Frankenstein, written by Mary Shelley, was published in 1818. Victor Frankenstein is a scientist (then called a natural philosopher) who seeks to create life – a being to surpass a human in ability and beauty. Once the creature comes to life, Frankenstein is horrified at the result and flees. Abandoned by Frankenstein, the creature must find his own path in the world and, as a result of his experiences in life, ultimately turns on Frankenstein seeking revenge.
Considered to be one of the world’s first works of science fiction, Frankenstein is far from our current image of what a horror story is and from the movies inspired by the novel. The horror depicted in the novel comes from within and reveals the atrocities that people can commit while acting with good intentions, as well as our shared desire for a sense of belonging.
The themes of Frankenstein are as relevant today as they were 200 years ago. As you read consider the following:
- Today’s scientific and technological research, such as artificial intelligence and gene editing, raise similar ethical and moral questions as those raised by Mary Shelley. What are the ethical considerations and implications in current scientific research that are intended to improve life?
- Both Victor Frankenstein and the creature possess a deep desire for belonging. How has your need for belonging shaped who you are and what you do – in positive and negative ways?
- Frankenstein sees his creation as horrific. To what extent are conceptions of things which are “good” or valuable shaped by culture and society? What examples do you see in today’s society of people being rejected and marginalized because they do not fit in someone’s image of “good?” What are the consequences of being marginalized?
- What do you see as horrifying in Frankenstein? Why?
Did You Know?
- 2018 is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein
- Mary Shelley was a teenager when she wrote the novel
- The eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia in 1815 had global repercussions, including producing the “year without a summer” in 1816, the year Mary Shelley drafted her novel
- Mary Shelley’s mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, was a feminist