Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: Introduction and Brief Summary
An introduction and brief summary of Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus
Mary Shelley was 18 years old when she wrote Frankenstein in 1816. It was first published in 1818 and revised in 1831 by Mary Shelley herself. The book was conceived and written as a challenge from Lord Byron to his guests one gloomy night. The guests included Mary Shelley and her husband, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Frankenstein is written in epistolary format - that of letters and journal entries of Robert Walton an explorer attempting to discover a passageway through the North Pole. Walton has indeed made a remarkable discovery! A man and a monster in an existential struggle in the barren land of the arctic. The story of the monster’s creation and the ensuing battle unfolds as Victor Frankenstein lays dying in a cabin aboard the ship of Robert Walton.
On the title page of her novel is this quote from John Milton’s Paradise Lost.
Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
To mould me man?
From darkness to promote me?
Milton’s words summarizes the monster’s perceived right to claim his creator’s affection and attention. This tragic story is one of cruel rejection and disdain by the creator directed at his creation.
It is unfortunate that the subtitle, The Modern Prometheus is often left off of contemporary editions as it is indicative of the over-reaching arrogance of Victor Frankenstein. However, this modern Prometheus has nothing to give his creation; no fire stolen from the gods nor any “Eve to sooth his sorrow“. The monster is left to experience pain and sorrow with no intervention from the god he so pitifully desires.
The monster is driven to rage and vengeance when he experiences the scorn of humankind. He has no connection and no one with whom he can be intimate. As he confronts his maker and asserts his rights to affection and companionship he demands that Frankenstein make for him a mate, equal to himself in appearance and stature.
When Frankenstein fails to comply, the monster wreaks havoc upon his life. The monster brings to Frankenstein the same pain and isolation that has been imposed on himself by virtue of being created.
The final battle between Frankenstein and his monster ends at the northernmost regions of the earth. The creator seeking the death of his creature and the creature luring his creator to a final encounter.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is downloadable for free since it is now in the public domain. If you have a Kindle or other e-reader you can have it in seconds.