Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

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Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft

Last Updated: May-07-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel


This is the familiar story of Victor Frankenstein, a scientist obsessed with his desire to penetrate the secret of life and create a "perfect" creature. The novel is actually a series of stories within stories. The outermost is the tale of Walton, a young captain who sails toward the North Pole in hopes of discovering a northern passage to the New World; he is obsessed with penetrating the "dangerous mysteries" of the north. His ship comes upon the mortally ill Dr. Frankenstein, adrift on an ice floe. Most of the novel recounts the strange tale Frankenstein tells Walton as he lies dying on the ship.

In the book's center is the monster's own story, as told to Frankenstein. At the moment he gives his creature the spark of life, Frankenstein is overwhelmed with the ugliness and unnaturalness of his creation. He abandons the creature, who then begins to pursue him to seek acceptance, and when that is not forthcoming, to seek revenge, eventually killing all those who Frankenstein loves.

The creature yearns for love and acceptance, but all are horrified by him. At first Frankenstein agrees to create a mate for him -- "I am malicious," the creature explains, "because I am miserable." But at the last minute he reconsiders, horrified at the implications of possibly creating a superhuman race. After the creature kills Frankenstein's friend Clerval and his beloved Elizabeth, the doctor begins to pursue him throughout Europe and eventually to the Arctic, where Walton encounters them. After the creature is satisfied that Frankenstein is dead, he takes his leave forever, "soon borne away by the waves, and lost in darkness and distance."

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