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Frankenstein. Modern Prometheus. Setting the Scene (pp. 650-651). Creating a Legend Mary Shelley wasn’t the first to imagine creating a living being out of something dead. Prometheus – a Titan (Greek mythology) who created men out of clay.

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Modern Prometheus

setting the scene pp 650 651
Setting the Scene (pp. 650-651)
  • Creating a Legend
    • Mary Shelley wasn’t the first to imagine creating a living being out of something dead.
      • Prometheus – a Titan (Greek mythology) who created men out of clay.
      • Jewish myth – a learned rabbi creates a creature to protect the Jewish people.
          • Various cultures interest in creating robots.
  • Promethesus was the Titan god of forethought and crafty counsel who was entrusted with the task of molding mankind out of clay.
  • His attempts to better

the lives of his creation

brought him into

direct conflict with Zeus

science explained
Science Explained
  • Mary Shelley was the first to incorporate science as the explanation for “re-animation / creation”
  • 18th century was a time of enormous scientific discovery
    • Isaac Newton – father of modern physics; laws of motion
    • Antoine Lavoisier – great chemist’
    • Benjamin Franklin – inventor
    • “The New Science” – deriving universal meaning by which humans understand the natural world through the use of scientific method.
part of the natural world
Part of the Natural World
  • Writing and Science were converging and aligning – Art and Science merged.
    • Percy Shelley – passionate about science
    • John Keats – studied as a doctor
    • Charles Darwin’s father, Erasmus, was a doctor, botanist, inventor, and poet.
    • Romantic Poets (Byron, Shelley, Keats, etc..) best displayed this fascination with understanding the natural world.
part of the natural world6
Part of the Natural World
  • Mary Shelley’s novel might suggest that MAN should not use science to “mess” with the natural order/world. We should use science to understand it.
    • She dreams the idea re-animating her child by “warming it by the fire”
  • Frankenstein in modern stories (and modern issues)
    • Blade Runner, RoboCop, Terminator, Edward Scissor Hands
    • Cloning
    • Stem cell research
    • Donation of body parts and organs
the romantic age in british prose mary shelley p 661 690 691
The Romantic Age in British Prose – Mary Shelley (p. 661, 690-691)
  • A genre of fiction characterized by mystery and supernatural horror, often set in a dark castle or other medieval setting
    • Gothic Novel
      • brave heroes
      • threatening bad guys
      • vast eerie castles
      • Ghosts
      • Gloomy, eerie settings
      • evokes terror through the depiction of physical and, more often, psychological violence
      • fascination with mystery and supernatural
        • this ties in nicely with the Romantic Age
      • Frankenstein is a perfect example.
the gothic novel frankenstein
The Gothic Novel - Frankenstein
  • Mary writes Frankenstein on a dare / challenge.
    • Rainy summer vacation day in Switzerland – who can write the scariest tale: challenge by Lord Byron
    • Took her a while to think of something, but “saw” the story while laying in bed
    • In 1818, after its first publication, it is praised by famous novelist, Sir Walter Scott.
      • “uncommon powers of poetic imagination”
literary and political legacy
Literary and Political legacy
  • Writing was in Mary Shelley’s blood
  • Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (who died at Mary’s birth), wrote one of the first feminist books ever published, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792).
  • Her father, William Godwin, was a leading reformer, author, and political philosopher who attracted a following of gifted thinkers and disciples.
  • As a child, Mary Shelley knew some of the most famous writers of the day, including the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the essayist Charles Lamb.
exile from her father s house
Exile From Her Father’s House
  • Four years after his wife’s death, Godwin married a widow, Mary Jane Clairmont, whom his daughter grew to resent bitterly.
    • Although Mary Shelley adored her father, it was agreed that to ease the situation in the tense household, the girl, now fourteen, would go to live in Dundee, Scotland, in the home of William Baxter, her father’s friend.
    • After two years in Scotland, she returned to her father’s home in London.
love and loss
Love and Loss
  • Upon her return, Mary Shelley (then still named Godwin) met her future husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley (currently married).
  • Shelley was a radical young poet who had become William Godwin’s admirer after reading his book Political Justice.
  • Mary Godwin, only sixteen, fell in love with her father’s follower.
  • The two ran away together to the continent and later married.
  • Eventually, the couple settled in Italy, where they lived blissfully for an all-too-short time. (Their great friend, Lord Byron, also lived in Italy at the time.)
  • Within a few years, the Shelleys suffered the death of two of their children.
  • Then, tragedy struck again. In 1822, only eight years after Mary Shelley had first met him, Percy Shelley drowned, leaving the twenty-four-year-old Mary and their two-year old son penniless.
a career of her own
A Career of Her Own

After Percy’s death, Mary returned to England, where she continued writing to support herself and her son.

