Biography - Mary Shelley was born August 30th, 1797 (8th year of the French Revolution) in London, England. - Shelley received no formal education. - When she was 16, Mary married Percy Bysshe Shelley, one of the greatest Romantic poets of all time. (They eloped.) Percy Shelley was a freethinker and a radical. He helped Mary complete her education...and tried to make her part of a free love community in which several people would share partners. - She started writing Frankenstein when she was 17. - Two of her children died. - Died of brain cancer of February 1st 1851 at age 53. Why were her parents important? - Mary Wollstonecraft, Shelley's mother, was an influential feminist. Her 'A Vindication of the Rights of Women' (1792) helped found the modern feminist movement and provided much of its early philosophical foundation. Wollstonecraft died due to complications from giving birth to Mary. As a result, though she eventually had a stepmother, Mary Shelley was essentially motherless and raised by an intellectual. - Shelley’s father, William Godwin, was a noted political philosopher as well as a novelist. There are marked similarities between the plot and structure of Godwin’s novel 'Caleb Williams' and that of his daughter's 'Frankenstein'. Social and Intellectual influences - Shelley was influenced greatly by her mother, even though she never met her, her movement on feminism deeply influence her. - Socially Shelley was influence by the people she was around most often, her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley; her friends, Claire Clairmont, Lord Byron and John Pollidori; close acquaintances, Harriet Shelley and Fanny Imlay. - Shelley was greatly influence by the authors and literature she read, that of John Milton, Plutarch, Shakespeare, Homer, John Keats, Thomas Moore being the main ones. - Jean-Jacques Rousseau was an author who also greatly influenced Shelley, possibly the most. Shelley saw Jean-Jacques Rousseau as a man "with an imagination that warmed him to daring." In her 1839 book, 'Eminent Literary and Scientific Men of France Volume II', Shelley clearly conveys the intellectual debt she has to Rousseau. Although Mary Shelley's critique of Rousseau is half critical and half enthusiastic, she was deeply moved and influenced by his thoughts and dreams. Her description of the Creature in 'Frankenstein' closely resembles her documentation of Rousseau's wanderings throughout Europe during his days of exile. The proximity between the two is unmistakable. In many ways, Mary Shelley personally related to Rousseau. Both of their mothers died from childbirth complications, they were both dreamers, yet outcasts, and both found inspiration in solitude. Their unspoken connection comes clear through Mary Shelley's narration of the life of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Circumstances surrounding the composition of Frankenstein 'Frankenstein' first came to Mary Shelley in a dream, it was further created during a ghost story contest between Shelley, her husband, the poet Lord Byron, and Doctor John Polidori.
Socio-Cultural and Political Context Events surrounding the composition of 'Frankenstein' - The French Revolution was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France. The monarchy that ruled over France for centuries, collapsed within three years. French society underwent a massive transformation; feudal, aristocratic and religious privileges evaporated under the assault from the radical left-wing political groups, riots on the streets and peasants in the countryside. - The Industrial Revolution, with conflict towards technology as both exciting and dangerous, the profound effect on social class was the possibility of acquired rather than inherited wealth. - Darwinism and his effect on religious thought; Charles Darwin published "On the Origin of Species" which gained him scientific acceptance with his theories of evolution and natural selection,