous for Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and her mother famous for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Her father's novels also influenced her writing of Frankenstein. These novels included Things as They Are; or, The Adventures of Caleb Williams, St. Leon, and Fleetwood. All of these books were set in Switzerland, similar to the setting in Frankenstein. Some major themes of social affections and the renewal of life that appear in Shelley's novel stem from these works she had in her possession. Other literary influences that appear in Frankenstein are Pygmalion (play) and Ovid with the use of an individual lacking intelligence and those individuals identifying the problems with society. Ovid also inspires the use of Prometheus in Shelley's title.
Her time spent with Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, her baby, and her sister Jane influenced her creation of Frankenstein as well. Percy and Byron's discussion on life and death surrounded many scientific geniuses of the time. They discussed ideas from Erasmus Darwin and the experiments from Luigi Galvani. Mary listened intently to these conversations and the ideas of Darwin and Galvani were both present in her novel. The horrors of not being able to write a story for the contest and her hard life also influenced the themes within Frankenstein. The themes of loss, guilt, and the consequences of defying nature present in the novel all developed from Mary Shelley's own life. The loss of her mother, the relationship with her father, and the death of her first child created the monster and his separation from parental guidance. Guilt stemmed from her not feeling good enough for Percy because of the loss of their child.
How I, then a young girl, came to think of, and to dilate upon, so very hideous an idea?— Mary Shelley
During the rainy summer of 1816, the "Year Without a Summer", the world was locked in a long cold volcanic winter caused by the eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815. Mary Shelley, aged 18, and her lover (and later husband) Percy Bysshe Shelley visited Lord Byron at the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva in Switzerland. The weather was consistently too cold and dreary that summer to enjoy the outdoor holiday activities they had planned, so the group retired indoors until dawn.
Sitting around a log fire at Byron's villa, the company amused themselves by reading German ghost stories translated into French from the book Fantasmagoriana, then Byron proposed that they "each write a ghost story". Unable to think of a story, young Mary became anxious: "Have you thought of a story? I was asked each morning, and each morning I was forced to reply with a mortifying negative." During one evening in the middle of summer, the discussions turned to the nature of the principle of life. "Perhaps a corpse would be re-animated", Mary noted, "galvanism had given token of such things". It was after midnight before they retired, and unable to sleep, she became possessed by her imagination as she beheld the "grim terrors" of her "waking dream".
I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world.
In September 2011, astronomer Donald Olson, after a visit to the Lake Geneva villa the previous year and inspecting data about the motion of the moon and stars, concluded that her "waking dream" took place "between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m." on 16 June 1816, several days after the initial idea by Lord Byron that they each write a ghost story.
She began writing what she assumed would be a short story. With Percy Shelley's encouragement, she expanded the tale into a full-fledged novel. She later described that summer in Switzerland as the moment "when I first stepped out from childhood into life". Shelley wrote the first four chapters in the weeks following the suicide of her half-sister Fanny. This was one of many personal tragedies that impacted Shelley's work. Shelley's first child died in infancy, and when she began composing Frankenstein in 1816, she was likely nursing her second child, who would also be dead at Frankenstein's publication.
Byron managed to write just a fragment based on the vampire legends he heard while travelling the Balkans, and from this John Polidori created The Vampyre (1819), the progenitor of the romantic vampire literary genre. Thus two seminal horror tales originated from the conclave.
The group talked about Enlightenment and Counter-Enlightenment ideas as well. Shelley believed the Enlightenment idea that society could progress and grow if political leaders used their powers responsibly; however, she also believed the Romantic ideal that misused power could destroy society (Bennett 36–42).
Shelley's manuscripts for the first three-volume edition in 1818 (written 1816–1817), as well as the fair copy for her publisher, are now housed in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. The Bodleian acquired the papers in 2004, and they belong now to the Abinger Collection. In 2008, the Bodleian published a new edition of Frankenstein, edited by Charles E. Robinson, that contains comparisons of Mary Shelley's original text with Percy Shelley's additions and interventions alongside.
