Study Guide on Frankenstein

Frankenstein

Welcome to a Frankenstein Study Guide prepared by our editorial team! In this guide, you’ll find all the essential information on the novel that will help you in your studies: short and detailed summary, characters descriptions, themes and symbols analysis, as well as essay topics.

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💁 All You Need to Know about Frankenstein

📌 What is Frankenstein about?

Frankenstein is the first science-fiction novel of its time. It tells the story of a young scientist who created a Monster and was eventually destroyed by his creation. Frankenstein is partly written in an epistolary form. Its setting begins and ends in the Arctic Ocean, which underlines the novel’s key motives – loneliness, isolation, and the struggle between nature and science.

📌 Who Wrote Frankenstein?

An English author, Mary Shelley, wrote Frankenstein. Shelley was born in London in 1797. At the age of 18, she wrote her masterpiece. In 1816, she married Percy Bysshe Shelley, who, according to many scholars, helped her to write the book. Shelley died in England in 1851.

📌 When Was Frankenstein Written?

Frankenstein was finished in May of 1817 and published on January 1, 1818. The book is also known as The Modern Prometheus. To answer the question – what is the subtitle for the novel representing – one must recall the Greek myth about Prometheus, who stole the fire of the Olympus to save people, and was condemned to eternal suffering for that.

🗺️ Frankenstein Study Guide: Navigation

A short novel’s summary with pictures and all the key events on one page.

Detailed chapter summaries of Frankenstein and analysis of every novel’s part.

Analysis and descriptions of all the Frankenstein characters and a character map.

Detailed thematic analysis of Shelley’s novel. Fate, love, revenge, family, nature, science, & more.

Complete & comprehensive information on setting, style, literary elements, & symbols in Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

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The key quotations from the novel with detailed explanations.

Absolutely free essays & research papers on Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Examples of all topics and paper genres.

A huge collection of essay ideas on the novel. Literary analysis, characters, themes, & more.

A detailed biography and a timeline of Mary Shelley, Frankenstein’s renowned author.

An extensive list of the most frequent questions about the novel.

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🔑 Key Frankenstein Facts

Full Title:Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus
Author:Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft
Type Of Work:Novel
Language:English
Genre:Gothic Science Fiction
First Publication Date:1818
Setting of Frankenstein (place):Russia; England and Scotland; Geneva; Ingolstadt; the Swiss Alps; the North Pole
Setting of Frankenstein (time):18th century
Main Themes:Fate, Nature, Family, Isolation, Love, Science, Revenge

📚 Historical & Literary Context of Frankenstein

Frankenstein: the Background

Frankenstein was born in 1816 as a result of a contest proposed by Lord Byron to his friends. The participants each had to write their own horror stories and read them to the group. Mary Shelley not only won the prize but also wrote a masterpiece of great historical significance.

1816 is often referred to as the year without summer. That year a young woman, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, traveled with her lover, and later husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, to the Swiss Alps. Their friend and famous poet, Lord Byron, also rented a villa in the region together with his personal physician, John Polidori. The group often spent time together, and since the constant rain kept them indoors, they found amusement in telling each other ghost stories from German folklore.

During one of such evenings, Byron suggested that they would each write a horror story of their own. That answers the question – why did Mary Shelly write Frankenstein. Majestic Switzerland’s scenery and romantic philosophy of that time had a significant impact on her writing. Percy Shelley, the poet, known for his advocacy of free love, also influenced the novel, as he helped Mary to gather information and edited the book.

Frankenstein & Romanticism Context

Shelley wrote Frankenstein at the beginning of the 19th century at the pick of the so-called Romantic Era. The context of Romanticism in Frankenstein is represented through the ideas of struggle for freedom and equality, isolation, resignation to destiny, and great attention to nature.Victor Frankenstein, the main character of the novel, is clearly a romantic figure. His passion for knowledge and the strive to stand out corresponds well to the ideals of romanticism. The author attaches great importance to the emotions of her characters. She describes in great detail their mental anguish and inner experiences. Exaltation of feeling over reason is one of the key characteristics of the romantic genre.

Among other romantic elements that Mary Shelley uses in her novel is a manifestation of destiny. Frankenstein and his antagonist, the Monster, both attribute everything that happens to them to the will of fate. Throughout the narrative, the author continually uses words such as “doom,” “curse,” “destiny,” “ill fate.”

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The Romantic Era is also known for portraying nature as the greatest power in the universe. Its might and beauty rise above the transience of human existence. In Frankenstein, characters always turn to nature in the moments of the most intense experiences of grief or happiness. The scenery in the novel often helps to set a foreboding tone of tragedy.

