Happy birthday, Mary Shelley and Frankenstein!


This year is the two-hundredth anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, and today is also Mary Shelley’s birthday. So let’s celebrate this great novel and author with ten facts about Frankenstein. 

  1. Mary Shelley’s lover (later husband), the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, was friends with the poet Lord Byron (who both were not nearly as badass as Mary was, may I remind my younger self). During a rainy summer vacation, the three amused themselves by making up stories of the supernaturalFrankenstein was inspired by a dream Mary had while trying to come up with her story.
  2. The name Frankenstein comes from Frankenstein Castle in the Rhine region of Germany, which Mary visited with Shelley. Local legend tells of a man who robbed the graveyards of corpses and tried to reanimate them.
  3. The monster in Mary’s novel is not actually green nor does he have bolts coming out of his neck. The iconic image of the monster we all have in our heads actually comes from the 1931 film version, created by make-up artist Jack P. Pierce.
  4. While considered a masterwork of gothic horror, Frankenstein is also credited by writer Brian Aldiss as the first science-fiction novel and the originator of the mad-scientist trope.
  5. Frankenstein is subtitled “The Modern Prometheus.” In Greek mythology, Prometheus created mankind and also stole fire from the gods to give to humanity.
  6. The structure of the novel is a “frame story,” or a story within a story. Frankenstein is actually a story within a story within a story, opening and closing with letters from an Arctic explorer to his sister, then with Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s narrative as told to the explorer, and in the middle, the monster’s narrative as told to Frankenstein.
  7. Frankenstein was originally published anonymously, with an unsigned preface by Percy Shelley. It was widely read at the time, and most readers assumed Shelley was also the author.
  8. The monster is not named in the novel, although he suggests at one point that his creator name him “Adam,” for obvious reasons. Now subsumed by popular culture, the name is more often attached to the monster than to his creator.
  9. In 1910, Thomas Edison made the first of many film adaptations of Frankenstein. The film was lost until it was rediscovered in the 1950s.
  10. While Frankenstein is open to many interpretations, it has recently gained prominence as a feminist novel, a cautionary tale of men attempting to usurp women in the reproductive process.

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