The Life of Mary Shelley
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was born in 1791 in London. She is the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft and William Goodwin. Wollstonecraft was a radical feminist writer, and Goodwin was a writer as well as a philosopher. It was said that this couple's combined intellect was dangerous to society; however, days after Mary's birth, Wollstonecraft died due to complications from the pregnancy. Mary spent a lot of time visiting her mother's grave when she was growing up. Her father taught her how to spell her mother's name by having her trace the letters on the headstone with her fingers, an interesting yet morbid way to teach a seven year old how to spell. Goodwin raised Mary by himself for the early part of her life. When Mary was four, he married Mary Jane Clairmont, who also had children from a previous marriage. Mary never fully accepted the stepfamily; she always felt like an outsider. Many of her feelings of loneliness and longing to know her mother are issues that are prevalent in the novel Frankenstein. These issues are analogous to the search that the monster had for his creator.
During Mary's teenage years, Goodwin owned a publishing company, so the Goodwin household was filled with famous authors and intellectuals. Coleridge was known to visit the house often. On one occasion he read the recently completed The Rime Of the Ancient Mariner in their living room, while Mary stayed up past her bedtime to listen. Percy Bysshe Shelley also came to the house on a regular basis to seek knowledge from Goodwin, who was one of his mentors. Mary grew fond of him, and they began their courtship when she was only fifteen and he was twenty. When Mary was sixteen she ran off to Europe with Percy, along with her stepsister Claire Clairmont. At this time, however, Percy was married to his wife, Harriet. Two years passed, and Mary had bore Percy two children; one died a month after birth, and the other died at five months old. This was just the beginning of the tragedies in Mary's life.
In the summer of 1816, tensions began to lift long enough for the brilliant Mary to envision the story of Frankenstein. Shelley, Mary, and Claire rented a house in Lake Geneva, close to the Villa Diodati where Lord Byron, Percy's friend, lived. They would all spend nights together discussing topics in literature, philosophy, and science fiction. Reading and telling ghost stories to each other inspired Byron to challenge the members of this intellectual circle to create their own ghost stories. After a heated discussion on galvanism, which is the reanimation of a...