Mary Wolstonecraft Shelley Essay, Research Paper

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, was the girl of the extremist women’s rightist, Mary Wollstonecraft, and the political philosopher, William Godwin, and the married woman of the Romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley. Through these familial associations, she was besides acquainted with Lord Byron, Samuel T. Coleridge, and other literary figures such as Charles and Mary Lamb. Surrounded by such influential literary and political figures of the Romantic Age, it is non surprising that as an stripling, at the age of 19, she wrote Frankenstein. Though critically a failure, ( British Critic,1818 and Monthly Review, 1818 ) the novel has ne’er been out of print and has been translated into legion linguistic communications. What is surprising, nevertheless, is the tremendous organic structure of cognition contained in the novel. The novel contains mentions to the Fieldss of literature, poesy, scientific discipline, instruction, political relations, history, and mythology. How did such a immature miss, populating a life considered morally obnoxious to society and harassed by household and fiscal loads, get such a huge sum of cognition in all Fieldss of survey that encompassed the of import issues of her twenty-four hours? Through scrutiny of biographical information and Mary Shelley & # 8217 ; s journal entries, we will be able to reply this inquiry. Following, I besides plan to foreground Mary Shelley & # 8217 ; s cognition of literature with primary accent on the plants studied by the monster in relation to his beginnings every bit good as Mary Shelley & # 8217 ; s.

Mary Shelley was born with ill fame merely by being named Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin. Her parents were good known and slightly fishy persons due to their extremist political beliefs and Hagiographas, such as Wollstonecraft & # 8217 ; s Vindication of the Rights of Women and Godwin & # 8217 ; s Enquiry Concerning the Nature of Political Justice. Mary Shelley & # 8217 ; s mother died from complications shortly after giving birth to Mary. The opprobrium of her being was heightened by her male parent & # 8217 ; s subsequent publication of Memoirs of the Author of the Rights of Women. In this work, William Godwin described many facets of Mary Wollstonecraft & # 8217 ; s being in great item such as ; her relationship with an American and subsequent birth of an bastard girl, her suicide efforts, and the fact that she was already pregnant with Mary when William Godwin married her. To our late twentieth Century esthesias we may non O.K. of these behaviours but we surely don & # 8217 ; t see so flooring or extraordinary. The above mentioned events, nevertheless, occurred in the late 1700 & # 8217 ; s and were non morally acceptable, were detestable to the conventions of society, and were surely non to be discussed or published in a memoir. William Godwin & # 8217 ; s publication of this memoir, more than any other event, created an air of social stigma around Mary Shelley about from the minute of her birth.

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Mary Shelley increased her already ill-famed being by running off with Percy Bysshe Shelley when she was 17 in 1814. Percy Shelley was already married and abandoned his pregnant married woman and his girl to populate with Mary Shelley. They lived together and had two illicit kids prior to acquiring married in December 1816. They married a twosome of hebdomads after Percy & # 8217 ; s married woman, Harriet, committed self-destruction by submerging herself in the Serpentine. Mary Shelley became a social castaway for these actions and had few friends. & # 8220 ; Within yearss she discovered that all of her old circle shunned her, confidants who had cherished her and friends who professed the most broad rules & # 8221 ; ( Sunstein 88 ) . Her ain male parent, hypocritically plenty, who lived with Mary Wollstonecraft without being married, would non talk to Mary until she and Percy were lawfully married. Godwin publically stated, & # 8220 ; Mary has committed a offense against hallowed societal agreements, morality, her household, and Harriet Shelley & # 8221 ; ( Sunstein 89 ) .

Mary and Percy besides had legion other household and fiscal jobs. Even though Percy was to finally inherit a considerable sum of money, he had many debts and was invariably harassed by creditors. The twosome continually moved in order to hedge measure aggregators. The first 10 months of their relationship they moved four times and, in fact, ne’er shared a lasting place together. The twosome besides had to cover with banishment from their households every bit good as many deceases in the household. During their first two and half old ages together their first kid was born prematurely and died two hebdomads subsequently, Percy & # 8217 ; s first married woman committed self-destruction, and Mary & # 8217 ; s half sister, Fanny Imlay, committed self-destruction. In the thick of legion gestations and household, fiscal, and social convulsion, nevertheless, Mary Shelley managed to gestate of, write, and print the enduring Frankenstein. Again, one must inquire how such a immature adult female, non much more than an stripling, who was besieged by so many troubles that few would be able to defy, could hold the originative imaginativeness and even happen the clip to compose this novel.

