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Frankenstein. Introduction; Letters and Chaps 1 and 2 Narrative Frames and Family Relations . Outline. Introduction: Frankenstein -- Background and Major Themes The Letters Chaps 1 and 2 Notes References. Background. Mary Shelley –

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Letters and Chaps 1 and 2

Narrative Frames and Family Relations

  • Introduction: Frankenstein -- Background and Major Themes
  • The Letters
  • Chaps 1 and 2
  • Notes
  • References
  • Mary Shelley –
    • Her mother (Mary Wollstonecraft) dies of miscarriage; her own experience of child birth and infant death
    • The novel comes out of Byron’s suggestion of a ghost story contest (pp. 8-9)
background a period of revolutionary fervor and scientific invention
Background: A Period of Revolutionary Fervor and Scientific Invention
  • Contemporary Science: Invention and the Origin of Species
    • Dr. Erasmus Darwin: (grandfather of Charles Darwin); invents a speaking machine and a horizontal windmill, etc.
    • the generation of life: (1) life evolved from a single common ancestor“ (2) animation (text p.9)
  • French Revolution
    • (Monster= revolution) Beautiful, energetic and also destructive
    • Ingolstadt – considered the origin of French Revolution
major themes
Major Themes
  • Scientific Invention and its Possible Problems—or Scientist as God; Relations between Creator and Creature (Father and Son, or Double? "unwanted pregnancy")
  • Romantic Hero: solitary and idealistic over-reacher, finding solace in nature, seeking to explore and transcend human boundaries (like Dr. Faust) (Three types: Promethean hero, Byronic hero, Gothic hero-villain source; see p. vi for meanings of Prometheus.)
  • Definition of Humanity (appearance vs. nobility of the mind); Responsibility and Guilt
  • The Roles of Women and Nature
  • The novel as a "Female Gothic“: Shelley "brought birth to fiction not as realism but as gothic fantasy, and thus contributed to Romanticism a myth of genuine originality." (E. Mooer)
letters and chaps 1 2
Letters and Chaps 1 & 2
  • Major Issue (1):
  • Frame Narratives: Walton // Frankenstein
    • What does Robert Walton desire and want?
    • How is he similar to but different from Frankenstein in his pursuit?
robert walton and his letters
Robert Walton and his Letters

Walton –

  • His desire for exploring the Pole (pp. 15-17) and his want (19) and understanding of his lieutenant (pp. 20-21).
  • Writes to his sister as much as possible (at every stop: St. Petersburg, Archangel, and then at North Pole) (e.g. 22)
  • Brings Frankenstein back to life: "'[You] have benevolently restored me to life'" (25-27)
walton s desire for the unknown geographical boundaries
Walton’s Desire for the Unknown Geographical Boundaries
  • Inspired by poets and his reading: 16-17, 21
  • “I shall satiate my ardent curiosity with the sight of a part of the world never before visited, and may tread a land never before imprinted by the foot of man.”(16)
  • Desires for glory and the marvelous (21-22), conquering nature
walton frankenstein
Walton Frankenstein
  • First saw the monster p. 24
  • Frankenstein –
    • wretched, fatigued and suffering.

“restored him to animation by rubbing him with brandy… From this time a new spirit of life animated the decaying frame of the stranger.”

    • Walton: p. 25 interested in F as a “creature” (wildness and madness + benevolence and melancholy)
    • P. 27 “I begin to love him as a brother, and his
    • constant and deep grief fills me with sympathy and compassion.”
    • On friendship 28; Honoring F’s double existence 29
walton and frankenstein
Walton and Frankenstein
  • Is Walton a double of Frankenstein? A better version? Or a less heroic one?
chaps 1 2
Chaps 1 & 2
  • Major Issue (2):
  • Friendship and Family Relations (among Parents and Children, and Siblings)
    • F’s Father (Alphonse) and Beaufault: Father’s trying to help
    • Father and his attachment to Catherine Beaufort pp. 32-33
    • F’s childhood in Geneva. 33-34 – heavenly bliss
    • Elizabeth 34– angelic, a present for Victor
    • Chap 2: the contrast among Elizabeth, Henry Clerval and F.pp. 36-37, 38
  • F’s Pursuit of knowledge
friendship and family relations
Friendship and Family Relations
  • F. born to parents who are humanitarian and loyal to their friends  nobility of the mind and his childhood education (33, )
  • Parallel between Catherine and Elizabeth (later)
  • Elizabeth: natural beauty and goodness (pp. 36, 38)
  • The contrast between Clerval and F: that of Romantic poet and scientist (37)
  • All of these serving as a foil to the tragedies about to happen.
f s pursuit of knowledge
F’s Pursuit of Knowledge

The course of his interest as that of fate:

“for the birth of thatpassion which afterwards ruled my destiny I find it arise, like a mountain river, from ignoble and almost forgotten sources; but,swelling as it proceeded, it became the torrent which, in its course, has swept away all my hopes and joys.” (38)

  • Natural Philosophy: “the genius that has regulated [his] fate” (38)
  • (pp. 39) The contrast between occultism and alchemy (represented by Cornelius Agrippa,Albertus Magnus, and Paracelsus) on the one hand, and modern science (represented by mathematics and the study of electricity)
  • (p. 41) a brief turn to modern science  defeated by “Destiny” (“Destiny was too potent, and her immutable laws had decreed my utter and terrible destruction.” 42)
note 2 ingolstadt germany
Note (2): Ingolstadt, Germany
  • Where Frankenstein studies;the birthplace of the Illuminati, a secret society that introduced revolutionary ideas believed by many to have helped foment the revolution in France.
  • Reading: