Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

 

by Robert Hamilton

This essay will identify, and analyse, how Mary Shelley, in her novel, Frankenstein, presents knowledge , and the desire to know, as a problem. From the very outset of the story, Captain Walton is in a world of snow and ice, impeding his journey toward the special knowledge he seeks.[1] Walton’s  letters to his sister, and the knowledge they contain of the story and its progression, are likewise, delayed by substantial intervals of time. Similarly, the snippets of his past, recounted, speak of his difficulties in making his way toward his desired  life experience, having been, initially, restrained by his father’s dying wish. Problems abound when characters, in Frankenstein, seek to follow their path to knowledge, or to know the truth.

Mary Shelley writes of Victor Frankenstein’s “fervent longing to penetrate the secret’s of nature”, as if he is a sexual suitor to Gaia. [2] [3]  Victor’s, precursive, desire for knowledge is idealistic and intellectual, his actual experience of that knowledge, when the creature is brought to life, is horrifying to him and he flees the ugly reality of it.[4] There are contrasting realities, in life, between men, who dream about potentialities, and for women, who bleed monthly with the fecundity of life, and Mary Shelley may be pointing that out. There is evidence, in Mary Shelley’s own writing, that she considered herself as much more of a realist than her husband Percy Shelley, who some critics have suggested was a model for Victor Frankenstein.[5] [6]

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Both Frankenstein and Captain Walton, share, that they were not properly educated, and I would suggest that Mary Shelley may have felt this way, in regard to her own educational status.[7]  Home schooled by two brilliant parents, but perhaps, lacking the structure, and social acceptance, a classically ordered education may have provided.[8]  I also suspect, that Victor Frankenstein’s sensitivity, toward the  manner of his educators, may reflect Mary Shelley’s own experience of a male dominated world of knowledge.[9] [10]

Continued in Drugs Dreams and Consciousness by Sudha and Robert Hamilton

©Robert Hamilton

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Fleck, P, D, Mary Shelley’s Notes to Shelley’s Poems and Frankenstein, Studies in Romanticism, Boston University, 1967.

Holmes, Richard, Shelley – The Pursuit, Penguin Literary Biographies, London, 1987.

Lamb, John, B, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Milton’s Monstrous Myth, Nineteenth-Century Literature, University of California Press, 1992.

Milton, John, Paradise Lost, Gutenberg Ebook, 2001.

Poovey, Mary, My Hideous Progeny: Mary Shelley and the Feminization of Romanticism, PMLA, Modern Language Assc, 1980.

Raugh, Alan, The Monstrous Body of Knowledge in Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”, Studies in Romanticism, Boston University, 1995.

Shelley, Mary, Frankenstein, Aerie Books Ltd, New York, 1988.

Sherwin, Paul, Frankenstein: Creation as Catastrophe, PMLA, Modern Language Assc, 1981.

 



[1] Sherwin, Paul, Frankenstein: Creation as Catastrophe, PMLA, Modern Language Assc, 1981, p-883.

[2] Shelley, Mary, Frankenstein, Aerie Books Ltd, New York, 1988, p – 28.

[3] Sherwin, Paul, Frankenstein: Creation as Catastrophe, PMLA, p-885.

 

[4] Sherwin, Paul, Frankenstein: Creation As Catastrophe, PMLA, p-885.

 

[5] Fleck, P, D, Mary Shelley’s Notes to Shelley’s Poems and Frankenstein, Studies in Romanticism, Boston University, 1967, p-226.

[6] Holmes, Richard, Shelley – The Pursuit, Penguin Literary Biographies, London, 1987, p -311.

[7] Shelley, Mary, Frankenstein, p – 29.

[8] Holmes, Richard, Shelley – The Pursuit, p -231.

 

[9] Shelley, Mary, Frankenstein, p – 40.

 

[10] Poovey, Mary, My Hideous Progeny: Mary Shelley and the Feminization of Romanticism, PMLA, Modern Language Assc, 1980, p-333.

[11] Raugh, Alan, The Monstrous Body of Knowledge in Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”, Studies in Romanticism, Boston University, 1995, p-231.

[12] Raugh, Alan, The Monstrous Body of Knowledge in Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”, p-229.

 

[13] Shelley, Mary, Frankenstein, p – 16.

[14] Shelley, Mary, Frankenstein, p – 130.

 

 

[15] Milton, John, Paradise Lost, Gutenberg Ebook, 2001, Book 1.

[16] Lamb, John, B, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Milton’s Monstrous Myth, Nineteenth-Century Literature, University of California Press, 1992, p- 307.

[17] Lamb, John, B, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Milton’s Monstrous Myth, p- 308.

 

[18] Shelley, Mary, Frankenstein, p – 120.

 

[19] Shelley, Mary, Frankenstein, p – 43.

[20] Shelley, Mary, Frankenstein, p – 132.

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