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Mary Shelley's Life Reflected in Frankenstein

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1976 words Published: 9th Aug 2021

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Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, was a piece of work that was far ahead of its time, and to be observant, so was Mary Shelley. Frankenstein and its author, both made impressions that the public at that time had a hard time swallowing. Frankenstein is essentially an indirect reflection of Shelley’s own turbulent life. Mary Shelley really poured a lot of her own experiences and shared with the readers a lot of her joys and despairs. Even though that it is meant to be a horror novel, readers will find that the psychological aspect of the novel a lot more interesting than the actual horror aspect. We will further discuss the mirroring of the novel to Mary Shelley’s own experiences. For now, it can only be said that this psychological thriller written by Mary Shelley will not only give the reader an in-depth look into themselves and the society around them, but also secretly harbors a part of its author inside it’s 200 pages.

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Mary Shelley’s life was reflected in her eighteenth century novel Frankenstein, set in various locations such as Geneva, the Swiss Alps, Ingolstadt and England. Coincidentally, these setting all have a great connection with her life. The novel introduces Geneva as the first setting and Geneva was where the protagonist was born. In the beginning of the novel, “I am by birth a Genevese, and my family is one of the most distinguished of that republic” (Mary Shelley 31) reflecting on Mary Shelley’s life. During that time of period “She and three other writers including her soon-to-be-husband, Percy Mary Shelley, were staying at Lake Geneva in Switzerland during that summer of 1816, entertaining one another by telling and competing to write the best ghost stories” (Querna 1). Maybe the lightning and thunder outside during the ghost story competition gave her the method in which the monster was brought to life by Victor Frankenstein.

Mary Shelley was staying at Geneva when she conceived of her novel therefore Mary Shelley used Geneva as the first setting. Also, Victor Frankenstein was also born in Geneva in the novel, thus the birth of “Frankenstein” began. The Swiss Alps and Ingolstadt are both located in Switzerland, and she thought of the story in Geneva Switzerland, this show to the reader that Mary Shelley is using the places around her as the setting which connects to her life with the setting. “Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was born on August 30, 1797, in London, England” (Bloom 1). This quote reveals that Mary Shelley was born in England which made it really clear why England was one of the major settings in Frankenstein. “Settled around Byron’s fireplace in June 1816, the intimate group of intellectuals had their guests to write a ghost story” (Telgen 180-202). This depicted the reasoning behind her novel; Lord Byron’s challenge to write a ghost story. The time period in the novel was also set around the 1800s therefore the time period when Mary Shelley wrote the story and the time period of the actual novel connects. Diseases were popular during the 1800s and Mary Shelley uses disease as the reason why Victor’s mother died which made the story more realistic from her point of view. Mary Shelley had mirrored doctor Frankenstein’s life with that of her own. It is also observed that the monster in the novel tried his best to mirror Victor’s life, educating itself and trying to fit in with the public. It is also noted that both Victor and the monster did not really fit in with the public, and neither did Mary Shelley. Both she and Victor had important people in their lives, that they both ended up losing, where as the monster did not have anyone to lose to start with. It can be assumed that Mary is comparing herself with the monster, where implying that if she had nothing important in her life to act as an anchor, she would be a monster like the monster in her novel, with no one to love her and accept her. “I am alone and miserable: man will not associate with me; but one as deformed and horrible as myself would not deny herself to me. My companion must be of the same species and have the same defects. This being you must create (Shelley 137).” This shows that the monster is trying to fit in but no one was helping him.

“Mary Shelley’s biographies trace 1816 as a happy year for the Mary Shelley Marriage; a son, William, was born” (Telgen 180-202).William in the novel act as Victor’s youngest brother. Referring to the quote, William is also the name of Mary Shelley’s son; she connects her new born son as a character in the novel. William’s name can also be connected to Mary’s father as well. Even though he is William’s brother, he is portrayed as an innocent child, incapable of harming anybody and defenseless against the monster. This must have been how she viewed her own son as a newborn, and a reader can clearly see the connection between them. “I wish you could see him; he is very tall of his age, with sweet laughing blue eyes, dark eyelashes, and curling hair. When he smiles, two little dimples appear on each cheek, which are rosy with health” (Shelley 64), this illustrates the thought of Mary Shelley when she was emphasizing the look of William and how she contrasts William in the novel with her new born son.

Mary Shelley’s mother died when giving birth to Mary Shelley, “Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, author of a Vindication of the Rights of Women, died giving birth to her” (Thomas 62). It connects to why Victor’s mother died in the beginning of the novel due to disease. During the 1800’s, smallpox, scarlet fever and cholera were really common. This also connects to the setting of the novel.

