Mary Shelley's Inspiration for Frankenstein

Topics: Inspiration

The novel Frankenstein, written by Mary Shelley, demonstrates concepts of creationism and technology. Victor Frankenstein, the protagonist, finds himself mesmerized by these concepts and by turning lifeless matter into animated beings. Most importantly, his journey and the happenings throughout the novel are rooted from the depths of its author’s tragic life. Mary Shelley took her experiences and found herself consumed in the gothic yet romantic nature of the nineteenth century to help write this thrilling piece of work. Frankenstein is a direct depiction of Mary Shelley’s tragic life experiences regarding family deaths, abandonment, and travel.

The deaths Mary Shelley endoured from the early stages of her life serve as prominent sources of inspiration for Frankenstein. Shelley’s mother died giving birth to her. British Novelist, Brian Aldiss, states “Her mother’s death in childbirth must have caused Mary to feel that she, like the monster, had been born from the dead. Behind the monster’s eloquence lies Mary’s grief” (Aldiss, Brian).

Her mother dying while giving birth to Shelley created a forever sense of haunting within Mary. Furthermore, Her sister committed suicide, her husband’s ex wife committed suicide, and Percy Shelley, Mary’s husband, drowned while on a boating trip. Also, two of her children, William and Clara, had died shortly before. Shelley also had a miscarriage. These tragic deaths had such a vast impact on her daily life and mental state that she decided to illustrate these struggles in her novel. One example is Elizabeth’s mother dying at a young age.

Get quality help now
Writer Lyla

Proficient in: Inspiration

5 (876)

“ Have been using her for a while and please believe when I tell you, she never fail. Thanks Writer Lyla you are indeed awesome ”

+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

Elizabeth then becomes apart of Victor’s family and eventually transmits scarlet fever to Victor’s mother, causing her death. Also, after the death of Victor’s mother, Justine Moritz becomes ‘like a most affectionate mother’ (Shelley 69) to Victor’s youngest brother, Edward. After all this hardship the Frankenstein’s went through, Justine dies. Shelley’s way of portraying deaths of parental figures, especially mothers, makes the reader view motherhood as a negative concept. A mother-child relationship is something Mary Shelley really never got to experience. As we can see, death and the concept of motherhood play an important role in the novel. Because her life was so consumed with tragic deaths, a pit of misery and emotion was instilled within her. The deaths experienced by Mary Shelley led to isolation and abandonment issues, which also serve as inspiration to Shelley’s gothic tale.

Mary Shelley experienced abandonment from male figures in her life which created isolation issues. Mary Shelley’s relationship with her father, William Godwin, was very distant. She lived with 5 other children in her father and step mother’s home. This made it difficult for Shelley to have a close relationship with a parental figure, thus making her feel alone most of the time. Mary lived with a family in Scotland for 2 years due to their poor relationship when she was a teenager. To make matters worse, William Godwin abandoned Shelley when she married Percy Shelley. Scholar Moral Pilar states that “Mary Shelley was portraying in Victor Frankenstein the lack of nurturing love and support that a father owes to his children” (Moral, Pilar). Shelley’s father never gave her the attention and love that a child needs in their life. This stemmed many insecurities within Shelley. Victor Frankenstein was on a mission to create life form lifeless matter, only to later abandoned it. He never took the creature’s feelings into consideration, as a creature should do for its creation. Victor Frankenstein and William Godwin are direct comparisons in the novel.

Godwin instilled isolation issues within Shelley, just as the creature felt isolated from the world all throughout the novel because of Victor Frankenstein. One example is when the creature and Victor meet and he tells the creature, “…do you dare approach me? And do not you fear the fierce vengeance of my arm… Begone, vile insect…”(83). Victor wants no relationship between them. The creature had no parental figure or mentor just like Shelley had no mother and lack of a relationship with her father. She never had that compantionship that comes with learning and love that most children experience. Shelley wanted to feel apart of something and feel a type of relationship, but couldn’t. The creature wanted a connection with the Delacey family because his creator abandoned him. However, neither Shelley or the creature really got to achieve a level of satisfaction concerning companionship. Mary Shelley got inspiration from her father for Victor and her own feelings from this isolation for the creature. Not only is the concept of companionship reflected from Shelley’s life in Frankenstein, her travels throughout Europe and the natural catastrophes she encountered on these trips are also illustrated in the book.

Mary Shelley’s travels across Europe served as inspiration for many of the scenes in her novel. Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, Lord Byron and others embarked on a European vacation in the summer of 1816. The stormy weather kept them indoors. So, to pass time, they made up ghost stories. This is where Frankenstein first started to be written. Mary Shelley described the storm in a letter to her sister “The thunder storms that visit us are grander and more terrific than I have ever seen before. We watch them as they approach from the opposite side of the lake…” (Phillips, Bill). This vacation takes place on Lake Geneva and much of the novel is based in Geneva, Switzerland, for that is where Victor Frankenstein is from. This lightning storm that Mary and her friends experienced is depicted in chapter 2 of Frankenstein: “I beheld a stream of fire issue from an old and beautiful oak, which stood about twenty yards from our house; and so soon as the dazzling light vanished, the oak had disappeared, and nothing remained but a blasted stump” (Shelley 32). Victor is immediately impressed with the lighting destructing the tree. This sparks Victor’s theory about creating life from death. The events in the novel, from deaths to travels, stem from Shelley’s life experiences concerning these topics. Moreover, Shelley was consumed with the philosophies of fate and destiny which had influence on the novel.

Mary Shelley’s experiences shaped her into a strong women who later believed in the concept of fate. Mary Shelley wrote two versions of Frankenstein. Each version is different because as she matured, she became more aware of fate and its role in her life. In the 1818 version, “Dr. Frankenstein makes the creature in the spirit of free, scientific curiosity; his sin is that he then refuses to love and nurture him once he comes to life” (Queralt, Maria). Doctor Frankenstein’s faults are not due to “chance” or fate. His actions of not caring for his creation is a direct depiction of Mary Shelley’s abandonment and isolation issues. However, the 1831 version depects Victor as a victim of destiny. His scientific endeavours, as projected by Shelley, are the consequences of fate. Mary Shelley writes in a letter, “The power of Destiny I feel . . .pressing more and more on me, and I yield myself a slave to it” (Queralt, Maria). As Mary Shelley’s life continued to suffer from moralities, like her husbands, her views of the world changed. So, we can see that Shelley’s life influenced her work immensely.

The famous tale of a doctor whose actions ultimately are the source of his downfall stems from its author’s wretched life. Moreover, one’s experiences have a heavy impact on one’s outlook on life. However, the experiences we endure, no matter how small or tragic, play an important role in how we react to certain situations. Just as Mary Shelley turned her depressing childhood and adult years into a famous novel that provides immense amounts of knowledge about the human condition and its flaws, we can learn about our flaws in order to form better versions of ourselves.

Cite this page

Mary Shelley's Inspiration for Frankenstein. (2022, Apr 29). Retrieved from

Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7