Shelley completed her writing in April/May 1817, and Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus was published on 1 January 1818 by the small London publishing house Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones. It was issued anonymously, with a preface written for Mary by Percy Bysshe Shelley and with a dedication to philosopher William Godwin, her father. It was published in an edition of just 500 copies in three volumes, the standard "triple-decker" format for 19th-century first editions.
The second edition of Frankenstein was published on 11 August 1823 in two volumes (by G. and W. B. Whittaker) following the success of the stage play Presumption; or, the Fate of Frankenstein by Richard Brinsley Peake. This edition credited Mary Shelley as the book's author on its title page.
On 31 October 1831, the first "popular" edition in one-volume appeared, published by Henry Colburn & Richard Bentley. This edition was heavily revised by Mary Shelley, partially to make the story less radical. It included a lengthy new preface by the author, presenting a somewhat embellished version of the genesis of the story. This edition is the one most widely published and read now, although a few editions follow the 1818 text. Some scholars prefer the original version, arguing that it preserves the spirit of Mary Shelley's vision (see Anne K. Mellor's "Choosing a Text of Frankenstein to Teach" in the W. W. Norton Critical edition).
In 2008, a new edition of the novel, titled The Original Frankenstein, edited by Charles E. Robinson, was published. Robinson examined the original manuscript by Mary Shelley and noted the edits that Percy Bysshe Shelley made to it.
Part of Frankenstein's rejection of his creation is the fact that he does not give it a name, which causes a lack of identity. Instead it is referred to by words such as "wretch", "monster", "creature", "demon", "devil", "fiend", and "it". When Frankenstein converses with the creature in Chapter 10, he addresses it as "vile insect", "abhorred monster", "fiend", "wretched devil", and "abhorred devil".
Although the creature would be described in later works as a composite of whole body parts grafted together from cadavers and reanimated by the use of electricity, this description is not consistent with Shelley's work; both the use of electricity and the cobbled-together image of Frankenstein's monster were more the result of James Whale's popular 1931 film adaptation of the story, and other early motion-picture works based upon the creature. In Shelley's original work, Dr. Frankenstein discovers a previously unknown but elemental principle of life, and that insight allows him to develop a method to imbue vitality into inanimate matter, though the exact nature of the process is left largely ambiguous. After a great deal of hesitation in exercising this power, Frankenstein spends two years painstakingly constructing the creature's proportionally large body (one anatomical feature at a time, from raw materials supplied by "the dissecting room and the slaughter-house"), which he then brings to life using his unspecified process.
The creature has often been mistakenly called "Frankenstein". In 1908 one author said "It is strange to note how well-nigh universally the term "Frankenstein" is misused, even by intelligent people, as describing some hideous monster". Edith Wharton's The Reef (1916) describes an unruly child as an "infant Frankenstein." David Lindsay's "The Bridal Ornament", published in The Rover, 12 June 1844, mentioned "the maker of poor Frankenstein." After the release of Whale's cinematic Frankenstein, the public at large began speaking of the creature itself as "Frankenstein". This also occurs in Frankenstein films, including Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and several subsequent films, as well as in film titles such as Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Furthermore, the 1939 film Son of Frankenstein introduced an evil laboratory assistant, Ygor (Bela Lugosi), who never existed in the original narrative.
Mary Shelley maintained that she derived the name Frankenstein from a dream-vision. Despite her public claims of originality, however, a number of other sources have been suggested as Shelley's actual inspiration. The German name Frankenstein means "stone of the Franks", and it is associated with various places in Germany, including Frankenstein Castle (Burg Frankenstein) in Darmstadt, Hesse, and Frankenstein Castle in Frankenstein, a town in the Palatinate. There is also a castle called Frankenstein in Bad Salzungen, Thuringia, and a municipality called Frankenstein in Saxony. Until 1945, Ząbkowice Śląskie, now a city in Lower Silesian Voivodeship, Poland, was mainly populated by Germans and named Frankenstein in German, and was the site of a scandal involving gravediggers in 1606, which has been suggested as an inspiration to the author. Finally, the name is borne by the aristocratic House of Franckenstein from Franconia.