  • She produced other novels, including:
    • Valperga (1823) and
    • The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck (1830), which are historical works;
    • The Last Man (1826), a tale of a great plague that destroys the human race;
      • The Last Man is believed by many to be her best work, although she is usually remembered for Frankenstein.
    • the autobiographical Lodore (1835); and
    • Falkner (1837), a mystery tale.
a lasting legacy
A Lasting Legacy
  • At the age of forty-eight, Mary Shelley became an invalid. She died six years later of a brain tumor.
  • It is ironic that Shelley, author of a work warning of the dangers of technology, died in the opening year of The Great Exhibition, a fair celebrating technological progress.
  • In Frankenstein,

Shelley dramatically

questioned the cost of

technology to the human

soul—a theme writers

continue to explore today.

embryonic stem cell research
Embryonic Stem Cell Research
  • Stem cells have the potential to develop into many different cell types in the body during early life and growth. In addition, in many tissues they serve as a sort of internal repair system, dividing essentially without limit to replenish other cells as long as the person or animal is still alive.
  • Embryonic stem cells, as their name suggests, are derived from embryos. Most embryonic stem cells are derived from embryos that develop from eggs that have been fertilized in vitro—in an in vitro fertilization clinic—and then donated for research purposes with informed consent of the donors.
  • Potential cures for spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, hundreds of rare immune system and genetic disorders and much more

“Destroying a life to safe a life”

Are we pushing it?

human cloning
If the vital organs of the human body can be cloned, they can serve as backup systems for human beings.

solution to infertility

reproduce a certain trait in human beings

hampers the diversity in genes

weaken our ability of adaptation

deliberate reproduction of undesirable traits

Are humans saying they have the ability to create?

Who decides what is a desirable trait?

Human Cloning
historical context of frankenstein
Historical Context of Frankenstein
  • Ambiguous Walton’s letters dated “17-” with no reference to anything specific to pinpoint the date.
  • It is set in the latter part of the 18th century, at the end of the Enlightenment and the beginning of the Romantic period.
  • It critiques the excesses of the Enlightenment and introduces the beliefs of the Romantics.
  • Reflects a shift in social and political thought – from humans as creatures who use science and reason to shape and control their destiny to humans as creatures who rely on their emotions to determine what is right.
the age of enlightenment belief in the power of human reasoning
18th Century

Science: concentration on logic

Everything was based on logic, reason, and rationality

Didactic – constant search for truth, answers. Always studying

Focus on the practicality and utility

Masculine: emphasis on the intellect

Everything, including human relationships, was ‘studied’ through a scientific approach

Favored a social hierarchy

Nature should be controlled by humans

The Age of Enlightenment: belief in the power of human reasoning
important revolutions
Important Revolutions
  • American and French Revolution (call for individual freedom and an overthrow of rigid social hierarchy)
  • Industrial Revolution – social system challenged by change from agricultural society to industrial one with a large, impoverished and restless working class
romantic movement a reaction to the enlightenment
Based on imagination and intuition

Creativity: new form of expression

Saw nature as unspoiled

Focus on creativity and self-expression

Emphasis on emotion, rather than reason and intellect

Feminine: emotion, creativity, etc.

Spontaneity and individuality

Focus on nature and the supernatural /inner dream world that is thought to be more picturesque and magical than the current world (industrial age)

Romantic Movement: a reaction to the Enlightenment

Creative expressions of literature and the arts

characteristics of romantic period
Characteristics of Romantic Period
  • Belief in individual liberty; rebellious attitude against tyranny
  • Fascination with nature; perception of nature as transformative
  • Concerned with common people
  • Favored democracy
  • Desired radical change
  • Nature should be untamed
style gothic novel
Style: Gothic Novel
  • Frankenstein is generally categorized as a Gothic novel, a genre of fiction that uses gloomy settings and supernatural events to create and atmosphere of mystery and terror.
  • Shelley adds to her development of the plot the use of psychological realism, delving into the psyches of the characters in and attempt to explain why they react as they do and what drives them to make their decisions.
structure and point of view

Robert Walton’s letters

Frankenstein's story to Walton

Creature's story

to Frankenstein

Structure and Point of View

Frame Story

Epistolary – carried by letters

major characters
Major Characters
  • Victor Frankenstein – protagonist, product of an idealistic Enlightenment education; fueled by possibilities of science and a desire for acclaim; becomes obsessed with creating life from spare body parts. Rational demeanor dissolves and by story’s end, consumed by primitive emotions of fear and hatred.
major characters24
Major Characters
  • The Creature - never named; is Victor’s doppelganger (alter ego); Creature rationally analyzes the society that rejects him; sympathetic character, admires people and wants to be a part of human society; only results in violence when he is repeatedly rejected
major characters25
Major Characters
  • Henry Clerval – Victor’s childhood friend; true romantic, wants to leave mark on the world, but never loses sight of “the moral relations of things:
  • Elizabeth – adopted as an infant by Victor’s family; marries Victor
  • Robert Walton – Arctic explorer who’s obsessed with gaining knowledge and fame; rescues Victor in the Arctic; tells the story
  • Consequences of irresponsibility in the pursuit of knowledge
  • Consequences of pride
  • Consequences of society’s rejection of someone who is unattractive
  • Destructive power of revenge
  • Parent-child conflicts
  • Sympathy
other literary elements
Other Literary Elements
  • Irony – 2 major ironies
    • Creature is more sympathetic, more imaginative and more responsible to fellow creatures
    • Creature has many pleasing qualities but is an outcast because he’s not physically attractive
  • White/light= knowledge
  • Water = knowledge
  • Ice = danger
  • Lightning = nature’s power
  • Nature = acceptance, nurturing, calm
  • Mountains= sublime in nature
antithesis contrasts of ideas characters themes settings or moods










Antithesis-Contrasts of ideas, characters, themes, settings or moods
  • Paradise Lost by John Milton – story of man’s fall from innocence to painful knowledge; Victor can be compared to Adam, Satan, and Eve
  • The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, like narrator, tells story as a warning and a confession