Frankenstein is considered to be the greatest Gothic Romantic Novel. It is also generally thought of as the first science fiction novel. I have always been impressed and amazed by the fact that Mary wrote this novel when she was eighteen years old. What experiences and powers of imagination led to such an innovative and disturbing work?
The idea for the novel arose in the summer of 1816 when Mary Shelley was staying at Lord Byron’s villa in Geneva Switzerland. Not only did Mary incorporate experiences from that summer into her novel, she also utilized the sources that she had been reading and studying. Two in particular were the Metamorphoses by Ovid and Paradise Lost by Milton.
It is believed that Mary studied Ovid in April and May of 1815. The major element that Ovid supplied to the theme of Frankenstein, was his presentation of the Prometheus legend. This is acknowledged in the subtitle: Frankenstein, Or the Modern Prometheus. The creation of the monster is similar to this passage from Ovid:
Whether with particles of heav’nly fire, The God of Nature did his soul inspire; Or earth, but new divided from the sky, And, pliant, still retain’d th’ethereal energy; Which wise Prometheus temper’d into paste, And, mix’t with living streams, the godlike image cast… From such rude principles our form began; And earth was metamorphos’d into man.
Lines from Frankenstein that reflect the above passage are; “I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet.” (p.51)
“…that I may extinguish the spark which I so negligently bestowed.” (Frankenstein p.101)
The second important literary influence was Paradise Lost by Milton. ( If you have not read this, it is really worth the time. It is difficult, but is well worth the effort. I find that it is helpful to have a copy of Bullfinch’s Mythology when reading it. Almost all of Milton’s mythological references are explained in Bullfinch.)
The influence of Milton’s Paradise Lost can be seen directly from the epigraph of the 1818 edition of Frankenstein.
“Did I request thee, Maker from my clay to mould me man? Did I solicit thee, from darkness to promote me?”
The spirit of Paradise Lost permeates Frankenstein throughout the novel.
Comparing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Sign of Four
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde “has left such a deeply painful impression on my heart that I do not know how I am ever to turn it again” — Valdine Clemens
That which is willed and that which is wanted can be as different as the mind and the heart. The Victorian age in English Literature is known for its earnest obedience to a moralistic and highly structured social code of conduct; however, in the last decade of the 19th Century this order began to be questioned. So dramatic was the change in thought that Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (published in 1883) and Doyle’s The Sign of Four (published in 1890) can be used to display this breaking away from strict social and moral standards. Stevenson’s character Mr. Utterson can be used to personify the earnest social morality that the Victorian age is known for, while Doyle’s protagonist Sherlock Holmes personifies the shift to more individualistic pursuits. In their search for answers, Mr. Utterson and Sherlock Holmes exhibit very different motivations for investigating: the fulfillment of social and moral obligations, and personal satisfaction, respectively. This can be shown by comparing and contrasting these two characters’ reasons for getting involved, their methods of dispensing information during their investigations, and their results at the cases’ conclusions.
The characters’ actions in the first paragraphs of each of these works is very revealing; Sherlock Holmes is injecting himself with cocaine and Mr. Utterson is described as having resisted the theater (that he enjoys) for over twenty years. From these beginnings, it is obvious who the pleasure seeker is and who adheres to a strong sense of morals. Although Mr. Utt…
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… Valdine. The Return of the Repressed: Gothic Horror from The Castle of Otranto to Alien. Albany: State University of New York, 1999. Print.
Doyle, Conan. The Sign of Four in The Complete Sherlock Holmes Barnes