Frankenstein



The English author Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley began to pen her classic novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus in 1816, when she was 18 years old and in the midst of an extended trip throughout Western Europe. As was common practice for female authors in this time period, her book was published anonymously in 1818. Shelley was born to a privileged and well-educated English family, her father being the political philosopher and author William Godwin, her mother the philosopher and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. Shelley’s inspiration for Frankenstein came from her travels as a young teen throughout Europe, including the Rhine River in Germany, where she stopped in a town near the Frankenstein Castle. Later in her travels she spent time in Geneva, Switzerland, at the Villa Diodati, where much of the novel's story takes place. There she and her traveling companions told each other old German ghost stories, and talked at length about galvanism and the occult.

Stimulated by their ghoulish conversations, her traveling companion Lord Byron suggested that they compete to see who in the group could write the best horror story. The others with Shelley included her lover Percy Shelley (who would later become her husband), along with their friend John Polidori. As she struggled unsuccessfully to come up with a story, a dream came to her one night about a scientist who created a horrifying lifeform. The rest is history.

Over the last 200 years, Frankenstein has inspired hundreds of plays, adaptations, and films. It is regarded by literary critics as a landmark work of romantic and gothic literature. It has sold countless copies, been reprinted and adapted countless times, and is burned into the imaginations of countless people. At its core, perhaps the central greatness of the story is identified by what the final paragraph of the Wikipedia encyclopedia tells us about the meaning of Frankenstein:
    Film director Guillermo del Toro describes Frankenstein as "the quintessential teenage book", adding "You don't belong. You were brought to this world by people that don't care for you and you are thrown into a world of pain and suffering, and tears and hunger. It's an amazing book written by a teenage girl. It's mind-blowing." Professor of philosophy Patricia MacCormack says the creature, brought to life by Victor Frankenstein, addresses the most fundamental human questions: "It's the idea of asking your maker what your purpose is. Why are we here, what can we do?"
These are the questions that lasting pieces of literature ask. Happy 200th, Frankenstein! Our lives and imaginations have been greatly enriched by your creation!
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