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The Theme of Science Fiction in Frankenstein

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The theme of science fiction in Frankenstein

It has been said before that the mark of a bad writer is when the author is clearly visible in not only their novels characters, but also in its plot, as this means the author is not able to distinguish their personal life from that of their imagined characters. In the case of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein however the opposite is true, as it is Mary Shelly's own life, and the changes towards science in the society that she grew up in that have the profoundest effect on her book, and that assist in the creation of the first real science fiction novel.

The first aspect of Mary Shelly's life that had a huge effect on her novel was the people that she chose to surround herself with in her earlier years, primarily her father and her estranged husband Percy Shelly. From a very young age Mary Shelly looked up to her father enormously and even though "the emotional side of her rearing was neglected, intellectual stimulus for what her father considered her 'considerable talent' was not wanting" (Hindle, xvi) Shelly was raised in a very academically oriented environment, and some might say that it is because of her early exposure to books and academics that she was able to create what was destined to become a prototype for science-fiction books to come. In addition to this the lack of emotion in her upbringing may be the reason why she so easily gravitated towards the sciences her husband practiced, and ultimately why she used it in her book. Another way that her father influenced the creation of the science fiction in Frankenstein was through his viewpoints on controversial subjects, which would have been taught, if not instilled upon Shelly. Mary's father was an "ex-dissenting minister turned atheist" (Hindle, xiv) and surly this would have made her question the conventional views of religion and what life was. Indeed in Frankenstein the protagonist of the story Victor has a "fervent longing to penetrate the secrets of nature" (Shelly, 41) and this leads him to further question what keeps "human beings from entering the citadel of nature" (Shelly, 41) It is the notions like this that lead Shelly to use science fiction in her novel to creature a monster that went against god. If it was Shelly's father who gave her an insatiable desire to learn, it was Percy who supplied her with the science she needed to produce the creation of her monster. Percy had a strong affiliation for science and it was reported when he was younger that he "bought and experimented with chemical apparatus and materials and read 'treatises on magic and witchcraft, as well as the more modern ones detailing the miracles of electricity and galvanism'" (Hindle, xxv) The concepts of Galvanism and the miracles of electricity are both used in the book, and Percy receives the credit for this, as he is the one who introduced her to these concepts that are so essential to the novel.

The next element that was important in the making of science fiction in Mary Shelly`s Frankenstein was new discoveries being found in the 1800`s, as well as the new inventions being made. As is often the case the production of new innovations resulted in the formation of new ideas, as people came to realize that what was once thought impossible was now within reason. One such example of this is the re-animation of muscles using a new invention called galvanism. In her own life Shelly is first introduced to galvanism by her husband, and then goes on to speculate with others that "perhaps a corpse would be re-animated; galvanism had give token of such things: perhaps the component parts of a creature might be manufactured, brought together and endured with vital warmth." (Hindle, xli) It was this theory that Shelly used to bring her monster to life in Frankenstein and is without a doubt one of the most key components of her story. While reading of Victors struggle to bring the monster to life the reader hears him say "I gathered the instruments of life around me¸ that I may infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet." (Shelly, 58) One could surmise that by spark of life Victor is talking about galvanism and this is further verified by the fact that earlier in the book Victor himself read a book on galvanism and electricity "which at once fascinated him." (Shelly, 43) Another factor from the time that likely influenced Shelly



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