Frankenstein as the First Sci-Fi Novel

Frankenstein is mostly known as a Gothic novel, but courtesy of the writer, Brian Aldiss, Shelley’s book also received the title of first sci-fi narrative. To determine whether or not Frankenstein deserves to be called science fiction, one must understand the main characteristics of the genre.

Science fiction describes the relationship between people and technology and explores how it affects our social interactions and our expectations of ourselves as humans.

The Scientific Revolution gave birth to modern science. Combined with political revolutions in Europe, it caused a great resonance in the society. People began to test their abilities to overpower nature and ponder on possibilities of the future. This change was reflected in Frankenstein‘s quotes about science: “The modern masters … penetrate into the recesses of nature and show how she works…They have acquired… almost unlimited powers.”

Shelley’s main character disregards religious and social restrictions in his desire to penetrate the secret of life and death. Him turning a dead matter into a living creature, makes us wonder what it means to be human and what dangers the future prepares for us. The book that raises these questions perfectly fits the description of the sci-fi genre. Therefore, it is fair to call Frankenstein the first science-fiction novel of the time.

🎥 Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: Movies, Plays, & Comics

Below are the most popular adaptations of Shelley’s novel.

Frankenstein in Pop Culture

For over two centuries, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has been exerting influence on society and serving as an inspiration for plays, comics, and games. References to the novel were especially prevalent in modern connections to horror films. Most people today confuse the nameless Monster with his creator, Frankenstein. Pop culture made the creature an iconic figure.

Frankenstein play (1823)

The first Frankenstein play, also known as Presumption; or, The Fate of Frankenstein was written by Richard Brinsley Peake. It was first performed in London in 1823. From the synopsis of the play, one can notice that the storyline was changed from the original novel. The script has new characters and accentuates two main themes – community and romance.

Frankenstein 1910 (movie)

Edison Company produced the first motion version of Frankenstein in 1910. The film, a 14-minute long summary of the novel, was directed by J. Searle Dawley. The director focuses on the novel’s mystical themes instead of emphasizing horrific details. The cast included Augustus Phillips as Frankenstein, Charles Ogle as the Monster, and Mary Fuller as Frankenstein’s fiancée.

Frankenstein 1931 (movie with Boris Karloff and sequels)

Frankenstein (1931) is an American horror movie directed by James Whale. The film stars Boris Karloff as the Monster. According to movie analysis, Karloff’s performance made the Monster an iconic figure and resulted in the production of sequels. The original poster pictures the Monster as a human-like creature, far from green-skinned mutant as we know it today.

The Curse of Frankenstein 1957 (movie and sequels)

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) is a horror movie made by the British director, Terence Fisher. Terrence was the first to create gothic horrors in full color. The cast included Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. The title on the original poster says, “The Curse of Frankenstein will hunt you forever!” The film gained worldwide success and led to several sequels.

Frankenstein’s Monster: Marvel Comics of 1968

Frankenstein’s Monster became popular in the ’60s as a representation of a tragic hero broken by fate. In 1968, the character appeared in a comic book The X-Men #40, published by Marvel Comics. In this cartoon, the Monster is a robot built by an alien race and sent to Earth to establish contact with humans.

Dracula vs. Frankenstein 1971 (movie)

Dracula vs. Frankenstein was directed by Al Adamson in 1971. The film has several other titles including, the Blood of Frankenstein and in The Revenge of Dracula. Despite having one of the great title confrontations, the movie has very little to do with Dracula or Frankenstein’s monster pictured in the books. Both characters seem to be irrelevant to the plot.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein 1994 (movie)

Kenneth Branagh directed Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein movie in 1994. The cast included Robert De Niro and the director himself as Frankenstein. Despite Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994) being the most truthful adaptation of the novel, it received terrible reviews. Roger Ebert’s analysis suggests that “the film … is so frantic, …it doesn’t pause to be sure its effects are registered.”

Van Helsing 2004 (movie)

Van Helsing (2004) is an American horror film created by Stephen Sommers. It is an imitation of the 1930s-1940s multi-monster movies (House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula) produced by Universal Studios. Aside from Frankenstein’s Monster borrowed from Mary Shelley’s novel, the film has such characters as Count Dracula, monster hunter Van Helsing, Mr. Hyde, and a werewolf.

Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch (play, 2011)

Frankenstein (2011) is a play written by Nick Dear and directed by Danny Boyle. The plot is very similar to the original novel. Both main actors, Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch in Frankenstein, received positive reviews and many awards for their performance. In March of 2011, thanks to the National Theatre Live program, people could watch the play in cinemas.

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IvyPanda. "Frankenstein." June 29, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/lit/study-guide-on-frankenstein/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Frankenstein." June 29, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/lit/study-guide-on-frankenstein/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Frankenstein'. 29 June.