An Analysis of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

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Mary Shelley’s life was greatly influenced by Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsmith, and Lord Byron. As the wife of Percy Shelley, she was exposed to the same influences as her husband. The Romanticism movement had a profound impact on both their works. It was during a challenge proposed by Byron to determine who among the three writers – Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, and himself – could write the best ghost story that Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. Furthermore, important events such as the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution in England during the 18th Century shaped society and literature, leaving an imprint on Mary Shelley’s life and work.

During the Industrial Revolution, mass production and demutualization posed a threat to Romantic ideals such as individual importance, the beauty of nature, and emotional freedom. Frankincense, also known as The Modern Prometheus, serves as a protest against this scientific revolution. In this era of discovery, scientific progress played a significant role. Charles Darwin, a renowned scientist known for his theories of evolution, had a personal connection to Shelley’s husband, indicating that science was not overlooked in her life. Additionally, advancements in medicine and the demand for cadavers were prominent during Mary Shelley’s lifetime.

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During this period in London, grave robbing was a prevalent occurrence. Referred to as “the resurrection men,” these individuals would steal bodies and sell them to medical schools for dissection and study. Considering this background, Victor Frankincense’s act of scavenging graveyards for body parts becomes less surprising. Frankincense explores typical Romantic themes such as isolation and the beauty of nature while also dealing with the concept of loss, which was familiar to Mary Shelley. Having grown up without a mother and having experienced the suicide of her sister, as well as the loss of three children through miscarriage and early childhood deaths, Mary Shelley had personal knowledge of this topic.

In 1822, Mary Shelley’s husband drowned in the Gulf of Specialize, leaving her a 25-year-old widow with only one son. She never remarried and passed away in London in 1851. Despite writing other books such as Valier (1823), The Last Man, critics had mixed reactions to Mary Shelley’s novel. According to Moss and Wilson, the critics responded to Frankincense with a combination of praise and disdain due to its unconventional themes. However, despite the critical attacks, Frankincense caused a literary sensation in London.

According to Moss and Wilson, the novel seamlessly fits into the popular gothic genre. However, it is more than just a novel of popular culture. Frankenstein has stood the test of time. Moss and Wilson state that it became a triumph of the Romantic movement due to its exploration of themes such as alienation, isolation, and the warning about the destructive power that can arise when human creativity is not bound by moral and social responsibilities. The novel, written by Mary Shelley, is set in Europe in the 1800s and begins with the letters exchanged between Captain Robert Walton and his sister.

The letters in this text serve as the foundation for the narrative in which Walton recounts to his sister the tale of Victor Frankincense and his creation, as relayed to him by Frankincense himself. Walton embarked on a journey to explore the North Pole. However, their ship became trapped in frozen water and the crew witnessed a colossal man on a dogsled in the distance. Several hours later, they discovered Frankincense and his dogsled near the ship, prompting them to bring the ill man on board. As Frankincense recuperated, he shared his story with Walton, aiming to impart upon him the consequences of pursuing glory regardless of the price.

Frankincense was raised in a loving Swiss family and had a close relationship with his cousin Elizabeth and friend Henry Cleaver. From a young age, Frankincense became fixated on studying outdated theories about the essence of human life. During his time at Inconstant college, he managed to construct his own “perfect” human out of discarded body parts, but upon its creation, he found the creature to be repulsive. Unable to bear its ugliness, Frankincense fled from it. Eventually, Henry Cleaver came to Inconstant to study alongside Frankincense, but ended up caring for him after his exhaustive and covert endeavors to create a flawlessly human existence.

While Frankincense was recovering from his illness for several months, he studied languages with Cleaver at the college. During this time, the monster wandered in search of friendship, but had numerous negative encounters with humans. As a result, the monster became fearful of them and took up residence near a cottage where he observed the family living there. Through careful observation, the monster gained an education and realized how different he was from the humans he watched. Despite his loneliness, when the monster tried to befriend the family, they were frightened of him. This rejection fueled his desire for revenge against his creator.

In Geneva, a man encountered a little boy in the woods. The man, who was a monster, planned to kidnap the boy for companionship. However, it turned out that the boy was Frankincense’s younger brother. Seeking revenge on a beautiful girl who was later executed, the monster killed the boy instead. Upon learning of his brother’s death, Frankincense returned to Geneva to be with his family. In the same woods where his brother was murdered, Frankincense confronted the monster and recognized him as William, his brother’s killer. Filled with grief and guilt for creating such a destructive monster, Frankincense chose seclusion in the mountains in search of solace.

Instead of peace, the monster approached Frankincense and demanded that he create a female monster to be its companion. Fearing for his family, Frankincense agreed and traveled to England to fulfill the request. Cleaver accompanied him, but they separated in Scotland as Frankincense began his work. However, when he was nearly done, he decided against it because he didn’t want to be accountable for the destruction another monster could cause, so he destroyed the project. As a result, the monster swore revenge on Frankincense’s upcoming wedding night.

