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Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley Mary Shelley[1†]

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, also known as Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin[1†][2†], was an English Romantic novelist best known as the author of Frankenstein[2†]. Her work is part Gothic novel and part philosophical novel, and is also often considered an early example of science fiction[2†]. She was born on August 30, 1797, in London, England, and died on February 1, 1851[2†].

Early Years and Education:

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, born on August 30, 1797, in London, England, was the only daughter of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft[2†]. Her parents were both notable literary figures. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, was a pioneering feminist, and her father, William Godwin, was a political philosopher[3†].

Despite the intellectual environment in which she was raised, Mary did not receive a formal education[4†][5†][6†]. Her stepmother did not deem it necessary to enroll her in school like her stepsister Fanny[4†]. Instead, Mary educated herself using her father’s extensive library and absorbed a wealth of varied information[4†]. She also received tutorial sessions from a governess and, during her formative years, attended a boarding school[4†].

Her father’s literary circle also played a pivotal role in her early years[5†]. He would take her on educational outings, which proved to be an asset for her burgeoning intellect[5†]. This unconventional education would later serve as a foundation for her literary career.

In 1812, she met the young poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and eloped with him to France in July 1814[2†]. The couple married in 1816, after Shelley’s first wife committed suicide[2†].

Career Development and Achievements:

Mary Shelley’s literary career began early, and she was chiefly known for her efforts to promote and publish her husband’s works and her own novel, Frankenstein[7†]. The novel achieved instant success[7†]. It is believed that the story was a result of a dare made by Lord Byron that she write a ghost story[8†]. Frankenstein became one of the first bestselling works to be published by a woman[8†].

After her husband’s death in 1822, she returned to England and devoted herself to publicizing Shelley’s writings and to educating their only surviving child, Percy Florence Shelley[2†]. She published her late husband’s Posthumous Poems (1824); she also edited his Poetical Works (1839), with long and invaluable notes, and his prose works[2†]. Her Journal is a rich source of Shelley biography, and her letters are an indispensable adjunct[2†].

In addition to Frankenstein, many scholars are interested in her works such as Valperga and Perkin Warbeck, The Last Man, Falkner, and Lodore[7†]. These works further established her reputation as a significant figure in English Romantic literature[7†].

First Publication of Her Main Works:

Mary Shelley is best known for her Gothic novel, Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, which was first published in 1818[9†][2†]. This novel is often considered an early example of science fiction and narrates the dreadful consequences that arise after a scientist has artificially created a human being[2†].

Here are some of her other notable works:

Each of these works contributed to her reputation as a significant figure in English Romantic literature[10†].

Analysis and Evaluation:

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often described by modern scholars as the first example of a science fiction novel[11†]. More importantly, however, from a literary analysis perspective, it is one of the key texts of early Gothic literature and cements many of the traits and techniques which would later come to typify the genre[11†].

The novel’s themes center on the social and cultural aspects of society during Shelley’s lifetime, including the movement away from the intellectually confining Enlightenment[12†]. The characters in the novel reflect the struggle against societal control[11†][12†]. The monster, in particular, is an outcast from society, and the reader is able to empathize with his subsequent rage at being ostracized[12†].

Nature and science, opposing forces during this time period, are important themes shaping the novel[12†]. Early nineteenth-century society’s views of human standards were associated with the natural sciences[12†]. Irregularities in the human standard were therefore viewed as unacceptable by society, and through an innate reaction, these differences were rejected[12†].

Shelley employs many stylistic techniques in Frankenstein[11†][12†]. She uses explorer Robert Walton’s epistolary communication with his sister as part of an outer frame structure that segues into a flashback of Victor Frankenstein’s experiences leading up to and after the creation of the monster[12†]. First-person narrative is used in Walton’s voice, while the core chapters offer Victor’s personal narration[12†]. In addition, Shelley uses dialogue to provide the thoughts of other characters, such as the monster[11†][12†].

Personal Life:

Mary Shelley’s personal life was marked by a series of tragedies and unconventional choices[13†][4†]. She was the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, an early feminist, and William Godwin, a political writer and novelist[14†]. Her mother died shortly after giving birth to her[14†].

At the age of seventeen, Mary eloped with Percy Bysshe Shelley, who was already married at the time[14†][4†]. They believed that ties of the heart were more important than legal ones[14†]. The couple spent the next few years traveling in Switzerland, Germany, and Italy[14†]. They had four children, but tragically, three of them died early, leaving only one surviving child, Percy Florence[13†][4†].

After Percy’s death in 1822, Mary returned to England and devoted herself to publicizing Shelley’s writings and to educating their only surviving child[1†]. Despite the difficult circumstances, Mary and Percy enjoyed a large group of friends, which included the poet Lord Byron and the writer Leigh Hunt[14†].

Conclusion and Legacy:

Mary Shelley passed away at the age of 53 in 1851[15†][2†]. Despite her early death, she left behind a significant legacy that continues to influence literature and culture[15†][2†].

Her best-known work, Frankenstein, is considered one of the greatest works in English literature[15†]. It challenges the idea of modernity and questions the state of “being human” while continually searching for a way to validate the emotions that one may feel through the course of life[15†]. The novel’s themes, such as responsibility, neglect, and reckless behavior, are still relevant today[16†].

After Percy Bysshe Shelley’s death, it was Mary’s tireless work in editing and publishing his poetry that helped establish him as one of the great Romantic poets[17†]. As well as writing fiction, Mary was active in politics and society. She was a champion of women’s rights[15†][17†].

Her work, particularly Frankenstein, continues to be studied and analyzed, demonstrating its enduring relevance and impact[15†][2†]. Her life and works continue to inspire and influence writers and artists, confirming her place as a significant figure in English Romantic literature[15†][2†].

Key Information:

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - Mary Shelley [website] - link
  2. Britannica - Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley [website] - link
  3. History Today - Mary Shelley's Life of Learning [website] - link
  4. EAFEED - Mary Shelley Biography, Education, Career, Personal Life [website] - link
  5. Literary Devices - Mary Shelley [website] - link
  6. Mary Shelly - The Early Life of Mary Shelly [website] - link
  7. LitPriest - Mary Shelly [website] - link
  8. Famous Authors - Mary Shelly [website] - link
  9. Wikipedia (English) - Mary Shelley bibliography [website] - link
  10. LiquiSearch - List of Works By Mary Shelley [website] - link
  11. eNotes - Frankenstein by Mary Shelley - Analysis [website] - link
  12. eNotes - Frankenstein by Mary Shelley - Critical Evaluation [website] - link
  13. History Hit - 10 Facts About Mary Shelley: The Woman Behind Frankenstein [website] - link
  14. Encyclopedia of World Biography - Mary Shelley Biography [website] - link
  15. PhysicsCatalyst - Mary Shelley and Her Legacy [website] - link
  16. EduBirdie - Essay on Mary Shelley’s Legacy: Analysis of Frankenstein [website] - link
  17. Twinkl - What is Mary Shelley’s Legacy? [website] - link
  18. Central Square Theater - History and Science in Mary Shelley’s World [website] - link
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