Radu Florescu argues that Mary and Percy Shelley visited Frankenstein Castle near Darmstadt in 1814 during their return to England from their elopement to Switzerland. It was at this castle that a notorious alchemist, Conrad Dippel, had experimented with human bodies, and Florescu reasons that Mary suppressed mention of her visit in order to maintain her public claim of originality. A literary essay by A. J. Day supports Florescu's position that Mary Shelley knew of and visited Frankenstein Castle before writing her debut novel. Day includes details of an alleged description of the Frankenstein castle that exists in Mary Shelley's 'lost' journals. According to Jörg Heléne, the 'lost journals', as well as Florescu's claims, cannot be verified.
A possible interpretation of the name Victor is derived from Paradise Lost by John Milton, a great influence on Shelley (a quotation from Paradise Lost is on the opening page of Frankenstein and Shelley even has the monster himself read it). Milton frequently refers to God as "the Victor" in Paradise Lost, and Shelley sees Victor as playing God by creating life. In addition, Shelley's portrayal of the monster owes much to the character of Satan in Paradise Lost; indeed, the monster says, after reading the epic poem, that he empathizes with Satan's role in the story.
There are many similarities between Victor and Percy Shelley, Mary's husband. Victor was a pen name of Percy Shelley's, as in the collection of poetry he wrote with his sister Elizabeth, Original Poetry by Victor and Cazire. There is speculation that one of Mary Shelley's models for Victor Frankenstein was Percy, who at Eton had "experimented with electricity and magnetism as well as with gunpowder and numerous chemical reactions", and whose rooms at Oxford were filled with scientific equipment.
Percy Shelley was the first-born son of a wealthy country squire with strong political connections and a descendant of Sir Bysshe Shelley, 1st Baronet of Castle Goring, and Richard Fitzalan, 10th Earl of Arundel. Victor's family is one of the most distinguished of that republic and his ancestors were counselors and syndics. Percy had a sister named Elizabeth; Victor had an adopted sister named Elizabeth.
On 22 February 1815, Mary Shelley gave birth to a baby two months prematurely, and the baby died two weeks later. Percy did not care about the condition of this premature infant and left with Claire, Mary's stepsister, for a lurid affair. When Victor saw the creature come to life he fled the apartment, though the newborn creature approached him, as a child would a parent. The question of Victor's responsibility to the creature is one of the main themes of the book.
The Modern Prometheus is the novel's subtitle (though some modern editions now drop the subtitle, mentioning it only in an introduction). Prometheus, in later versions of Greek mythology, was the Titan who created mankind at the behest of Zeus. He made a being in the image of the gods that could have a spirit breathed into it. Prometheus taught man to hunt, read, and heal their sick, but after he tricked Zeus into accepting poor-quality offerings from humans, Zeus kept fire from mankind. Prometheus, being the creator, took back the fire from Zeus to give to man. When Zeus discovered this, he sentenced Prometheus to be eternally punished by fixing him to a rock of Caucasus, where each day an eagle would peck out his liver, only for the liver to regrow the next day because of his immortality as a god. He was intended to suffer alone for eternity, but eventually Heracles (Hercules) released him.
Prometheus was also a myth told in Latin, but was a very different story. In this version Prometheus makes man from clay and water, again a very relevant theme to Frankenstein, as Victor rebels against the laws of nature (how life is naturally made) and as a result is punished by his creation.
The Titan in the Greek mythology of Prometheus parallels Victor Frankenstein. Victor's work by creating man by new means reflects the same innovative work of the Titan in creating humans.
Some have argued that Mary Shelley saw Prometheus not as a hero but rather as something of a devil, and blamed him for bringing fire to man and thereby seducing the human race to the vice of eating meat (fire brought cooking which brought hunting and killing).
Byron was particularly attached to the play Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus, and Percy Shelley would soon write his own Prometheus Unbound (1820). The term "Modern Prometheus" was actually coined by Immanuel Kant in reference to Benjamin Franklin and his experiments with electricity.