Mary Shelley’s childhood life and adulthood life is reflected in the novel, “ten days after Mary Shelley’s birth, Wollstonecraft died from complications, leaving Godwin, a self-absorbed intellectual leaving Godwin, a self-absorbed intellectual, to care for both Mary and Fanny Imlay, Wollstonecraft’s daughter from an earlier relationship” (Bloom1-4). In the novel, after Mary Shelley’s mother died her dad Godwin took care of her, this connects to the novel. When Victor Frankenstein’s mother died from disease, his dad took care of him. In both situations, the mother died when they are young and the dad took care of him/her. “Mary’s home life improved little when four years later her father married his next-door neighbor, Mary Jane Clairmont, who already had two children of her own” (Bloom 1-5), in reality Mary Shelley had two step sister and in the novel, Elizabeth Lavenza and Justine Moritz was adopted by Frankenstein’s family. This connects with how Mary Jane Clarmont brought in the two children to her family in reality to his family which made Mary Shelley’s life connects with the novel. “In July 1814, one month before her seventeenth birthday, Mary ran away with Percy, and they spent the next few years traveling in Switzerland, Germany and Italy. (Bloom 1-5), in reality Mary Shelley got married in an early age which connects with how Victor also got married in an early age. This part of the novel also provided some ironic foreshadowing to her own life. In the novel, Victor’s wife got killed by the monster, where as a year after her book was published, Mary’s husband was taken from her. Also note that both her sisters died during the year of her conception of Frankenstein, which probably made her writings about loss and anger more intensified throughout her work. Further observations would also link Victor’s chase after the monster with Mary’s own chase after her husband. Victor had to give up everything he loved to chase after the monster, both his wife and his beloved brother. “Percy dramatic threat to commit suicide convinced Mary to flee with him to France” (Telgen 181), this shows that Mary had to give up her father, friends and two sisters to elope with Percy. Even though Victor chased after his monster in hatred and Mary ran off with Victor due to their love, a clear connection can still be noted.

Mary Shelley’s reflects her personality in the novel, “the new Mrs. Godwin favored her own children over the daughters of the celebrated Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley was often alone and unhappy.” (Bloom 1-5) This illustrates to the readers how depressed and lonely she felt in her younger years which connect to why her horror story had such a dark and lonely atmosphere. It is also observed that, in the novel, Victor obviously favored his little brother and wife a lot more than his “creation”. It is quickly noted here that his little brother William is more like a son then a brother figure to him, with the vast difference in age and maturity (also he was named after Mary’s son). His creation was obviously openly jealous about this fact, Mary conveyed some of her own feelings towards her step mother into the monster at this part of the novel. She must have been extremely angry and hurt by the fact that her step mother favored her own children more, but like the monster, felt no hate towards her children but more towards her mother. It could be suggested that maybe she was trying to cover up her feelings to the public, but could not help but express them in her writings. Maybe she viewed these feelings as ugly and disgusting, like her monster. Mary seemed to have put a little of herself into almost every character in her novel, but most significantly in the monster, perhaps inside she viewed herself as a monster inside, with no one to understand her except the ones most important to her. Where it shows in the story, no one understands the monster except Victor. This was also how she portrayed Victor in the novel, but in a way more obvious approach. She had Victor admit that he was the real monster in the story, and not his creation.

As we near the end of our analysis of this wonderful novel, few could argue that Shelley did nothing less than pour her heart and soul into this novel. Even though she herself said that Frankenstein was mostly deprived from the happier times in her life, traces of her negative feelings of injustice, anger and jealousy can still be found. That being said, even though Mary Shelley’s life was filled with turmoil, she managed to express some of her happiness through her novel along with her ideals and personality. It can be argued that it is her maturity that makes her novel great, or it could be her extensive knowledge in the human mind and the human values. What cannot be argued is that without her fantastic life experiences, and without the incorporation of personal beliefs into her work, not even a lightning strike and two copper bolts in the neck would have made Frankenstein come to life.


Bloom, Bloom. “Mary Shelley 1797-1851.” The Critical Perspective. Vol. 7. New York: Chelsea House Publisher, 1988. Print. Frankenstein, or the New Prometheus. 4147-160.

URL Encyclopedia of world Biography :http://www.notablebiographies.com/Sc-St/Shelley-Mary.html

Poovey, Mary “Mary Shelley & Romanticism” Part Two Twentieth Century Studies Macmillan Education Ltd, 1988. Print. April 2010.

“Frankenstein.” Novels for Students. Ed. Diane Telgen. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 1997. 180-202. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 25 Apr. 2010.

Shelley , Mary. Frankenstein. Tge Modern Prometheus. Switzerland: Penguin Group, 1816. 31-211. Print.

Querna, Betsy. “Frankenstein and Mary Shelley.” U.S. News & world report 15 May 2006: 56. CPI.Q (Canadian Periodicals. Web. 25Apr 2010.

James, Frank A.J.L, and J.V Field. “Frankenstein and the spark of being.” History today 44.9(1994): 47+. CPI.Q (Canadian Periodicals) .Web25 Apr.2010

Thomas, Louisa. “Their love is Alive.” Newsweek 14 Sept. 2009: 62. CPI.Q (Canadian Periodicals). Web 25 Apr.2010


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