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Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

17 Jan 2017Personal Essays

Every literary piece that a writer creates is unique in its own way. This uniqueness could be attributed from the writer's style of writing, the topic being explored, and most especially the inspiration or driving force that enables the writer to create a particular work. Inspiration could come from many means and one dominant factor that influences a writer is his/her family background and experiences in life. This thinking holds true in the situation of Mary Shelley.

Mary Shelley is the author of the famous book “Frankenstein” that is responsible for her instant popularity as a writer. The driving force that aids her in the creation of this book is based upon her interaction with the people around her. The influences of her parents’ way of thinking as well as her husband inspired her to the creation of Frankenstein. To be able to fully understand this, a narration of her life and a summary of the novel are needed.

Mary Shelley is born on 30 August 1797 at Somers Town, Great Britain. She is the only daughter of two popular personalities, the feminist Mary Wollstonecraft and the philosopher William Godwin who have been well-known thinkers during their time. Her mother died due to complications after giving birth to her. This is the reason why she was raised by her father and her stepmother whom she hated very much. She acquired education primarily at home where she follows her father and mother's ideologies. Besides the formal instruction that she had, she also experience interacting with her father's famous friends. Intellectuals ranging from poets and philosophers to scientists (The Literature Network).

During the age of sixteen she met the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who has been a loyal fan of his father's philosophical beliefs. Percy Shelley later on became her romantic interests despite her father's contentions about it because of the fact that Percy was already married to someone else. The two eloped and went to Europe with Mary's step sister in tow. They returned in September 1814. Mary Shelley still feels the wrath and disapproval of his father for what she did. The situation was even aggravated by the fact that she was unmarried and pregnant. Years later, when she returned to England after staying in Italy, Mary still bears the disapproving looks of other people because of her actions that are against the usual norms back then (The Literature Network).

In the year 1816, the couple went abroad again in Geneva to meet with Byron. During their stay there, Byron suggested that they all write a ghost story. It is during this time that the story of Frankenstein was born. This story that Mary Shelley wrote was later published as a novel. Later on at that same year, Percy's wife committed suicide by drowning herself, which is why Percy and Mary's wedding took place in December.

The last years of Mary's married life are characterized by tragic incidents. She lost her half sister as well as two of her children. This eventually becomes the reason of her depression but the born of Percy her only son and surviving child helped in making her condition better. The married couple moved to Italy. Unfortunately, Mary's husband died during a sailing trip. In order to keep the memory of her husband alive, she published several editions of his writings. She also continued creating her own novels but none equalled the popularity that her Frankenstein novel achieved (Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley).

Mary spends the last years of her life with her son and two good friends. She tried to live a simple life that could give her the freedom she never experienced by having such popular parents. She still holds dear her liberal perspective about life but she toned it down to be able to fit in a conservative society that she is in (Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley).

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein revolves around the story of a young Swiss student named Victor Frankenstein who discovers how to give life to inanimate objects through his meticulous studying and experiments. He was able to produce a creature by assembling various body parts of different people. This entity that he made was almost similar to a human being but it is far bigger and stronger. Upon the moment that this creature opened his eyes, Frankenstein realized that he actually created a monster. It was also this same demon who murdered his brother, which made Frankenstein realized the mistake he has done (Frankenstein).

The creature has to endure a very cruel life after he left Frankenstein laboratory. He experienced being insulted, attacked, and mob by the villagers who were terrified by his grotesque appearance. After experiencing such cruelness, he decided to look for his creator. In doing so, he met his younger brother. After establishing the man's relation with his creator he strangled him to death. When the monster and his creator meet once again, the only request of the creature was for Frankenstein to create a female being with that would be his companion. Frankenstein was hesitant at first but the monster managed to convince him.

As he was in the process of creating the monster's female counterpart he started questioning the choice that he made. He was afraid that these creatures might produce a whole race of monsters. When the monster returned to update his progress, he decided to destroy his female creation. The monster cries out in rage and promised that he would be present at Frankenstein's wedding day (Frankenstein).

Frankenstein believed that during his wedding day the monster would kill him. However, he was mistaken as her soon to be wife, Elizabeth was the one murdered by the monster. He vowed revenged and started his search for the monster until he found himself in the Arctic region. It is in this place that he met Walton whom he narrated all the incidents that took place. Frankenstein asked Walton to kill the monster if ever he failed to do so due to his worsening condition. Eventually, Frankenstein died due to his illness. After his death, Walton found the monster at the side of Frankenstein's body wherein the creature tells the hardships that he had encountered. The death of his creator made the monster realized that it is also time for him to rest in death as well. Finally, he left the side of creator and disappears in the darkness (Frankenstein).