Shelley incorporated a number of different sources into her work, one of which was the Promethean myth from Ovid. The influence of John Milton's Paradise Lost, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, are also clearly evident within the novel. Mary is likely to have acquired some ideas for Frankenstein's character from Humphry Davy's book Elements of Chemical Philosophy, in which he had written that "science has ... bestowed upon man powers which may be called creative; which have enabled him to change and modify the beings around him ...". References to the French Revolution run through the novel; a possible source may lie in François-Félix Nogaret's Le Miroir des événemens actuels, ou la Belle au plus offrant (1790): a political parable about scientific progress featuring an inventor named Frankésteïn who creates a life-sized automaton.
Percy Bysshe Shelley's 1816 poem "Mutability" is also quoted and its theme of the role of the subconscious is discussed in prose. The Creature also quotes a passage of the poem. His name has never appeared as the author of the poem although other poets are cited by name in the novel, implying that Mary wrote the poem and developed the psychological ideas. Another potential reason is to conceal his contributions to the novel.
Within the past thirty years or so, many writers and historians have attempted to associate several then popular natural philosophers (now called physical scientists) with Shelley's work on account of several notable similarities. Two of the most notable natural philosophers among Shelley's contemporaries were Giovanni Aldini, who made many public attempts at human reanimation through bio-electric Galvanism in London and Johann Konrad Dippel, who was supposed to have developed chemical means to extend the life span of humans. While Shelley was obviously aware of both these men and their activities, she makes no mention of or reference to them or their experiments in any of her published or released notes.
Frankenstein has been both well received and disregarded since its anonymous publication in 1818. Critical reviews of that time demonstrate these two views, along with confused speculation as to the identity of the author. The Belle Assemblée described the novel as "very bold fiction" (139). The Quarterly Review stated that "the author has the power of both conception and language" (185). Sir Walter Scott, writing in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, congratulated "the author's original genius and happy power of expression" (620), although he is less convinced about the way in which the monster gains knowledge about the world and language. The Edinburgh Magazine and Literary Miscellany hoped to see "more productions from this author" (253). On the other hand, the Quarterly Review described it "a tissue of horrible and disgusting absurdity".
In two other reviews where the author is known as the daughter of William Godwin, the criticism of the novel makes reference to the feminine nature of Mary Shelley. The British Critic attacks the novel's flaws as the fault of the author: "The writer of it is, we understand, a female; this is an aggravation of that which is the prevailing fault of the novel; but if our authoress can forget the gentleness of her sex, it is no reason why we should; and we shall therefore dismiss the novel without further comment" (438). The Literary Panorama and National Register attacks the novel as a "feeble imitation of Mr. Godwin's novels" produced by the "daughter of a celebrated living novelist" (414). Despite the reviews, Frankenstein achieved an almost immediate popular success. It became widely known especially through melodramatic theatrical adaptations—Mary Shelley saw a production of Presumption; or The Fate of Frankenstein, a play by Richard Brinsley Peake, in 1823. A French translation appeared as early as 1821 (Frankenstein: ou le Prométhée Moderne, translated by Jules Saladin).
Critical reception of Frankenstein has been largely positive since the mid-20th century. Major critics such as M. A. Goldberg and Harold Bloom have praised the "aesthetic and moral" relevance of the novel, although there are also critics such as Germaine Greer, who criticized the novel as terrible due to technical and narrative defects (such as it featuring three narrators that speak in the same way). In more recent years the novel has become a popular subject for psychoanalytic and feminist criticism: Lawrence Lipking states: "[E]ven the Lacanian subgroup of psychoanalytic criticism, for instance, has produced at least half a dozen discrete readings of the novel". The novel today is generally considered to be a landmark work of romantic and gothic literature, as well as science fiction.