Before Frankincense could return home, the monster murdered Cleaver. Upon arriving home, Frankincense hastily married his cousin Elizabeth and made preparations for his impending death. However, the monster ended up killing Elizabeth instead, resulting in Frankincense’s father’s demise due to the grief of her death. In the aftermath, Frankincense made a vow to pursue and destroy the monster. This vow led Frankincense to the vicinity of the North Pole where Wallow’s ship had become trapped. Several days after Frankincense concluded his story, Walton and his crew made the decision to turn back and head home.

Before they departed, Frankenstein passed away and the creature materialized in his chamber. Walton listened to the creature’s justification for seeking revenge and also his regret before it departed from the ship and embarked towards the Pole in order to annihilate itself, ensuring that its existence remains unknown.


Major Characters

Robert Walton: Indirect narrator of the story, communicating Victor Frankenstein’s tale through letters addressed to his sister, Margaret Seville. Walton is an autodidact who embarked on a journey to reach and explore the North Pole, with the aim of discovering an Arctic passage connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

While his ship is trapped in ice, Frankenstein’s crew witnesses the monster passing by on a dog sled, with Frankenstein himself following closely behind in a weakened state. They bring Frankenstein on board and provide him with care while engaging in conversation, as Walton has been longing for companionship. Witnessing Walton’s determination to explore the North Pole at any cost prompts Frankenstein to share his tragic tale of destruction that was brought upon him by a similar ambition. After Frankenstein’s demise and just before the ship departs for England, Walton becomes the last person to encounter the monster before he heads north to end his own life.

Victor Frankincense is the eldest son of Alphorns, a wealthy and prominent man from Geneses, and his young wife Caroline. Victor enjoys a privileged upbringing with his sister Elizabeth as part of a picture-perfect family. He possesses qualities like sensitivity, intellect, and a burning passion for his interests. Victor becomes completely absorbed in his quest to uncover the secrets behind the creation of life.

During his time at college in Inconstant, Victor successfully brings a creature to life using body parts scavenged from various corpses. However, once the creature comes to life, Victor is horrified by its hideous appearance and immediately regrets his actions. As a result of neglecting his creation, the monster seeks revenge and destroys Victor’s life by mercilessly killing everyone he holds dear.

Victor pursues the monster all the way to the Arctic, intending to both destroy him and find release from his anguish and guilt for bringing him to life. However, Victor dies while aboard Wallow’s ship before he can capture the creature. The monster, known as Inconstant, was created by Victor Frankincense. Composed of various human body parts, he possesses superhuman strength. His repulsiveness is so intense that even his own creator cannot bear to gaze upon him. Initially, the monster is affectionate and tender, displaying childlike curiosity and innocence. Yet, after enduring numerous hostile encounters with humans, he transforms into a bitter being.

Seeking revenge on his creator for making him hideous and lonely, the monster offers Frankincense peace in exchange for a companion like himself. However, when Frankincense refuses, the monster vows to destroy him and starts killing off Frankincense’s loved ones, the very people he envies. Discovering Frankincense dead on Wallow’s ship, the monster heads north with the intention of self-destruction to end the suffering that Frankincense initiated by creating him. Elizabeth Leavens: Adopted cousin of Victor Frankincense.

Elizabeth, a lovely orphan, was adopted by Caroline Effort Frankincense and raised by an Italian peasant family. Since their meeting when he was 5 years old, Victor considered her his own possession, always looking out for her. Her charm and compassion endeared her to everyone who knew her, so it was assumed that she and Victor would eventually marry. As the Frankincense family mourned the loss of Caroline, Elizabeth became a soothing presence and a source of comfort for the male members. Her exceptional beauty and moral character remained unwavering throughout her life.

She and Victor are married, but on their wedding night, the monster strangles Elizabeth to punish Victor for not creating for him a companion creature. Henry Cleaver: Life-long friend of Victor Frankincense, Henry was poetic, sensitive and caring, and their friendship was a strong one. When Victor was in Inconstant so long without sending word to his family, Henry relocated there to study and to look after Victor. Henry nursed him through a long period of illness before Victor returned to Geneva. Later they traveled together to England and Scotland, but while they were there, the monster strangled Henry to punish Victor.

Victor faced accusations of murder but was ultimately found not guilty. Justine Morris, a servant in the Frankincense household, was a compassionate and kind addition to their family. She was taken in by Caroline to receive care and education. During Caroline’s battle with scarlet fever, Justine took care of her. After Caroline’s demise, Justine returned to the Frankincense home to assist in raising the two sons that Caroline had given birth to before her death. Justine was a loyal and appreciative member of their household. However, she faced an accusation of murdering five-year-old William Frankincense when a locket that he had been wearing was discovered in her dress.

