The book was a precursor to innumerable books and movies about scientific intervention in nature. Using the model of the gothic novel in which the irresponsible intervention in nature's working to gratify his ambition led to unimaginable, catastrophe for the protagonist, Victor Frankenstein, and for Robert Walton, the captain of the ship, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein inquires into the conflict between personal ambition and social responsibility. .
Mary Shelley, the author of the book, was only eighteen when she wrote it in the second decade of the nineteenth century .It was a time when great scientific discoveries were made, and dangerous expeditions to the corners of the world were undertaken. It was also the time of Romanticism .Wife of the well known Romantic poet Percy Shelley, she was already a mother when she conceived the book. Coming from an intellectual family - her father Godwin was a novelist, and her mother, the famous Mary Wollstonecraft, was a feminist- Mary was well read and intelligent, besides being blessed with an analytical mind. and a fertile imagination. The story was conceived in the summer of 1886 in Geneva As Shelley herself says in the preface. "the season was cold and rainy, and in the evenings we crowded around a blazing wood fire and occasionally amused ourselves with some German stories of ghosts"
That Frankenstein was driven by his ambition is quite clear from the beginning. At the age of thirteen, he comes across a book by the alchemist Cornelius Agrippa, and reads all his works and the works of other alchemists, although his father and later, his teachers condemn them as trash. "I enter with the greatest diligence into the search of the philosopher's stone and the elixir of lifeWhat glory would attend the discovery!" (p.28).This hunger for glory leads him to study natural philosophy at school, but he is disappointed by the modern science, which only dealt with mundane matters. Instead of immortality and power, which were the goals of the old masters, the student of modern science was expected to focus on worthless facts." I was required to exchange chimeras of boundless grandeur for realities of little worth."(p.37) While studying at the university , he discovers the secret of infusing life Driven by his ambition and desire for glory, he works hard day and night for two years, never taking a break, and manages to put together a human body into which he infuses life. But when the creature he made comes alive, Frankenstein is totally disgusted by it, and forgets his social responsibility. In stead of studying it, and ascertaining its needs, he abandons the creature he himself has created and hurries away, "Like one who, on a lonely road, Doth walk in fear and dread, And, having once turned round, walks on, And turns no more his head; Because he knows a frightful fiend Doth close behind him tread." (Coleridge's Ancient Mariner)
Much later, when the Creature, hurt by its rejection by society, demands a female companion, Frankenstein does nothing to assuage its feelings. It is only when the Creature starts avenging itself by murdering the people nearest to Frankenstein's heart, that he becomes aware of his responsibilities. Now his ambition is to