Film director Guillermo del Toro describes Frankenstein as "the quintessential teenage book", adding "You don't belong. You were brought to this world by people that don't care for you and you are thrown into a world of pain and suffering, and tears and hunger. It's an amazing book written by a teenage girl. It's mind-blowing." Professor of philosophy Patricia MacCormack says the creature, brought to life by Victor Frankenstein, addresses the most fundamental human questions: "It's the idea of asking your maker what your purpose is. Why are we here, what can we do?"
There are numerous novels retelling or continuing the story of Frankenstein and his monster.
This day is published, in 3 vols., price 16s. 6d., a Work of Imagination, to be entitled Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.
She began that novel as Mary Godwin in June 1816 when she was eighteen years old, she finished it as Mary Shelley in April/May 1817 when she was nineteen . . . and she published it anonymously on 1 January 1818 when she was twenty.
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is a 1948 American horror comedy film directed by Charles Barton and starring the comedy team of Abbott and Costello.
The picture is the first of several films in which the comedy duo meets classic characters from Universal's horror film stable. In this film, they encounter Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi), Frankenstein's monster (Glenn Strange), and the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr.). Subsequent films pair the duo with the Invisible Man, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and the Mummy. (The comedians interacted with the last of the Universal Studios monsters, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, on live television on the Colgate Comedy Hour in 1954.) This film is considered the swan song for the "Big Three" Universal horror monsters, none of whom had appeared in a Universal film since House of Dracula (1945).
In 2001, the United States Library of Congress deemed this film "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry, and in September 2007, Reader's Digest selected the movie as one of the top 100 funniest films of all time. The film is number 56th on the list of the American Film Institute's "100 Funniest American Movies".Boris Karloff
William Henry Pratt (23 November 1887 – 2 February 1969), better known by his stage name Boris Karloff (), was an English actor who was primarily known for his roles in horror films. He portrayed Frankenstein's monster in Frankenstein (1931), Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Son of Frankenstein (1939). He also appeared as Imhotep in The Mummy (1932).
In non-horror roles, he is best known to modern audiences for narrating and as the voice of Grinch in the animated television special of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966). For his contribution to film and television, Boris Karloff was awarded two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.Bride of Frankenstein
The Bride of Frankenstein is a 1935 American science-fiction horror film, the first sequel to Universal Pictures' 1931 hit Frankenstein. It is considered one of the few sequels to a great film that is even better than the original film on which it is based. As with the first film, Bride of Frankenstein was directed by James Whale and stars Boris Karloff as the Monster. The sequel features Elsa Lanchester in the dual role of Mary Shelley and the Monster's mate at the end of the film. Colin Clive reprises his role as Henry Frankenstein, and Ernest Thesiger plays the role of Doctor Septimus Pretorius.
The movie starts as an immediate sequel to the events that concluded the earlier film, and is rooted in a subplot of the original Mary Shelley novel, Frankenstein (1818). In the film, a chastened Henry Frankenstein abandons his plans to create life, only to be tempted and finally coerced by his old mentor Dr. Pretorius, along with threats from the Monster, into constructing a mate for the Monster.
The preparation to film the sequel began shortly after the premiere of the first film, but script problems delayed the project. Principal photography began in January 1935, with creative personnel from the original returning in front of and behind the camera. Bride of Frankenstein was released to critical and popular acclaim, although it encountered difficulties with some state and national censorship boards. Since its release the film's reputation has grown, and it has been hailed as Whale's masterpiece. In 1998, the film was added to the United States National Film Registry, having been deemed "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant".Frankenstein's Monster (Marvel Comics)
Frankenstein's Monster is a fictional character appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character is based on the character in the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. The character has been adapted often in the comic book medium.Frankenstein's monster
Frankenstein's monster, often erroneously referred to as "Frankenstein", is a fictional character who first appeared in Mary Shelley's 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. Shelley's title thus compares the monster's creator, Victor Frankenstein, to the mythological character Prometheus, who fashioned humans out of clay and gave them fire.
