By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement
Autumn is in full swing. The leaves are changing brilliant colours and falling faster than rakes can catch up, Thanksgiving was celebrated (here in Canada, at least) a few weeks ago, and in the next few days, Halloween celebrations will commence. On October 31, the streets will be filled with princesses, ghosts, goblins, and vampires. Perhaps you know someone who will be dressing up as the monster known as Frankenstein. When someone says Frankenstein, this is the monster that comes to mind:
Through the years, popular culture has led to the confusion of Frankenstein, the ‘doctor’ and mad scientist, and his creation, with the creation commonly being called Frankenstein. This misnomer aside, I’m sure there will be many trick-or-treaters who will be donning green face paint and adding assorted scars and neck bolts to complete their costume. Dr. Frankenstein and his monster were the creation of a 19th century author, Mary Shelley.
The origins of this tale are almost as legendary as the tale itself. As the story goes, Mary travelled to Lord Byron’s Villa in Switzerland with her partner (and later husband) Percy Bysshe Shelley (the writer John Polidori was also a part of this group, as well as Mary’s stepsister Claire Clairmont). The weather was dark and gloomy, and as the evening went on, Byron suggested that the group write their own ghost stories. The short story Mary created was later expanded to her novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. It is a tale of a scientist who brings a corpse back to life and the consequences of this action. It is written in the Gothic style and is considered by many to be the first ‘science fiction’ book.
Who was Mary Shelley? She was born in 1797 as Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, daughter of feminist philosopher, educator, and writer Mary Wollstonecraft, and philosopher, novelist, and journalist William Godwin. Her mother died shortly after her birth, and she was raised by her father and later by his second wife. She first met Percy Bysshe Shelley in the early 1810s; he was married when they first met, however he was estranged from his wife. She committed suicide in 1816, and Shelley and Mary were married shortly after. It was earlier in the year of 1816 that the couple famously visited Byron in Switzerland.
Mary Shelley wasn’t the only person to tell a good ghost story that weekend as Polidori would write The Vampyre after that weekend.
Before his death in 1822, Mary & Percy would have one surviving child, a son named Percy Florence Shelley. Mary passed away on February 1, 1851 at the age of 53.
Shelley Avenue in Oshawa is found in the ‘authors neighbourhood,’ north east of Harmony and the 401. Other street names in that area are Keates, Shakespeare, Austin, Milton, and Browning. Was the street named for Mary, her equally noteworthy husband Percy, or for both, I cannot say for sure. Regardless of its namesake, the name Shelley is linked with the tale of a scientist who brought a corpse back to life.
“How dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to be greater than his nature will allow.”
― Mary Shelley,
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: STAND BACK, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! HE’S GOT A ROTTEN BRAIN!
Frau Blücher: It’s not rotten! It’s a good brain!
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: IT’S ROTTEN, I TELL YOU! ROTTEN!
The Monster: [lunging at Dr. Frankenstein] RRAAAAAAAA!
Igor: Ixnay on the ottenray.
-Mel Brooks, Young Frankenstein