Despite being innocent, she was executed as a result of being framed by the monster. Victor, who created the monster responsible for framing her, viewed her death as his own fault. Alphorns Frankincense, Victor’s father, was a wealthy and kindhearted man who deeply loved his wife and children. After the death of Caroline Effort’s father, a dear friend of his, he rescued her from poverty. However, he suffered from the constant pain of losing loved ones until it ultimately led to his own demise.

Caroline Effort Frankincense, the wife of Alphorns and the mother of Victor, Ernest, and William, was originally the daughter of a wealthy friend of Alphorns. Alphorns had planned to help his friend and visited their house, where he discovered Caroline mourning over his friend’s coffin. Alphorns brought her into his own home and two years later, they were married. They had a loving relationship and both deeply cared for their children. Caroline was a kind, beautiful, and gentle woman who was adored by her entire family. However, her health deteriorated after she contracted scarlet fever while nursing Elizabeth back to health, eventually leading to her death.

Minor Characters Mrs. Margaret Seville is the sister of Robert Walton, the ship captain. She is significant because she receives the letters that describe Frankincense’s story. Walton writes to her about his journey and his acquaintance with Frankincense. Effort is a friend of Alphorns Frankincense and Carolina’s father. He lost his wealth and moved to avoid the shame of his poverty. Caroline took care of him as his health declined and was crying over his coffin when Alphorns found her and brought her back to Geneva.

M. Walden: Chemistry professor at Inconstant, whose lectures reignite Victor’s fascination with uncovering the essence of life and the act of creation. Ernest Frankincense: Victor’s sibling, who is seven years his junior and is briefly mentioned, with the most detailed reference appearing in a letter from Elizabeth to Victor. Elizabeth reveals that Ernest aspires to enlist in the Swiss military. William Frankincense: Victor’s youngest brother, beloved by his family for his cheerful disposition, tragically meets his demise in the forest during a family stroll, as he is strangled.

This is the first victim of the monster, and Justine is accused of the murder. This takes place in a region where the monster resides. The French exiles, who now live in Germany, are actually there because Felix aided a wrongly imprisoned Turk in escaping. The monster observes them and learns to speak and read by observing them over time. He becomes attached to them and performs various services for them, such as chopping wood, without revealing his presence. He longs for their acceptance and love, and he further educates himself to try to win them over. However, when he seeks their love, they become frightened of him and their disdain drives him away.

This rejection prompts him to embark on a mission to locate Victor, his creator, and seek revenge. Muhammad, who was unjustly condemned due to religious and financial reasons, was aided by Turk Felix and the De Lacey family, who were exiled to Germany. During his escape, Felix falls in love with Sane, Mandamus’s daughter, and promises to allow them to marry. However, unbeknownst to them, Muhammad plans to secretly take Sane back to Turkey with him. Sane, the daughter of Muhammad and an Arabian Christian woman, is deeply in love with Felix and dreads the prospect of returning to her oppressive homeland.

When her father departs for Turkey anticipating that she will join him later with all his belongings, she seeks out Felix and resides with him and his family in Germany. M. Jerkin: An Irish magistrate who attends to Victor when he falls ill after being accused of Henry’s homicide. Jerkin is understanding and trusts in Victor’s innocence, hence he arranges for a doctor to treat Victor while he is imprisoned and also sends for Alphorns. SETTINGS Geneva: A city in Switzerland where the Frankincense family resides, which is also Victoria’s hometown and the place she returns to after completing college and creating the monster.

The murders of William and Justine took place in Geneva. Victor attended college in Inconstant, Germany where he created the monster in his laboratory. Inconstant is the city where the monster came to life. Mont Blank, a mountain near Geneva, is repeatedly mentioned in scenic descriptions throughout the novel. It holds significance as a symbol of Romanticism because it is the subject of a well-known poem by William Wordsmith, who was a contemporary of Mary Shelley. The Orkney Islands, located in Scotland, is also mentioned.

Victor stays in a hut on one of the sparsely populated Orkney Islands to create a second creature to be a companion to the monster. North Pole: Destination of Robert Walton and his ship as well as the monster and secrets of the earth and gaining glory for his discovery. Victor follows the monster to the North Pole to destroy him or die trying, and they meet while Walton’s ship is trapped in ice. However, Walton and Victor never reach the North Pole because Walton’s men want to turn back for England and Victor dies.

The monster, however, travels to the furthest point north to destroy himself so that none will know of his hideous existence. Champions: Frankincense goes to Champions to escape guilt and depression. While in Champions, the monster asks Frankincense to create a female monster companion for him. The monster resides in an ice cave near Champions. INTRODUCTION Mary Shelley was born in 1779 in London, England. At sixteen, she meets the renowned British poet Percy Abysses Shelley, whom she later marries.

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An Analysis of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. (2018, Feb 03). Retrieved from

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