There are at least eight main themes that Shelley presents in Frankenstein, and these themes include but are not limited to: beauty, revenge, pursuit of knowledge, ambition, science, conflict with parent and child, friendship, and nature. 1.You will each be assigned a theme to ponder and write about. Begin by free writing/brainstorming for three minutes. Start with “Revenge is…” and go from there. Write down anything that comes to mind; words, phrases, thoughts about your theme. Then reflect on your personal experiences with the topic, telling a story of your personal encounter with the theme. Finally, decide if the theme/idea is good, bad, or a combination of both, and explain why you judge it as so. Be prepared to discuss your thoughts with the class.
2. You will get into groups of 3 or 4with all of your classmates who have been assigned the same theme. Your job is to come to a consensus about whether the theme is good, bad, or a combination of both. Use examples to defend your group’s opinion. You will then present your findings to the class.
The Author: Mary Shelley’s fame as a writer rests on a
explained in the introduction how an eighteenyear-
old came to write the unusual novel.
After Percy’s death in 1822 in a boating
accident, Mary Shelley returned to England and
supported herself, her son, and her father with
her writings. She wrote four novels, including
The Last Man (1826), a futuristic story about the
destruction of the human race. She also wrote short stories, essays, and travelogues. To preserve her husband’s literary legacy, she collected and annotated Percy Shelley’s poems for publication. She died in 1851.
armor. In literature the term applies to works with
a brooding atmosphere that emphasize the unknown and inspire fear. Gothic novels typically feature wild and remote settings, such as haunted castles or wind-blasted moors, and their plots involve violent or mysterious events.
While the atmosphere of Shelley’s Frankenstein
is nightmarish, the novel is much more than a
horror story. Shelley’s central characters—a
young student of science and the man-like being
he creates—are both morally complex. Through
their conflict, Shelley poses profound questions
about science and society and about the positive
and destructive sides of human nature. These
questions struck a chord with Shelley’s readers in
faith in the power of science to improve human life. Today, in a world where scientific advances such as cloning and genetic engineering seem to be redefining life itself, her questions are no less relevant.
The Time and Place: The novel takes place in the late 1700s in
various parts of Europe, especially Switzerland
and Germany, and in the Arctic. Frankenstein
was published in 1818 in England at the height
of the Romantic movement. This movement in
art and literature was based in part on the feeling
of optimism about human possibilities that pervaded
Western culture after the American and French revolutions. In England the post-revolutionary period was also a time of economic suffering and social disorder as the new industrialism transformed English
society. Shelley’s readers lived in hopeful, but also
disturbingly turbulent, times. The Romantic movement, which lastedfrom about 1798 to 1832, pulled away from the period known as the Enlightenment, which emphasized reason and logic. English writers of the Romantic period believed in the importance of the individual. They valued subjectivity, imagination, and the expression of emotions over rational thought. The typical Romantic hero, found especially in the poetry of Lord Byron and Percy Shelley, is passionate, uninhibited, and unconventional. Often the hero is an
artist who is a social rebel or a melancholy outcast from society.
The Romantic poets, including William
Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, and Percy Shelley, transport their readers to the private worlds of the poets’ imaginations. Often, they isolate themselves in nature and celebrate its beauty or its elemental rawness.They were also attracted to stories and settings from the past. Percy Shelley, for example,
labeled “romantic fiction” by an early reviewer. It
is a powerful work of imagination that uses exotic
natural settings and emphasizes the emotions of
fear and awe. Many scholars also see her novel as
a critique of Romantic ideals. The “modern
Prometheus” she holds up for readers’ evaluation,
Dr. Frankenstein, is an ambiguous character who
may or may not be worthy of our admiration.
Science: In the early 1800s, scientists were on the verge
of discovering the potential of electricity. At this
time, scientists knew about the existence of static electricity as well as electricity produced by lightning. But they were just beginning to discover that electricity could be produced by a chemical reaction.
In the 1780s, Luigi Galvani, a professor of anatomy in Bologna, Italy, conducted experiments on animal tissue using a machine that could produce electrical sparks. He concluded that animal tissue contained electricity in the form of a fluid. Galvani’s theory of “animal electricity”
was shown to be incorrect, but he had proven that muscles contracted in response to an electrical stimulus. His research opened the way to new discoveries about the operation of nerves and muscles and showed that electrical forces exist in living tissue. In the novel,
Frankenstein learns about the controversial theory of “galvanism” as part of his scientific training at a university in Germany. Today, galvanism refers to a direct current of electricity produced by a chemical reaction.