Preface

The novel’s preface was known to be written by the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, an enthusiastic follower of William Godwin (Mary Shelley’s father, to whom the novel is dedicated). Rumors that Percy Bysshe Shelley had written the entire novel arose because people’s knowledge that he authored the Preface, but these rumors were unfounded.

  • Why the reference to Darwin’s belief in the “not impossible occurrence” of the events at the beginning of the preface? Then notice Shelley’s immediate rhetorical turn (no one can accuse me of believing such a thing, he indicates). What do you make of this?
  • Why the comparisons to Shakespeare, Homer, Milton (“especially in Paradise Lost“–note also the epigraph from Milton that opens Frankenstein)?
  • Why all that precautionary language to warn the reader not to draw any premature conclusions about the author’s own moral convictions from this tale?
  • Why the reference to the “majestic region” in nature, the Swiss Alps (the setting of most of the story), as well as the details of the blazing fire, the “ghostly visions,” the fact that the weather then cleared and the friends departed, leaving Frankenstein the only text that was completed from that encounter, etc.? How do such seemingly innocuous remarks subtly set the scene for the tale that opens on the next page?

Important quotes to consider:

  • This “work of fancy” nevertheless “affords a point of view to the imagination for the delineating of human passions more comprehensive and commanding than any which the ordinary relations of existing events can yield.”

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