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Mary Shelley

Key Facts

Main ideas Key Facts

full title · Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus

author · Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

type of work · Novel

genre · Gothic science fiction

language · English

time and place written · Switzerland, 1816, and London, 1816–1817

date of first publication · January 1, 1818

publisher · Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones

narrator · The primary narrator is Robert Walton, who, in his letters, quotes Victor Frankenstein’s first-person narrative at length; Victor, in turn, quotes the monster’s first-person narrative; in addition, the lesser characters Elizabeth Lavenza and Alphonse Frankenstein narrate parts of the story through their letters to Victor.

climax · The murder of Elizabeth Lavenza on the night of her wedding to Victor Frankenstein in Chapter 23

protagonist · Victor Frankenstein

antagonist · Frankenstein’s monster

setting (time) · Eighteenth century

setting (place) · Geneva; the Swiss Alps; Ingolstadt; England and Scotland; the northern ice

point of view · The point of view shifts with the narration, from Robert Walton to Victor Frankenstein to Frankenstein’s monster, then back to Walton, with a few digressions in the form of letters from Elizabeth Lavenza and Alphonse Frankenstein.

falling action · After the murder of Elizabeth Lavenza, when Victor Frankenstein chases the monster to the northern ice, is rescued by Robert Walton, narrates his story, and dies

tense · Past

foreshadowing · Ubiquitous—throughout his narrative, Victor uses words such as “fate” and “omen” to hint at the tragedy that has befallen him; additionally, he occasionally pauses in his recounting to collect himself in the face of frightening memories.

tone · Gothic, Romantic, emotional, tragic, fatalistic

themes · Dangerous knowledge; sublime nature; texts; secrecy; monstrosity

motifs · Passive women; abortion

symbols · Fire and light