The circumstances in which Mary Shelley wrote her book were one one of the things that drew me towards it. Here’s the story of what happened: Mary was a good friend of Lord Byron – and in case you haven’t heard of him, he is known as a kind of “rock star” of his time (1800s); he was very famous, wrote well-known poetry – okay, admittedly he didn’t play Ozzy Osbourne-style riffy stuff, but that was all they had back then -, he had multiple affairs with both genders, owed huge debts, had an interest in politics and was very wealthy. Well, in the summer of 1816 he met up with Mary, Percy Shelley, John Polidori and Claire Clairmont. In Switzerland. They were some of the most famous and influential writers of the time: a congregation of talented, inspired young adults ready to jump at the slightest chance to write (like me XD). Now, 1816 was also known as “The Year Without A Summer” – it followed the explosion of Mount Tambora, the largest volcanic eruption in at least 1,300 years (heard all around the world). As a result the temperature plummeted.
The group of friends huddled inside by the light of a candle and amused themselves by reading to each other from a book of German ghost stories. That was when Lord Byron came up with the idea. The idea that changed Gothic fiction. He suggested that each of the friends attempt to write their own ghost story. Now, that doesn’t sound too revolutionary, does it? But look what it inspired.
Well, for days Mary Shelley didn’t have an idea of what to write about. That was until she had a nightmare. She dreamt about a terrifying humanoid creature being brought to life. Something that was probably plucked from the conversations she’d been having with her friends about galvanism – the art of electrocuting corpses to make it seem as if they were alive and twitching. This dream, as I’m sure you’ve gathered, developed into the idea for Frankenstein. She began to work on drafts for her book while staying in Switzerland. And at the same time, John Polidori started working on “The Vampyre”, a story that later inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Something many people aren’t aware of about Shelley’s book is that Frankenstein is not the name of the monster, but of the man who created it. The monster, in fact, didn’t have a name; it was referred to as “it” or “the creature” or ” the fiend”. What disappointed me about the book was the heartlessness of Victor Frankenstein towards his monster. But at the same time, I pitied Victor when certain acquaintances of his (I won’t spoil it by saying whom) died.
I also realised something towards the end of the book… If he had the power to bestow life, why couldn’t Victor have resurrected his dead friends? Oh well… I’ll just have to write a sequel 😉 That’s the thing about Frankenstein. It has room for so many prequels, sequels and books that fill the gaps! The reason being that it encompasses such a large time period. I can actually really see a potential market here… Oh well, I better work on my writing skills first.
Another thing I noticed about the novel was that the Frankenstein’s Monster that’s commonly depicted doesn’t completely fit into Mary Shelley’s description. Firstly, the “fiend” in the book is yellow, not green. Secondly, there was no mention of a bolt through the neck in the book. And thirdly, he was way scarier, man! I mean, he had to be scary enough to repel all humans he came into contact with; he had black lips and his skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath. Oh yeah, and he had long hair.