Frankenstein is often thought of as the classic horror story – but I think Mary Shelley’s novel is far better described as an electrifying psychological exploration. Its plot was allegedly inspired by a dream which the authoress had when she was just 18 years old. Yet having recently attended a talk on the links between science and literature in this tale of the ‘Modern Prometheus’, it is easy to see the underlying currents of concern and criticism towards the leading scientific endeavours of Shelley’s day, which motivated her study of the downfall of man as a creator.
Science, or natural philosophy as it was called in Shelley’s time, was alive with excitement and debate about the vital principle: what makes life, life. But Shelley obviously had her doubts, and envisioned a frightening future for this line of study.
Frankenstein was originally intended as a short story, composed as a result of a competition between Mary Shelley, her future husband Percy Shelley, and Lord Byron to see who could write the best horror story when staying in the appropriately atmospheric mountains of Geneva.
The novel surprised my expectations and in turn exceeded them. Shelley’s lavish writing style and incredible psychological and philosophical insights combine to make a story which is both compelling and thought-provoking: a highly recommendable read.