The year is 1797 and Mary Wollstonecraft gives birth to a baby girl on August 30. A baby girl soon to be known as Mary Shelley. Mary Shelley was a prominent literary figure during the Romantic Era of English Literature. She was the only child of Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin. From infancy Mary was treated as a unique individual. William Godwin believed that babies were born with potential waiting to be developed (Poetry for Students, 337). Therefore, surrounded Mary with famous philosophers, writers, and poets, from an early age.
At the age of sixteen Mary ran away to live with the twenty-one year old Percy Shelley (337). There was only one problem though, Percy was married. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein in the summer of 1816, staying at Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Mary was only nineteen at the4 time. She wrote the novel while being overwhelmed by a series of difficulties in her life. The worst of these were the suicides of her half-sister, Fanny Imlay, and Percy Shelley’s wife, Harriet (Student Handbook, 190).
After these deaths Mary and Percy married. Fierce public hostility toward the couple drove them to Italy. Eventually they were happy in Italy, but their two children William and Clara Shelley died there. Mary never really recovered from their deaths. However, Percy empowered Mary to live as she most desired. In 1822 Percy drowned in a boating accident, leaving Mary penniless. For her remaining years she worked as a professional writer to support her father and son. She died in 1851 of a brain tumor.
Mary Shelley combined the ethical concerns of her parents with the Romantic sensibilities of Percy Shelley’s poetic inclinations. Her father’s concern for the underprivileged influenced her description of the poverty-stricken De Lacey family. Mary’s choice of a Gothic novel made her unique in her family and secured her authorial place in the Romantic period. Romantics believed that the creative imagination reveals nobler truths, unique feelings and attitudes than those that could be discovered by logic or by scientific examination.
Mary Shelley showed this in her book Frankenstein. She expressed how she felt and all she was going through in different parts of Frankenstein. Frankenstein reflected Mary Shelley’s deepest fears and insecurities, like her inability to prevent her children’s deaths, her distressed marriage to a man who showed no pity for his daughters’ deaths, and her feelings of inadequacy as a writer. Gothic novels deal with the creation of life, the nature of humankind, and the moral problems that are raised by humanity’s slow but steady mastery of science, nature, and life itself.
Gothic novels also feature elements of horror, the supernatural, gloom, and violence: terror, charnel houses, ghosts, medieval castles, and mysteriously slamming doors. Mary Shelley’s setting is the exception to most gothic novels because of the fact that the monster wanders the Alps instead of a dark, craggy mansion in the middle of nowhere (Poetry for Students, 338). Mary Shelley had many problems in her life and she coped with them by writing book and expressing her feelings through her books. Mary Shelley’s book Frankenstein was a great book. It is considered to be the greatest Gothic Romantic Novel.