Page 127. " Elizabeth approved of the reasons of my departure, and only regretted that she had not the same opportunities of enlarging her experience, and cultivating her understanding "

   Shelley's reference here to the unequal opportunities open to men and women echoes a central tenet of her mother's 1792 essay A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.  In it Mary Wollstonecraft insisted that rather than being naturally less capable of rational thought, the vast majority of women at the time were kept in a state of general ignorance through being denied the same education provided for men.  She attacks those values of her society which encouraged men to take a dynamic role in society while women assumed the role of decorative accessories, deriving worth only from their physical beauty and domestic passivity. 

Although brief, this reference to gender inequality is out of character for Victor's unfailingly docile betrothed – in the 1831 edition Shelley removed it, leaving Elizabeth "mute" as she bids Victor "a tearful, silent farewell".


Online edition of 'A Vindication of the Rights of Woman' by Mary Wollstonecraft (1792)

Page 130. " He was a being formed in the 'very poetry of nature.' "

   Admiring description of a prince from Canto II of The Story of Rimini by Leigh Hunt, a member of Percy Shelley's poetic circle.  The tale is derived from an episode in Canto V of Dante's Inferno (See note to page 40) and, like most of the poems quoted in the novel, was published well after the period in which it is set (See note to page 54).

Online edition of 'The Story of Rimini' by Leigh Hunt, (1816)

Online edition of Dante Alighieri's 'Divine Comedy' as translated by Rev. HF Cary, M.A., (1805)

Page 130. " The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood "
Tintern Abbey, Monmouthshire, (1993)
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeTintern Abbey, Monmouthshire, (1993) - Credit: Hotlorp


   This passage is quoted from William Wordsworth's poem Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, published in the collection Lyrical Ballads in 1798.  The poem was inspired by a ruined abbey located on the Welsh bank of the River Wye.  Shelley gives another nod to the early-Romantics' importance for her own writing several pages later when, visiting the Cumberland Lake District, Victor suggestively describes meeting "some acquaintances, who almost contrived to cheat me into happiness" (p.134).

Online text of the poem

Online text of 'Recollections of the Lake Poets' by Thomas de Quincey, (1834-1840)

Page 135. " the beauty and regularity of the new town of Edinburgh, its romantic castle, its environs, the most delightful in the world "

   The reformist rationalism of Enlightenment thinking provided the perfect motivation for Edinburgh to solve its problem of overcrowding by extending northwards into a 'New Town', constructed throughout the second half of the 18th-century.  Based on a design by James Craig it was patterned on an even, regular grid, ultimately providing the city's wealthy with an escape from the disorganised squalor left to its less mobile citizens.  For two long periods, in 1812 and 1813, Mary Shelley was sent to live with the Baxter family near Dundee; in the introduction to her 1831 edition of Frankenstein she attributed to this period her first attempts at writing, as well as "occasional visits to the more picturesque parts" of Scotland. 


Google Map


Page 136. " I traversed the northern highlands, and fixed on one of the remotest of the Orkneys as the scene "
Orkney Islands, UK, (2006)
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeOrkney Islands, UK, (2006) - Credit: Pixie

   The Orkneys are a windswept archipelago of small islands off the north coast of Scotland – approximately 70 in all, of which 20-odd are currently inhabited. 

The islands have a long history of habitation, holding the remains of Skara Brae, Europe's most completely preserved Neolithic village. Although Frankenstein describes his island as "barren", most of the Orkneys are highly fertile.  As the most remote of the islands is more than fifty miles from mainland Scotland, we must either assume that Victor's "five miles distant" is a miscalculation, or that he is measuring from the largest of the Orkneys, which is colloquially named 'Mainland'. 





Google Map
Page 144. " It had a wild and rocky appearance; but as I approached nearer, I easily perceived the traces of cultivation "

   Incredibly, Frankenstein's small skiff has drifted a distance of several hundred miles, from the Orkneys to the northern coast of Ireland, while he slept.  By a coincidence which is never explained he lands at the same remote coastal village where Henry Clerval has been murdered by the creature.  Victor's timely jaunt does provide him with an alibi for Clerval's murder, committed while he was still in the Orkneys, but the incident's usefulness as a plot device is surely outweighed by its sheer improbability. 

This sense of unreality can be seen as the passage's goal, coming at a point when Frankenstein himself starts to question the coherence of his narrative: "my life appeared to me as a dream; I sometimes doubted if indeed it were all true, for it never presented itself to my mind with the force of reality" (p.149).


From the Orkneys (top right)... to Ireland (bottom left):

Google Map
Page 148. " Of what materials was I made, that I could thus resist so many shocks, which, like the turning of the wheel, continually renewed the torture "

   The cyclical nature of Frankenstein's torment suggests that the darker implications of his role as a 'Modern Prometheus' have come into effect (See note to page 1).  Although he is allowed temporary periods of healing and rest, his tortuous punishment is inevitably resumed by the return of the creature, who comes to assume the role of Zeus' avenging eagle. 


Prometheus Bound
Public DomainPrometheus Bound - Credit: Peter Paul Rubens