The Strange and Twisted Life of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” Novel

Elizabeth Wollstonecraft At the age of eighteen, two years after finding out she was expecting her first child—a child she did not name—Godwin Shelley started writing “Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus.” Until the eleventh day, she had repeatedly written in her diary, “Nurse the baby, read,” adding the words “I awoke in the night to give it suck it seemed to be sleeping so quietly that I would not awaken it,” and the words, “Find my baby dead.” Anxiety for “a fever from the milk” developed along with grief over that loss. Her sleep was becoming feverish, and she had swollen, irritated, and unsucked breasts.In her diary, she wrote, “Dream that my small baby returned to life again; that it had only been chilly, that we rubbed it before the fire, and it lived.” “Wake up and there is no baby.”

She was probably still breastfeeding her second child when she began writing “Frankenstein,” and she was expecting her third child just a few weeks later. She published “Frankenstein” anonymously in 1818 because she was worried about losing custody of her children and she didn’t put her name on the book or give the monster a name. It was described as “this anonymous androdaemon” by one critic. For the initial staging of “Frankenstein” on stage, which took place in London in 1823(When the author had already given birth to four children, buried three of them, and suffered a catastrophic miscarriage that left her on the verge of death due to haemorrhage that was only stopped when her husband made her sit on ice)

Regarding the creature’s theatrical description, Shelley noted, “This nameless manner of calling the unnameable is pretty good. She was an anonymous individual. Similar to the creature created by Victor Frankenstein from the cadavers he collected, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley’s name was a composite of several names: The name of the feminist Mary Wollstonecraft was attached to that of her father, philosopher William Godwin, and transplanted onto that of her spouse, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, as if Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley were the totality of her kin, bone of their bone.

Student Victor Frankenstein, telling his story, says, “I witnessed the accomplishment of my toils on a gloomy night of November. A fading candle casts a gloomy glow as rain patters on the windowpane. He turns to face the “lifeless monster,” now moving and breathing, at his feet, saying, “I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard and its limbs moved in a convulsive rhythm. He feels disgusted and horrified by the creature after spending so much time and effort producing it, “unable to abide the aspect of the being I had produced,” and he flees, leaving his unidentified creation behind. In the closing scene of the book, the monster claims, “I, the sad and the abandoned, am an abortion.

As an epistolary novel, an autobiography, an allegory, and a fable all rolled into one, “Frankenstein” is a literary fertile mess that left its teenage author struggling to explain her “hideous progeny. She posed the embarrassing issue, “How I, then a little girl, came to think of, and to expand upon, so very horrible a thought,” in the preface she wrote for a revised edition in 1831, and she cooked up a scenario in which she essentially disavowed herself as an author. She argued that creating the narrative was little more than “forming just a copy” of the dream she had when she first had the idea for it (“Shut-eyed but with keen mental vision, I observed the pale student of unholy arts kneeling next to the creation he had made”) When Boris Karloff played the monster in Universal Pictures’ spectacular 1931 version of “Frankenstein,” directed by James Whale, the monster, who was prodigiously eloquent, bright, and persuasive in Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley’s novel, was not only unnamed but all but dumb. It seems as though what Shelley had to say was too severe to be understood, a pain beyond words.

Every book is a baby that is born, but “Frankenstein” is frequently thought to have been more put together than it was actually written, an artificial birth, as if all the author had done was put together the works of others, particularly those of her father and her husband. This enduring condescension, the notion of the author as a vessel for other people’s ideas—a fiction in which the author participated, in order to avoid the scandal of her own brain—goes some way toward explaining why “Frankenstein” has accumulated so many wildly divergent and irreconcilable ideas. The original 1818 edition of “Frankenstein” has been republished for its bicentennial in two formats: a slim little paperback (Penguin Classics) with an introduction by the renowned biographer Charlotte Gordon, and a gorgeously illustrated hardcover keepsake called “The New Annotated Frankenstein” (Liveright), edited and annotated by Leslie S. Klinger. In a series of remakes from its library of horror films, Universal is now working on a new version of “Bride of Frankenstein. The superhero era is set to give way to the monster era, with filmography recapitulating political chicanery. How about the infant, though?

For two hundred years, “rankenstein,” the tale of an unnamed creature, has been interpreted in a variety of ways. Most recently, it has been seen as a cautionary tale for Silicon Valley technologists; this interpretation draws less from the 1818 novel than from later stage and cinema adaptations, especially the 1931 film, and it took on its contemporary shape in the years following Hiroshima. In that vein, the leaders of the Frankenstein Bicentennial Project at Arizona State University, with funding from the National Science Foundation, have recently released an edition of the original work that is “annotated for scientists, engineers, and producers of all types. They present the book as a catechism for robotics and artificial intelligence designers (AI).When the creature started killing everyone Victor loved, Victor remarks in Chapter 1 of Volume II, “Remorse killed all hope. I had produced unchangeable ills, and I always lived in terror that the monster I had made might do another act of wickedness. “Scientists’ obligations must be engaged before their products are launched,” the M.I.T. edition’s footnote reads. The regret Victor expresses is reminiscent of J. Robert Oppenheimer’s thoughts when he beheld the unfathomable power of the atomic bomb.

