In 1815, the eruption of Mount Tambora plunged parts of the world into darkness and marked a gloomy period that came to be known as the Year without a Summer.
So when Mary and Percy Shelley arrived at the house of Lord Byron on Lake Geneva, their vacation was mostly spent indoors. For amusement, Byron proposed a challenge to his literary companions: Who could write the most chilling ghost story? This sparked an idea in 18-year-old Mary. Over the next few months, she would craft the story of Frankenstein.
Popular depictions may evoke a green and groaning figure, but that's not Mary Shelley's monster. In fact, in the book, Frankenstein refers to the nameless monster's maker, Dr. Victor Frankenstein. So tense is the struggle between creator and creature that the two have merged in our collective imagination. Before you read or reread the original text, there are several other things that are helpful to know about Frankenstein and how it came to assume its multiple meanings.
想起科學怪人，那些最有名的描述可能會使我們聯想到渾身灰綠又咆嘯不已的怪物形象，但那並不是瑪麗雪萊筆下的怪物。事實上，雪萊書中的 Frankenstein 其實是指那隻無名怪物的創造者：Victor Frankenstein 博士。創造者與怪物之間的關係非常緊繃，以致兩人融合成了我們的集體想像。在閱讀或重讀原著之前，這裡是一些有助於了解《科學怪人》的事情，以及讓我們了解這故事如何展現出多層意涵。
The book traces Dr. Frankenstein's futile quest to impart and sustain life. He constructs his monster part-by-part from dead matter and electrifies it into conscious being. Upon completing the experiment, however, he's horrified at the result and flees. But time and space aren't enough to banish the abandoned monster, and the plot turns on a chilling chase between the two.
故事要追溯到科學家 Victor Frankenstein 博士徒勞無功地追求創造及維持生命。他撿了屍塊一片一片拼起他的怪物，並利用電擊，使他變成有意識的生命體。然而，完成實驗時，他卻被實驗的結果嚇壞了，奪門而出逃走。但時間與空間也無法放逐這個被拋棄的怪物，接著情節便轉向科學家與怪物之間恐怖的追逐賽。
Shelley subtitled her fireside ghost story The Modern Prometheus. That's in reference to the Greek myth of the Titan Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods and gave it to humanity. This gave humanity knowledge and power, but for tampering with the status quo, Prometheus was chained to a rock and eaten by vultures for eternity. Prometheus enjoyed a resurgence in the literature of the romantic period during the 18th century. Mary was a prominent romantic and shared the movement's appreciation for nature, emotion, and the purity of art.
Two years after Mary released Frankenstein, Percy reimagined the plight of Prometheus in his lyrical drama Prometheus Unbound. The romantics used these mythical references to signal the purity of the ancient world in contrast to modernity. They typically regarded science with suspicion, and Frankenstein is one of the first cautionary tales about artificial intelligence. For Shelley, the terror was not supernatural but born in a lab.
In addition, Gothic devices infuse the text. The Gothic genre is characterized by unease, eerie settings, the grotesque, and the fear of oblivion—all elements that can be seen in Frankenstein.
But this horror had roots in personal trauma as well. The text is filled with references to Shelley's own circumstances. Born in 1797, Mary was the child of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft. Both were radical intellectual figures. And her mother's book, A Vindication of the Rights of Women, is a key feminist text. Tragically, she died as a result of complications from Mary's birth.
但這種恐懼感也是源於個人創傷。文本中充滿雪萊自身經驗的影子。瑪麗生於 1797 年，為 William Godwin 與 Mary Wollstonecraft 之女。兩人皆為極端的知識分子。瑪麗母親的書籍《女權辯護》是重要的女性主義作品。但不幸的是，她生下瑪麗後因染上併發症而死。
Mary was haunted by her mother's death and later experienced her own problems with childbirth. She became pregnant following her elopement with Percy at 16, but that baby died shortly after birth. Out of four more pregnancies, only one of their children survived. Some critics have linked this tragedy to the themes explored in Frankenstein. Shelley depicts birth as both creative and destructive. And the monster becomes a disfigured mirror of the natural cycle of life.
The monster, therefore, embodies Dr. Frankenstein's corruption of nature in the quest for glory. This constitutes his fatal flaw, or hamartia. His God complex is most clear in the line,
"Life and death appear to me ideal bounds which I should first break through and pour a torrent of light onto our dark world."
這個怪物也因此體現了科學家 Frankenstein 為追求榮耀而墮落的人性。這也造成他的致命瑕疵，或稱為缺陷。Frankenstein 的上帝情結清楚展現在他的台詞中：「生死於我而言是理想的界線，我應先衝破它，接著為這個黑暗的世界注入一瀉光明。」
Although he accomplishes something awe-inspiring, he has played with fire at his own ethical expense. And that decision echoes throughout the novel which is full of references to fire and imagery that contrasts light and dark. These moments suggest not only the spark of Prometheus's fire but the power of radical ideas to expose darker areas of life.
- 「破壞、胡亂擺弄」- Tamper With
This gave humanity knowledge and power, but for tampering with the status quo, Prometheus was chained to a rock and eaten by vultures for eternity.