Did Climate Change Inspire Mary Shelley's Frankenstein?

Could the adverse weather events that befell Mary Shelley's vacation to Switzerland many years ago have influenced the creation of her famous novel, Frankenstein? Several English and literature scholars now believe that Shelley's book was inspired in part by the unusual weather that characterized many regions of Europe and North America during the early 19th century.

During that period, a volcano called Mount Tambora — located in what is now Indonesia — had erupted, sending vast quantities of dust and sulphur particles into the atmosphere. As a result, Europe and North America were plunged into one of the coldest periods in modern history, a year that became known as "The Year Without a Summer." Having recently eloped with the poet Percy Shelley to Geneva, Shelley found herself writing the book under the influence of the bizarre weather events occurring all around her. Indeed, the final version of Frankenstein contains many references to the weather — including lightning storms, ice and snow.Bill Philips, a professor of literature at the University of Barcelona, Spain, who has studied the link between the odd climate events of the period and Shelley's writing, explained that the creature in her book was frequently associated with thunderstorms and cold. "He invariably meets his creator at the tops of mountains, in icy caves. Then at the end of the novel, they go into the Arctic Ocean and we're led to believe that they die as they drift off on an ice floe," he said.

John Clubbe, an emeritus professor of English at the University of Kentucky, doesn't believe this to be just a mere coincidence. A scholar who has written at length about Frankenstein's connection to "The Year Without a Summer," he noted that it had been snowing at the time she began writing — a highly unusual occurrence given that it was still summer. "Seeing this world of ice and snow at close hand, when you should be seeing green fields and trees in bloom, this is so unusual. It has to affect the way you feel and want to write," he remarked.

Sound plausible to you? It's a shame we'll never get a definite answer on the issue.

Via ::NPR All Things Considered: Did Climate Inspire the Birth of a Monster? (radio program)

See also: ::Alternative Energy: When Lightning Strikes

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