Kingwood College Library


By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley 1797 - 1851
maryshelley.gif (12653 bytes) Corbis Bettman

First published:1817
Time of plot: Late eighteenth century
Locale:Geneva, Switzerland; Ingolstadt, Germany; Scotland; Arctic Ocean 
Keywords:Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft;  Frankenstein; science fiction; treatment of nature;  treatment of fear;  Romanticism;  treatment of monsters;  Biblical allusion;  Gothic novel;  relationship to science;  creation;  sources in classical myth 

Library Catalog

Biography Characters
Book Criticisms Historical Events
Plot Summary Journal Articles
Internet Sites Themes

frankenstein.jpg (2530 bytes)BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION

Mary Shelley was born August 30, 1797 in London, England to social philosopher William Godwin and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft.Mary's mother died ten days after her birth, and she was raised, along with her half-sister Fanny Imlay (Mary Wollstonecraft's illegitimate daughter), by her father.William Godwin has been portrayed as a repressive patriarch with a rigid belief in his own rightness.When Mary ran off at sixteen with the then married poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, her father stopped talking to her but continued to accept money from Percy Shelley.Since Mary came from a family of social radicals and entered a circle of social radicals, she began a relationship with a married man at a time when such a union was a definite social impropriety.She and Shelley were married two years later after Shelley's wife committed suicide.Together they had three children, only one of whom reached adulthood.Mary wrote her most famous work, Frankenstein, when she was only nineteen years old.The novel was the result of a dream she had after a proposal that she, Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and a doctor friend of theirs each write a ghost story.Only Mary complied and the result was Frankenstein.After Percy Shelley was killed in a boating accident in 1822, Mary made a living by writing critical essays, several other novels, and a travel book and editing and publishing her husband's poems.She died in London on February 1, 1851. 
REF PN 41.D5 
Vols.110, 178
Dictionary of Literary
DLB is a multi-volume work which provides detailed biographical  sketches of the authors' literary writings as well as general critical commentary. 
REF PR 85 B688 
Vol. 3
British Writers This collection of literary biographies provides information about the lives, careers and works of British writers
REF PS 21.M34 1991  Magill's Survey of American Literature Discussion of Mary Shelley's contributions and achievements in literature
REF PR 19.D73 1995 Oxford Companion to English Literature Two page summary of the author's life and literary significance
PR 5398. S86 1989 Mary Shelley: Romance and Reality A book length biography of the author

frankenstein.jpg (2530 bytes)CHARACTERS

Victor Frankenstein, while a student at the university in Ingolstadt, Germany, becomes obsessed with his ambition to create life as an addition to scientific knowledge.His success leads to the making of a monster the sight of whom fills him with "breathless horror and disgust."Throughout the rest of the novel Frankenstein is haunted by the specter of what he has accomplished while the monster tries to a place in the world in which he has found himself.When Frankenstein refuses to create a mate for him, the monster embarks on a rampage of revenge.After Frankenstein is deprived of all whom he loved, he hunts the monster to the icy desolation of the Arctic to destroy that which he has wrought.Victortells his story of horror and terror to Robert Walton, the captain of the ship which rescues him in the Arctic.Frankenstein'sensuing death and the monster's grief inspired vow to destroy himself bring this gothic novel to a close. 


Physical deformity Ambition
Parental love and responsibility Science and ethics
Social responsibility Good versus evil
Obsessive behavior Revenge
Horror and terror Injustice

frankenstein.jpg (2530 bytes)BOOKS CONTAINING CRITICISMS



REF PN 771.G27 
Vols. 14, 59
Nineteenth Century Literature Criticism NCLC contains excerpts from critical essays in books and journals.  Use these volumes to 1) select a topic or theme 2) find the full articles or essay in the library, and 3) locate other articles and books from the "Further Reading" section.
REF PN 523.W67 1992 
Vol. 5
World Literature Criticism A broad selection of the best criticism of works by major writers
REF PN 3385. 
Novels for Students Biographical, critical, historical and plotinformation about works of fiction
REF PS375.S35 
Science Fiction Writers Critical studies of the major sci-fi authors from the early 19th century to the present
PS 147.R87 1995 To Write Like a Woman Essays on feminism and science fiction with chapter on Mary Shelley
PR 830.S35 Anticipations Essays on early science fiction and itsprecursors
PN 3433.5.A45 1994 Science Fiction Before 1900 A detailed survey of the hallmarks of the evolution of science fiction

frankensteininjail.jpg (12993 bytes)
picture courtesy of Cathy Decker

frankenstein.jpg (2530 bytes)EVENTS AT THE TIME THE NOVEL WAS WRITTEN

Britain was in the middle of the Industrial Revolution when Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein.New technologies, such as the mechanization of spinning and weaving and improvements in the modes of transportation, led to a shift in the country from being a largely agricultural and commercial society to being the world's first industrial nation.This transformation fomented economic and political upheaval.Agitation for more rights for workers and women had its onset in this period.The agrarian Old Guard struggled to maintain its influence while new fortunes were being made in the textile industry.There was a rapid growth in population.The number of people in Britain doubled between the first ever census in 1801 and the census of 1851.The most popular journalist of the day, William Cobbett, spoke out for the workers and attacked landowners and political corruption.The Romantic poets revolted against the formality of neo-classicism and advocated a return to nature and a world of imagination and unconscious feelings.All of society was influenced by the NapoleonicWars and the ideas of the French Revolution.

The debate between scientific discoveries and traditional religious and metaphysical thought was starting to take shape, and the ethics of how far man should pursue his desire for knowledge was beginning to be a topic of discussion - a topic still in debate today.


frankenstein.jpg (2530 bytes)BOOKS TO EXPLAIN THE TIMES



REF PN 50.L574 1997Vol. 1 Literature and Its Times Profiles of 300 notable literary works and the historical events which influenced them
Q125.B97 1965 Origins of Modern Science A collection of lectures that discuss, among other things, the Scientific Revolution
Q125.R7426 Science: Its History and Development Among the World's Cultures A history of science with chapters on the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries
Q125.B947 The Day the Universe Changed An explanation of the advances in science and knowledge that changed the way man perceived the world in which he lived
PR 830.T3 The Female Gothic Essays on women writers of the gothic novel with a piece on Mary Shelley
PR 457.R4568 1995 Romantic Women Writers A collection of writings about British women writers during the romantic era


frankenstein.jpg (2530 bytes)FINDING JOURNAL ARTICLES

Use your library barcode  to access databases from your home computer.Click on “Home Access to Article Databases” from the Kingwood College Library web page ( the left of the page under “Resources” click on “Databases”Select “Literature” and listed there are links to the databases for research in literature

These resources are also available from the computers in the library.Below are three examples.

Academic Search Premier
This large, multi-subject database contains scholarly or peer reviewed literary journals.  Many are full-text.  Other journals are available in paper or on microfiche.  Ask the librarians for help if you need it.

MLA Bibliography
This is the most important database for your research.  Use it to find articles in journals and essays.  This is not a full-text database, but many of the journals will be available in the NHMCCD libraries.

PA Research II/ ProQuest
This huge database is not exclusively a literary database, but a number of literary journals are indexed and some are available full-text.  This database is available from home.  Use your library card number as a password.

Literature Resource Center
This resource includes most of the information in NCLC, World Literature Criticism, and Dictionary of Literary Biography.You’ll also find links to appropriate Internet sites. Many of these sources are reference works.

frankenstein.jpg (2530 bytes)INTERNET SITES

The text of the book.

Essays on Mary Shelley and Frankenstein
Several very good articles written by Kim Woodbridge.

Resources for the Study of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Links to sites for the study of the novel.

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