In Shelley's Gothic story, Victor Frankenstein builds the creature in his laboratory through an ambiguous method consisting of chemistry and alchemy. Shelley describes the monster as 8-foot-tall (2.4 m) and hideously ugly, but sensitive and emotional. The monster attempts to fit into human society but is shunned, which leads him to seek revenge against Frankenstein. According to the scholar Joseph Carroll, the monster occupies "a border territory between the characteristics that typically define protagonists and antagonists".Frankenstein's monster became iconic in popular culture, and has been featured in various forms of media, like films, television series, merchandise and video games. His most iconic version is his portrayal by Boris Karloff in the 1931 film Frankenstein.Frankenstein (1931 film)
Frankenstein is a 1931 American pre-Code horror monster film from Universal Pictures. It is about a scientist and his assistant who dig up corpses to build a man animated by electricity. The project goes awry when Dr. Frankenstein's assistant accidentally gives the creature an abnormal, murderer's brain. The film was directed by James Whale, and adapted from the play by Peggy Webling, which in turn was based on Mary Shelley's 1818 novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. The created "monster" is portrayed by Boris Karloff in the film. A hit with both audiences and critics, the film was followed by multiple sequels and has become arguably the most iconic horror film in history.
Frankenstein stars Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, John Boles and Karloff, and features Dwight Frye and Edward van Sloan. The Webling play was adapted by John L. Balderston and the screenplay written by Francis Edward Faragoh and Garrett Fort, with uncredited contributions from Robert Florey and John Russell. The make-up artist was Jack Pierce.
In 1991, the Library of Congress selected Frankenstein for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."Frankenstein (DC Comics)
Frankenstein is a fictional DC Comics character based on the Frankenstein's monster character created by Mary Shelley.Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is a 1943 American horror film produced by Universal Studios starring Lon Chaney, Jr. as the Wolf Man and Bela Lugosi as Frankenstein's monster. This was the first of a series of "ensemble" monster films combining characters from several film series. This film, therefore, is both the fifth in the series of films based upon Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, directly after The Ghost of Frankenstein, and a sequel to The Wolf Man.Hammer Film Productions
Hammer Film Productions is a British film production company based in London. Founded in 1934, the company is best known for a series of gothic horror films made from the mid-1950s until the 1970s. Many of these involved classic horror characters such as Baron Frankenstein, Count Dracula, and The Mummy, which Hammer re-introduced to audiences by filming them in vivid colour for the first time. Hammer also produced science fiction, thrillers, film noir and comedies, as well as, in later years, television series. During their most successful years, Hammer dominated the horror film market, enjoying worldwide distribution and considerable financial success. This success was due, in part, to their partnerships with major United States studios, such as Columbia Pictures and Warner Bros.
During the late 1960s and 1970s the saturation of the horror film market by competitors and the loss of American funding forced changes to the previously lucrative Hammer formula, with varying degrees of success. The company eventually ceased production in the mid-1980s. In 2000, the studio was bought by a consortium including advertising executive and art collector Charles Saatchi and publishing millionaires Neil Mendoza and William Sieghart. The company announced plans to begin making films again after this, but none were produced.
In May 2007, the company was sold again, this time to a consortium headed by Dutch media tycoon John de Mol, who announced plans to spend some $50m (£25m) on new horror films. The new owners also acquired the Hammer group's film library, consisting of 295 pictures. Simon Oakes, who took over as CEO of Hammer, said: "Hammer is a great British brand — we intend to take it back into production and develop its global potential. The brand is still alive but no one has invested in it for a long time". Since then it has produced several films, including Let Me In (2010), The Resident (2011), The Woman in Black (2012) and The Quiet Ones (2014).Mary Shelley
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (née Godwin; 30 August 1797 – 1 February 1851) was an English novelist, short story writer, dramatist, essayist, biographer, and travel writer, best known for her Gothic novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818). She also edited and promoted the works of her husband, the Romantic poet and philosopher Percy Bysshe Shelley. Her father was the political philosopher William Godwin, and her mother was the philosopher and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft.
