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Frankenstein Or the Modern Prometheus

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1 Frankenstein Or the Modern Prometheus
Mary Shelley

2 Ignore the Movies!!! Before we begin, one important detail MUST be addressed: Frankenstein is the name of the scientist who creates the monster, not the monster himself. In other words, this is NOT Frankenstein:

3 Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was born on August 30, 1817 and was the daughter of two of England’s leading intellectual radical thinkers: Her father, William Godwin, was an influential political philosopher and novelist Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, the author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, was a pioneer in promoting women’s rights and education Her future husband, the admired poet, Percy Shelley, was one of her father’s frequent visitors. When she was sixteen, she and Percy eloped to France She gave birth to four children in five years; three of whom died as infants Percy died eight years later in a boating accident

4 The “Birth” of Frankenstein
When Shelley was nine years old, she hid under a sofa to hear Samuel Taylor Coleridge recite his poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, which later influenced her as she developed her ideas for Frankenstein. Due to the loss of her children, many critics have pointed out that thoughts of birth and death were much on Shelley’s mind at the time she wrote Frankenstein in the summer of 1816. Mary and Percy Shelley were living near the poet Lord Byron (Byronic Hero!) During a period of period of incessant rain, they were reading ghost stories to each other when Byron proposed that they each try to write one. For days, Mary Shelley could not think of an idea. Then, while she was listening to Lord Byron and Percy discuss the probability of using electricity to create life artificially, an idea began to grow in her mind. The next day, she started work on Frankenstein. A year later, she had completed her novel. It was published in 1818, when Shelley was nineteen years old.

5 The Gothic Novel Frankenstein is generally categorized as a Gothic novel, a genre of fiction what uses gloomy settings and supernatural events to create an atmosphere of mystery and terror. Shelley adds psychological realism to her development of the plot, delving into the psyches of the characters in an attempt their actions and motives. Elements of a Gothic novel: General tone is dark, brooding, mysterious, suspenseful Presence of insanity, mysterious, but handsome hero Physical and psychological imprisonment Presence of the supernatural

6 Prometheus The full name of Mary Shelley’s novel is Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus. In Greek Mythology, Prometheus is the trickster who is credited with the creation of man from clay. Prometheus defies the gods by stealing fire from Mount Olympus and giving it to man. He is punished by Zeus and chained to a rock on a mountain Everyday for thirty years, Zeus’ eagle would eat his liver.

7 The Romantic Movement The Romantic Movement was an era in literature where nature rather than civilization is emphasized and celebrated. Despite its name, it has nothing to do with physical attraction toward another person. Components of Romantic Literature: Argued for the rights of the individual over the demands of society Believed that all humans are inherently good Valued imagination over reason Inspired (greatly) by nature The Romantic Quest: A journey to find one’s self through nature, isolation and meditation Natural science should leave to discovery Could be a physical journey or a mental, psychological or spiritual one

8 The Epistolary Novel and Frame Story
The prologue in Frankenstein is an epistolary story, a story told by means of a series of letters. The purpose of an epistolary novel is to suspend disbelief and to enhance suspense Frame Story: Frankenstein is partly a frame story, which is a story within a story where the main narrative is presented. The “outer story” sets the stage for a more emphasized second narrative. Both the introduction and conclusion are told from the point of view of the narrator in first person. The only rule of the frame story that Frankenstein violates is that the narrator in the “outer story” must be nameless.

9 Themes in Frankenstein
As we read through the novel, keep a close look out for the following themes: Consequences of irresponsible behavior in the pursuit of knowledge (in modern times, this would be called “bio-ethics”) Consequences of pride and arrogance Consequences of society’s rejection of someone who is unattractive or goes against the norm Destructive power of revenge Parent-child conflicts Sympathy

10 Victor and the Creature
Victor Frankenstein is the protagonist of the novel. He is the product of an Enlightenment education. He is driven both by the possibilities of science and a desire for fame. He becomes obsessed with creating life from spare body parts. The Creature is Victor’s alter ego. He rationally analyzes the society that rejects him. He is a sympathetic character who admires people and wants desperately to be a part of human society. He only results in violence when he is repeatedly rejected.

11 Henry, Elizabeth and Robert
Henry Clerval is Victor’s childhood friend. He is a true Romantic who wants to leave his mark on the world, but (unlike Victor) never loses sight of “the moral relations of things” Elizabeth is adopted as an infant by the Frankenstein family; grows up with Victor Robert Walton is an Arctic explorer who is obsessed with gaining knowledge and fame; he rescues Victor in the Arctic and tells the story to the reader

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