Why Mary Shelley Wrote Frankenstein

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is the most miserable book I’ve ever read. If I got a penny every time the author used the word “wretched” I could buy a whole library of Gothic fiction and still have money left over for anti-depressants. After a while the constant suffering of the characters became tedious and I had to roll up my trousers and wade my way through. It was worth it though. The book was incredibly well written, and in my opinion, rather long, so reaching the end was satisfying. There were some really poetic passages that were beautiful to read, particularly the ones about the painful predicament of Frankenstein and his monster. Well, until they got repetitive… I thought Shelley went a bit over the top with describing the scenery around the mountains of Switzerland as well, but I suppose those bits are necessary since having an element of the sublime is a staple in Gothic fiction. I could see she enjoyed writing those parts, and was obviously inspired by her trip to Geneva where she wrote the novel. However, as the reader I’m lost when she mentions particular places in Switzerland and where the different mountains are in relation to them.

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 πŸ˜‰ 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.

At the time of the time of The Great Switzerland Trip That Changed Gothic Fiction, Mary and Percy weren’t yet married, so she was still Mary Godwin. But I’ve referred to her as Shelley here because I’m not painfully pedantic.

Is there a book you know that you think deserves a prequel or sequel? Or just fill-in-the-gap books? Or even a novel that you want to change? Tell me what you’d do to it in the comments section.

Thanks for reading!

17 thoughts on “Why Mary Shelley Wrote Frankenstein

  1. The key to appreciating the nature references lie in the fact that the scenery and the weather serve as either a reflection of the characters mindset, or as a premonition of things to come.

    It was one of my favorite books in fact. I found myself siding with the monster for the most part. Victor Frankenstein was a pathetic creature who never accepted responsibility for his creation and never took affirmative action to deal with his problems when he had the chance.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for the comment! You’re completely right. I guess it’s just that I didn’t understand WHERE everything was – but I see what you mean.
      Yeah, I completely hated the way Victor treated his monster – really, there was no reason except for how it looked, which was unreasonable since Victor should have been mentally prepared for that. He created the creature, after all. And, like you say, he should have dealt with it instead of running away. Furthermore, the monster was benevolent and had feelings; it only did the things it did because of Victor’s rejection. But then again, maybe Frankenstein had foresight into the evil his creation was capable of, and that’s why he treated it the way he did.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Aaah, you see we had to read “classics” for English class in the beginning of the year, and I chose this book. Being the analyzer I am, I always like to comprehend each and every word. In a matter of SIX WEEKS, I finished all the letters in the beginning of the book only to be faced with…Chapter One. How frustrating! I abandoned the book, but will hopefully come back to it soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, I totally see what you mean. You know, I ALWAYS have to read the introduction. Which can sometimes get in the way… I just about survived the one at the beginning of “A Clockwork Orange” but the one for “Emma” by Jane Austen was a no-go. It was almost as long as the book… and even more boring, if you can get any more boring! I can’t remember whether or not I managed to read the intro for “Canterbury Tales”… I think maybe I did but then I couldn’t face the Preface. Or vice versa. Well, anyway there was something I managed to read and something I couldn’t muster up the patience for there. For classics, they can be pretty tedious.
      I hope you have another go at Frankenstein, and if you do, tell me how you found it πŸ™‚


  3. I’m currently studying Frankenstein for my AS English Literature and I love the book… But oh Lord do I hate Victor Frankenstein. The fact that whenever anything in the slightest dramatic happens, he falls into a fever and is on the brink of death really gets up my nose – what sort of manliness is that meant to represent? Shelley has managed to put together science, religion, nature, the unnatural and intertextual references together in one epic frame narrative and it’s bloody good. In addition to your point about the word ‘wretched’, have you see the amount of times ‘ardent’ turns up? Jeez. However this post reduced the misery of plodding through the book and made me splutter with laughter – very well done πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

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  5. I will rate your review (with the very interesting piece of history), 5 stars!!
    I’m not sure how you do it but I can only come up with: I liked/didn’t like the book.
    I didn’t read Frankenstein (or watch any movie about it) and it’s not in my “books to read” list. But I truly enjoy your review and I’m not feeling a tiny bit wretched right now πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you VERY much!! I really appreciate that πŸ™‚
      Hey, maybe when writing book reviews you could prepare a sheet of template questions to consider? It might help get the ideas flowing. So then you could answer those when writing your review… but without giving away the fact that you’re answering a set of questions πŸ™‚ They could be ones like “Who was my favourite character? Why do I like that character? Which was my favourite part in the book? Did I enjoy the author’s writing style? Why/why not? What kind of person would I recommend the novel to? How many stars would I give it out of ten? Why? Could I relate to the characters or not, and for what reason?” XD It might make you feel less wretched when writing book reviews >_< Lots of laughs! Have a great day/night! And thanks for reading x

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who had a hard time getting through this book. I read it all at a job I hated, so that was pretty awesome. πŸ˜‰ The backstory on the author’s inspiration is really fascinating. It’s fun to correct people who refer to the monster itself as Frankenstein. I ask them if they’ve read the book. The answer is always no. lol

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Asylum Attendant!
      Oh yeah, that terrible job, I remember you did a post about it… Unless it’s a different one you’re talking about! Thank you so much for reading my post. Haha, unfortunately I haven’t yet had an opportunity to correct someone who refers to the monster as Frankenstein 😦 But I’m sure I will in the future! I’ll do it in a really mean, elitist, Andrew Eldritch-y tone of voice and then turn away and ignore the person as if I’m more important than them >_< XD I'm looking forward to it. LOL I won't really be that mean though.

      Yeah, I was obsessed with the Shelley back story for a while! I seem to have gotten over it now but I still find it super fascinating πŸ™‚ And I'm pleased you're interested in it as well.

      Thanks for reading! x

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi there πŸ™‚ Yep, it was the same job. I got so much personal writing and reading done there. LOL You’re very welcome. I definitely need to keep up with your posts better because they are very grabbing and well written. And you are so nice! haha The time will come for correction and I’m glad to see you are already prepared with a reaction. πŸ˜‰ Yeah, popular culture gets it wrong all the time, so I don’t fault people who mistakenly name the monster.

        Liked by 1 person

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