The novel Frankenstein is a product of the literary lifestyle of Mary Shelley in a sense that her life heavily influences the creation of this novel. Shelley's home schooling that greatly focused on the literary works of both her parents enabled her to put their philosophical views in her work. William Godwin, Mary Shelley's father is one of the forerunners of anarchism. He believes in the idea that the evil actions of human beings are only influenced by the corrupt environment that they are in. There is no such thing as innate values or vices; these are just merely acquired through the experiences of human beings in their life history. Being the case, if inpiduals would act accordingly to what they deem as right this would eventually be beneficial for the whole community as well (William Godwin).

This is greatly seen in Frankenstein. She points out that the state of the society during the time of the monster's creation greatly influenced who he has become. He was exposed to the cruelties and harshness of society. They immediately judged him based on his appearance and was treated badly because of it. He was not even given the chance to prove himself or established the kind of identity that he wants. Being the case, he acquired this inhumane treatment that he saw in his surroundings and thus also influenced him to commit murderous acts.

Shelley also highlighted the idea that it is not the creature's fault that he eventually became a monster but rather the blame should be upon its creator. Frankenstein has too much expectation upon his creation that was not met by the monster when it came to life. Then, he just decided to leave him and eventually the monster has to wonder on his own in the unfamiliar world that he is in. Lacking the guidance or direction of his creator the monster eventually acquires the wrong doings of the people around him.

Similarly, Mary Shelley also experienced the same thing because of the high expectations that she has to endure by having two well-known people as her parents. Moreover, the death of her mother also affects her growth. During her childhood nobody guided and nurtured her because her father didn't really have time for her and she resented her stepmother. Losing her mother was also one of the reasons why she felt confused during the early parts of her life.

The feminist perspectives of her mother also influenced Shelley to make the importance of females in our society felt in her book. This is seen in her novel through the reaction of Victor Frankenstein while his creation was coming into life, which is very similar to the idea of giving birth. This symbolizes the miscarriages that Shelley has to go through. This also evoked the guilty feeling within her because of the death of her mother due to giving birth to her.

Another point that Shelley emphasizes is the idea that ones' identity could be lost when he/she is overpowered by his/her environment. The creature was called by various names by the people around him like monster or the demon. He did not have a name of his own that is uniquely his. This symbolizes the idea that the identity of a person of who he or she would become is often dictated by the society. The norms, values, perceptions, and even the biases and stereotypes that are present within it could very much influence a person. This is exactly what happened when the creature eventually became the monster that the people think he is.

Furthermore, the novel also served as a warning in the inpiduals' maximization of potentials through rational thinking. It is during the age of industrial revolution that this novel was made. The lesson that it wants to impart is that people's over utilization of science could in fact have adverse consequences just like what happened to Victor Frankenstein and the monster that he created.

Lastly, this novel embodies Mary Shelley's liberalism. She also put into discussion different contemporary issue like the industrial revolution, the corrupt society, as well as the feminist idea that gives due importance to women. Being the case, Mary Shelley proved that she indeed goes beyond societal norms. This is not only reflected in her written works but its very embodiment is seen in her way of life. The kind of lifestyle that fights for what she wants like what she did when she eloped with Percy Shelley and is again proven when she stand up against the disapprovement of the people around her. Mary Shelley tries to be what Frankenstein's creation failed to do and that is to establish ones' identity amidst the dictate of society.

The life of a writer affect the outcome of his/her work. Mary Shelley’s life history enabled her to create not only a popular novel through “Frankenstein” but also a narration of her own experiences. This book holds in it a piece of Mary Shelley’s very existence.

Works Cited

  • “Frankenstein”. 2008. My Hideous Progeny: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. 19 May 2008
  • Merriman, C. D. “Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley”. 2006. The Literature Network. 19 May 2008
  • “Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley”. 2008. My Hideous Progeny: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. 19 May 2008 <http://home-1.worldonline.nl/~hamberg/>.
  • “William Godwin”. 20 May 2006. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 20 May 2008 <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/godwin/>.

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