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Essay on The Historical Perspective in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

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The Historical Perspective in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is an early product of the modern Western world. Written during the Romantic movement of the early 19th century, the book provides insight into issues that are pertinent today. Similar to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust, Shelley's Frankenstein concerns individuals' aspirations and what results when those aspirations are attained irresponsibly.

While Mary Shelley (then Mary Godwin) wrote Frankenstein in 1816 she was living or in contact with both Percy Shelley and Lord Byron, the two predominant romantic poets who professed the romantic ideals of the age. One such ideal was the society transformed by the individual. For example, the British
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The overwhelming reality of Godwin's life was similar to the harsh reality going on in Europe's political events.

In Forbidden Knowledge by Roger Shattuck, Mary Shelley's background is discussed further. She was swept off her feet by Percy Shelley at the age of seventeen. Without being married she lived in an irregular household of men who were intent upon achieving glory through their genius. Lord Byron was one such individual. "Surrounded by illegitimate births and infant deaths, they subsisted on high ideals to remake the world through liberation and revolution" (Shattuck 84). It was the hollowness and vanity of these high ideals that Mary Godwin was reacting to when she wrote Frankenstein.

In the novel, Victor Frankenstein is a doctor who seems discontent and achieves satisfaction by exploring the supernatural realm. The creation of his monster comes about because of his unchecked intellectual ambition: he had been striving for something beyond his control. Consequently, his ambition is misled and his life becomes a hollow existence. Frankenstein states, "Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how happier the man is who believes his native town to be the
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