After Wollstonecraft's death less than a month after her daughter Mary was born, Mary was raised by Godwin, who was able to provide his daughter with a rich, if informal, education, encouraging her to adhere to his own anarchist political theories. When Mary was four, her father married a neighbour, with whom, as her stepmother, Mary came to have a troubled relationship.In 1814, Mary began a romance with one of her father's political followers, Percy Bysshe Shelley, who was already married. Together with Mary's stepsister Claire Clairmont, Mary and Shelley left for France and travelled through Europe. Upon their return to England, Mary was pregnant with Percy's child. Over the next two years, she and Percy faced ostracism, constant debt, and the death of their prematurely born daughter. They married in late 1816, after the suicide of Percy Shelley's first wife, Harriet.
In 1816, the couple famously spent a summer with Lord Byron, John William Polidori, and Claire Clairmont near Geneva, Switzerland, where Mary conceived the idea for her novel Frankenstein. The Shelleys left Britain in 1818 for Italy, where their second and third children died before Mary Shelley gave birth to her last and only surviving child, Percy Florence Shelley. In 1822, her husband drowned when his sailing boat sank during a storm near Viareggio. A year later, Mary Shelley returned to England and from then on devoted herself to the upbringing of her son and a career as a professional author. The last decade of her life was dogged by illness, most likely caused by the brain tumour which killed her at age 53.
Until the 1970s, Mary Shelley was known mainly for her efforts to publish her husband's works and for her novel Frankenstein, which remains widely read and has inspired many theatrical and film adaptations. Recent scholarship has yielded a more comprehensive view of Mary Shelley’s achievements. Scholars have shown increasing interest in her literary output, particularly in her novels, which include the historical novels Valperga (1823) and Perkin Warbeck (1830), the apocalyptic novel The Last Man (1826), and her final two novels, Lodore (1835) and Falkner (1837). Studies of her lesser-known works, such as the travel book Rambles in Germany and Italy (1844) and the biographical articles for Dionysius Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopaedia (1829–46), support the growing view that Mary Shelley remained a political radical throughout her life. Mary Shelley's works often argue that cooperation and sympathy, particularly as practised by women in the family, were the ways to reform civil society. This view was a direct challenge to the individualistic Romantic ethos promoted by Percy Shelley and the Enlightenment political theories articulated by her father, William Godwin.Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (film)
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is a 1994 horror drama film directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Robert De Niro, Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hulce, Helena Bonham Carter, Ian Holm, John Cleese, and Aidan Quinn. The film was produced on a budget of $45 million and is considered the most faithful film adaptation of Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein, despite several differences and additions in plot from the novel.Son of Frankenstein
Son of Frankenstein is a 1939 horror film directed by Rowland V. Lee, and is the third entry in Universal Studios' Frankenstein series and the last to feature Boris Karloff as the Monster. It is also the first to feature Bela Lugosi as Ygor. The film is the sequel to James Whale's Bride of Frankenstein, and stars top-billed Basil Rathbone, Karloff, Lugosi and Lionel Atwill.
