Mary Shelley was born in London in 1797, the daughter of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, two radical writers. Her mother died when she was only ten days old. In 1816 she married Percy Bysshe Shelley, then unknown, and they lived in Italy until Shelley's death in 1822. The idea for Frankenstein came to her when she was staying on Lake Geneva in 1816 but was not published for two years. She wrote several other novels and contributed to the Westminster Review. She died in February 1851."
It is quite difficult to believe that a young girl of 18 years old would be the author of a book that would become the first monster film, creation film, bionic film, horror film, publicly banned film, and the first of many Frankenstein films. But we must give this young girl credit for her literary talent and active imagination. Mary Shelley is responsible for many fine literary works of art but none are as famous as Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus published in 1818. The tale Shelley tells is of a young Dr. Frankenstein who tries to create a living being but instead creates a monster.
There are many interesting theories on the reasons why Shelley wrote Frankenstein. The book was started while vacationing at Lake Geneva with her husband Percy, Lord Byron, and John Polidari. Lord Byron challenged the group to write a ghost story. Mary was slow to come up with an idea for her story but after she had the following "waking" nightmare she began to write the famous Frankenstein novel that would take her almost 2 years to publish:
"I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, then on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life...his success would terrify the artist; he would rush away...hope that...this thing...would subside into dead matter...he opens his eyes; behold the horrid thing stands back at this beside opening his curtains..."
Mary now had the basis of her story and went on to complete the novel in the spring of 1817 and have it published January 1, 1818. Frankenstein can be read with many different view points in mind. Was Mary simply writing of the nightmare she had in Lake Geneva or was she writing about the fears she had about child birth. At the time she wrote Frankenstein she had lost one child and had a 6 month old to care for. Frankenstein can be viewed as a reflection of Mary's fears of having a deformed child or a child she could not love.