In order to use the book in this way, nearly all of the sex, birth, and female content must be removed. Muriel Spark first used this material in her biography of Shelley, which was published in 1951 to mark the poet’s 100th birthday. Spark maintained that “Frankenstein” was not merely a piece of genre fiction but rather a literary work of remarkable originality after meticulously studying Shelley’s diaries and paying particular attention to the author’s eight years of nearly continual pregnancy and loss. That view was adopted by feminist literary critics in the 1970s, who claimed that “Frankenstein” established the beginnings of science fiction through the “female gothic. Ellen Moers asserted at the time that Mary Shelley’s work was so unique since she was a writer and a mother. Moers noted that although Tolstoy had thirteen home-born children, the major female authors of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Austens and Dickinsons, tended to be “spinsters and virgins. Only Shelley was an outlier.

That was also true of Mary Wollstonecraft, a writer who wrote, among other things, about how to raise a child and whom Shelley knew only as a writer and not as a mother. Ten years before to giving birth to the author of “Frankenstein,” Wollstonecraft stated in 1787’s “Thoughts on the Education of Daughters” that “I feel it to be the responsibility of every rational creature to look to its offspring.

Wollstonecraft and William Godwin first met at a dinner party in London sponsored by the publisher of Thomas Paine’s “Rights of Man,” according to Charlotte Gordon in her dual biography “Romantic Outlaws. Wollstonecraft was also a political rebel. Godwin later recalled that he and Wollstonecraft were the smartest individuals in the room and were “mutually dissatisfied” with one another.They argued throughout the entire evening. The “Vindication of the Rights of Woman” by Wollstonecraft and “Political Justice” by Godwin were both published in 1792. Wollstonecraft conceived in 1793 during a romance with American speculator and diplomat Gilbert Imlay. (She emailed Imlay, “I am feeding a beast.) Wollstonecraft’s daughter, Fanny, was abandoned by Imlay not long after she was born. In spite of the fact that neither of them thought marriage was a good idea, she and Godwin got married in 1796 after falling in love and becoming pregnant.Wollstonecraft passed away in 1797 from an infection brought on by a doctor’s fingers entering her uterus to remove the afterbirth. Godwin’s daughter was named after his deceased wife, as if an afterbirth or another way to bring her back to life.

Lord Byron, who followed his ideas, indulged his emotions, and abandoned his children, was the guy who most likely served as an inspiration for Victor Frankenstein. Due to his numerous indiscretions, one of his lovers called him “crazy, nasty, and dangerous to know., which most likely included sleeping with his half sister, Augusta Leigh. Byron wed in January 1815, and Ada, his daughter, was born in December of that year. However, after a year of marriage, his wife left him, forcing Byron to never see his wife or daughter again for fear that she would divulge the scandal of his romance with Leigh. (Ada was almost the same age as Mary Godwin’s first child if she had lived.Mary Godwin’s first child, if she had survived, would have been about the same age as Ada. Ada was raised to be a mathematician instead of a poet because of her mother’s worry that she may turn out to be a poet like her father, who was crazy and awful. A century before a general-purpose computer was actually constructed, Ada Lovelace, a scientist with the same level of imagination as Victor Frankenstein, would offer a significant theoretical description of one in 1843.

When Byron fled a controversy in the spring of 1816, he travelled to Geneva where he met Percy Shelley, Mary Godwin, and Claire Clairmont. The League of Incest was the monks’ term for them. By the summer, Clairmont was carrying Byron’s child. Byron found himself without something to do. We shall each compose a ghost story, he said one evening. The “Frankenstein” narrative was conceived by Godwin. Methinks it is a great novel for a girl of nineteen, albeit it was actually not nineteen at the time, Byron later remarked.

Shelley’s wife, who was now expecting their third child, committed suicide during the months that Godwin was working on turning her ghost story into a book and growing yet another human inside her. Additionally, Clairmont gave birth to a girl who was actually Byron’s, despite popular belief to the contrary. Shelley and Godwin also got married during this time. They attempted to adopt the daughter for a while, but Byron later kidnapped her after realising that almost all of Godwin and Shelley’s children had passed away. He remarked bitterly about the Shelleys, I would imagine the child entering a hospital because I abhor the way that children are treated in their families. Do they have any children?

“Frankenstein,” which was started in the summer of 1816 and finished eighteen months later, had a preface by Percy Shelley that was not signed as well as a dedication to William Godwin. The book immediately went viral. Percy Shelley received a letter from a friend stating, “It seems to be widely read and known. In a review from the early years, Sir Walter Scott stated, “The author seems to display unusual capabilities of lyrical imagination. Like many readers, Scott assumed that Percy Shelley was the author. Less enthusiastic readers of the Romantic poet condemned the book’s Byronic excesses and Godwinian radicalism. Conservative MP John Croker described “Frankenstein” as a “tissue of awful and disgusting silliness” that was radical, insane, and immoral.

However, “Frankenstein’s” politics are just as complex as its Russian doll-like narrative structure. A sequence of letters from an English explorer to his sister, chronicling his Arctic journey and his encounter with the odd, malnourished, and disturbed Victor Frankenstein, make up the outermost doll. Frankenstein recounts his tragic experiment, which prompted him to search the globe for his creature, in the adventurer’s tale. The account narrated by the creature, the tiniest, innermost Russian doll: the baby, is also included in Frankenstein’s story.

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