The film was a reaction to the popular re-releases of Dracula with Lugosi and Frankenstein with Karloff as a double-feature in 1938. Universal's declining horror output was revitalized with the enormously successful Son of Frankenstein, in which the studio cast both stars.The Curse of Frankenstein
The Curse of Frankenstein is a 1957 British horror film by Hammer Film Productions, loosely based on the novel Frankenstein (1818) by Mary Shelley. It was Hammer's first colour horror film, and the first of their Frankenstein series. Its worldwide success led to several sequels, and the studio's new versions of Dracula (1958) and The Mummy (1959), and established "Hammer Horror" as a distinctive brand of Gothic cinema.The film was directed by Terence Fisher and stars Peter Cushing as Victor Frankenstein and Christopher Lee as the Creature, with Hazel Court and Robert Urquhart. Professor Patricia MacCormac called it the "first really gory horror film, showing blood and guts in colour."The Ghost of Frankenstein
The Ghost of Frankenstein is a 1942 American horror film, and the fourth in a series of films produced by Universal Studios based upon characters in Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein. The film features Lon Chaney Jr. as the Monster, taking over from Boris Karloff, who played the role in the first three films of the series, and Bela Lugosi in his second and final appearance as the demented Ygor. The supporting cast features Lionel Atwill, Cedric Hardwicke, Ralph Bellamy and Evelyn Ankers.The House of Frankenstein (film)
House of Frankenstein is a 1944 American monster crossover horror film starring Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr., directed by Erle C. Kenton, written by Curt Siodmak, and produced by Universal Studios as a sequel to Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and Son of Dracula the previous year. The cast includes a mad scientist (Karloff), the Wolf Man (Chaney), Count Dracula (John Carradine), a hunchback (J. Carrol Naish), and Frankenstein's monster (Glenn Strange). This "monster rally" approach would continue in the following film, House of Dracula, as well as the 1948 comedy Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.Universal Classic Monsters
Universal Classic Monsters is a phrase used to describe the horror, fantasy, suspense and science fiction films made by Universal Pictures during the decades of the 1920s through the 1950s. They began with The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera, both silent films starring Lon Chaney. Universal continued with talkies including monster franchises Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Wolf Man and Creature from the Black Lagoon. The films often featured Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr.Victor Frankenstein
Victor Frankenstein is the main character in Mary Shelley's 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. He is an Italian-Swiss scientist who, after studying chemical processes and the decay of living beings, gains an insight into the creation of life and gives life to his own creature, often referred to as Frankenstein's monster, or often colloquially referred to as simply "Frankenstein". Victor later regrets meddling with nature through his creation, as he inadvertently endangers his own life, as well as the lives of his family and friends, when the creature seeks revenge against him. Some aspects of the character are believed to have been inspired by 17th century alchemist Johann Conrad Dippel.Victor Frankenstein (film)
Victor Frankenstein is a 2015 American science fantasy horror film based on contemporary adaptations of Mary Shelley's 1818 novel Frankenstein. It is directed by Paul McGuigan and written by Max Landis, and stars James McAvoy as Victor Frankenstein and Daniel Radcliffe as Igor. The film was released by 20th Century Fox on November 25, 2015.
Told from Igor's perspective, it shows the troubled young assistant's dark origins and his redemptive friendship with the young medical student, Victor Frankenstein. Through Igor's eyes, the audience witnesses the emergence of Frankenstein as the man from the legend we know today. Eventually, their experiments get them into trouble with the authorities, and Dr. Frankenstein and Igor become fugitives as they complete their goals to use science as a way to create life from death. The film received generally negative reviews and became a box office bomb, grossing $34.2 million against a budget of $40 million.Young Frankenstein
Young Frankenstein is a 1974 American comedy horror film directed by Mel Brooks and starring Gene Wilder as the title character, a descendant of the infamous Dr. Victor Frankenstein, and Peter Boyle as the monster. The supporting cast includes Teri Garr, Cloris Leachman, Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Kenneth Mars, Richard Haydn, and Gene Hackman. The screenplay was written by Wilder and Brooks.The film is a parody of the classic horror film genre, in particular the various film adaptations of Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein produced by Universal Pictures in the 1930s. Much of the lab equipment used as props was created by Kenneth Strickfaden for the 1931 film Frankenstein. To help evoke the atmosphere of the earlier films, Brooks shot the picture entirely in black and white, a rarity in the 1970s, and employed 1930s' style opening credits and scene transitions such as iris outs, wipes, and fades to black. The film also features a period score by Brooks' longtime composer John Morris.
A critical favorite and box office smash, Young Frankenstein ranks No. 28 on Total Film magazine's readers' "List of the 50 Greatest Comedy Films of All Time", No. 56 on Bravo TV's list of the "100 Funniest Movies", and No. 13 on the American Film Institute's list of the 100 funniest American movies. In 2003, it was deemed "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" by the United States National Film Preservation Board, and selected for preservation in the Library of Congress National Film Registry. It was later adapted by Brooks and Thomas Meehan as a stage musical.
On its 40th anniversary, Brooks considered it by far his finest (although not his funniest) film as a writer-director.