Originally published 1818
En route to the North Pole, explorer
Robert Walton picks up the dying scientist
Victor Frankenstein who relates to Walton the
story of how his studies led him to create a
monster out of dead matter. Frankenstein is
repulsed by the Monster, who escapes only to be
outcast by society.
Vowing vengeance on his creator, the
Monster kills Frankenstein's younger brother and
frames an innocent for the crime. The Monster
then encounters Frankenstein, recounts his life
since his escape, and demands that Frankenstein
create a mate. When Frankenstein refuses, the
Monster goes on a rampage of revenge.
Frankenstein vows vengeance and
pursues the Monster to the Arctic where he
relates his story to Walton, then dies. The
Monster reappears for a last word with Walton
before he disappears on the ice.
In the summer of
1816, Percy Bysshe
Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin were
guests of Lord Byron in Geneva. At a reading of
ghost stories Polidari,
Byron's physician, suggested that everyone write
a horror story.
Shelley soon discarded their attempts. Polidari completed a
rambling account called The
Vampire. Mary wrote the most
famous horror story in the English language; she
was 18 years old.
- 1818--first edition, published
- 1823--unaltered second edition
- 1831--revised edition with Mary
Shelley's name; reprints in 1839 and 1849
Six more editions were published in
England between 1851 (the year of Mary Shelley's
death) and the present.
There have been at least 7 U.S.
editions; the novel has also been translated
into many European and Oriental languages
Frankenstein was the first novel
in English to deal with the possibility that
science will create a monster that can destroy
science and possibly mankind.
did not wish the story to be considered
"supernatural" (Preface). She made the main
character a scientist and his scientific efforts
a focal point of the reader's attention.
In mood the
novel is a tale of terror, in plot a laboratory
experiment gone awry.The fusion of Gothic
materials and science in this novel brought the
tale of terror clearly into the stream of
science fiction and also gave it a more credible
not the first science fiction novel, Frankenstein
is at least the first novel that showed what a
science fiction novel would be (James Gunn).
The novel is
constructed of three concentric layers, one within
Walton's letters to his sister;
story as he tells it to Walton;
description to Frankenstein of the development
of his mind at the deLaceys'.
The novel is
Modern Prometheus. Prometheus was the son
of a Titan; the name means "forethought." In the battle between
Zeus and the Titans for control of Olympus
he sided with
Zeus and became his chief counselor. Later, over the
question of how justly to apportion a sacrificial
animal between the gods and man,
he devised a scheme whereby man received the
denied man the gift of fire, fearing that its
use for making tools and weapons would cause
mortals to consider themselves equals of gods.
the fire and brought it to Earth. As punishment, Zeus
ordered Prometheus chained to a rock on
where an eagle or vulture daily devoured his
liver, which grew back each night. In another version
of the story the fire stolen by Prometheus was
also the fire of life with which he animated his
men of clay.
The novel takes
its epigraph from and makes many specific
references to John Milton's
Lost is John Milton's attempt to
"justify the ways of God to man" by retelling
of the story of Creation, the revolt of
Lucifer and his fall from grace, and the story
of Adam and Eve.
Frankenstein is a
commentary on several concepts:
pursuit of knowledge
corrupting influence of civilization
responsibility of a creator for his creation
|How does the original novel
differ from expectations garnered from
your familiarity with the story through
| Characterize Frankenstein.
What does the friendship with Clerval
reveal about Victor? What prompts him to
create the Monster?
|What is Victor's reaction to
his creation? What responsibilities toward
it should he have undertaken at the
outset? Why doesn't he do so?
|What does the Monster learn
from the deLaceys?
|What does the Monster want?
What is he willing to do to get it? Are
his actions justified?
|Is the Monster's request for a
mate reasonable? Why does Victor deny him?
|At what point, if any, does
the Monster become unredeemable?
|What is the relationship
between Victor and the Monster?
|Who is pursuing whom at the
end of the novel? Who is worse off at the
end of the novel, Victor or the Monster?
Why does the Monster commit suicide?
|Why does Shelley frame the
novel with the story of Robert Walton?
|What do Walton and Victor have
in common? Is Victor's final advice to
|What, if anything, does Walton
learn from Victor?
|Frankenstein in the Media