Why Did Mary Shelley Write Frankenstein?

Mary Shelley was inspired to write her novella “Frankenstein” during her trip to Switzerland with husband Percy Shelley in 1816, where the couple met British poet Lord Byron and read German ghost stories throughout the summer. She was also inspired by a conversation that Percy had with Lord Byron about the scientific possibility of reanimating a corpse with electricity. This conversation gave her the idea of a scientific creator giving life to a monster that he could not control.

The classic romantic-era horror story “Frankenstein” was written by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and published anonymously in 1818. Mary Shelley did not receive a proper education, but read a massive amount of philosophy and literature due to her upbringing in an intellectual family. This literary education introduced her to the philosophy of Frenchman Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau’s writings were another major source of inspiration for “Frankenstein,” especially passages that detailed man’s eternal battle with nature and the ambiguous definition of consciousness.

According to literary legend, Shelley was also inspired to write her famous novella by the influence of her mother, famed 19th century feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. Mary Wollstonecraft died 10 days after she gave birth to Mary, and it has been suggested that her mother’s treatise “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman” inspired Mary Shelley to become an author.