Not merely was Mary Shelley Born with ill fame due to an ill-famed name but was besides considered the kid of two literary parents and high outlooks were placed on her originative end product. There were many esteemed visitants to the Godwin family, with one of the most noteworthy and influential being Samuel T. Coleridge. When Mary Shelley was really immature, she heard Coleridge declaim the celebrated & # 8220 ; Rime of the Ancient Mariner & # 8221 ; which would subsequently be referenced many times in Frankenstein. She ne’er received a formal instruction, normal for adult females for that clip period, but grew up surrounded by literary figures and the Hagiographas of her parents and was ever encouraged to analyze and be originative.

Influenced by Godwin, Mary Shelley developed

a womb-to-tomb wont of deep and extended reading and research & # 8221 ;

( Bennett, & # 8220 ; Romantic Revisions & # 8221 ; , 299 ) .

Mary Shelley & # 8217 ; s desire to get cognition and her disciplined survey and research wonts are demonstrated in her journal entries. She seldom wrote anything of a personal nature so there is small biographical information to be gained from the diaries. She did, nevertheless, maintain a elaborate record of what she was reading and analyzing on an about day-to-day footing. On a typical twenty-four hours she by and large studied a complex work, read some of a novel, and studied a foreign linguistic communication. For illustration, on September 19, 1814, Mary studied Greek, read Rasselas, by Samuel Johnson, and read a novel called The Sorcerer ( Feldman, 27 ) . Almost every twenty-four hours is filled with a similar form of survey. Even in the thick of all the troubles discussed antecedently, she still spent a considerable part of each twenty-four hours making research. The lone times that the sum of her work and research abated was when she was ailment, which was frequently due to her many gestations, or something genuinely traumatic happened, such as the decease of a kid or other household member.

The desire to get cognition and the intense passion for research and survey is apparent throughout the novel, Frankenstein and is demonstrated through the three storytellers ; Victor Frankenstein, Walden, and the monster. Frankenstein & # 8217 ; s and Walden & # 8217 ; s quest for new cognition of the unknown and the monster & # 8217 ; s hunt for cognition of his beginnings parallel Mary Shelley & # 8217 ; s womb-to-tomb scholarly chase and her involvement in her ain biological beginnings due to her birth doing her female parent & # 8217 ; s decease.

At the really beginning of the novel, Mary Shelley & # 8217 ; s educational experiences and love of literary research are told through Walden, the north-polar adventurer.

& # 8220 ; My instruction was neglected, yet I was passionately affectionate

of reading. These volumes were my survey twenty-four hours and dark & # 8221 ;

( Shelley, 2 ) .

& # 8220 ; These visions faded when I perused, for the first clip,

these poets whose gushs entranced my psyche and lifted it to

heaven. I besides became a poet and for one twelvemonth lived in a Eden

of my ain creative activity ; I imagined that I besides might obtain a niche

in the temple where the names of Homer and Shakespeare are consecrated & # 8221 ; ( Shelley,2 ) .

In narrating his experiences to Walden, Victor Frankenstein besides tells of his longing for a higher cognition. The undermentioned transitions demonstrate this ;

& # 8220 ; One adult male & # 8217 ; s life or decease were but a little monetary value to pay for the skill of the cognition

which I sought, for the rule I should get and convey over the elemental enemies of

our race & # 8221 ; ( Shelley,13 ) .

& # 8220 ; You seek for cognition and wisdom as I one time did ; and I

ardently hope the satisfaction of your wants may non be a snake to biting

you, as mine has been & # 8221 ; ( Shelley, 15 )

The above transitions give the reader a glance into Mary Shelley & # 8217 ; s captivation with cognition and are typical of the treatments of scholarly chases cardinal to the novel. The voice of Victor Frankenstein provides grounds that Mary Shelley did non believe that all cognition was & # 8220 ; good & # 8221 ; cognition and alternatively thought that there were some countries that were beyond human apprehension and should non be pursued. Obviously, Victor Frankenstein & # 8217 ; s desire to research the enigma of biological creative activity belonged to the kingdom of cognition that should non prosecute and that can merely take to dire effects. Walden was besides following the same pursuit in his hunt for a transition through the Arctic parts. Merely by hearing the narrative of Frankenstein is he dissuaded from his chase and turns back toward place instead than puting his crew members in mortal danger.

Many of the plants that Mary Shelley studied are apparent in the voice and character of Frankenstein & # 8217 ; s monster and through this character the reader is given a presentation of the chase of cognition as related to one & # 8217 ; s hunt for his beginnings. Since Victor Frankenstein abandoned his creative activity, the monster was left to fend for himself in a society hostile to his mammoth and terrorizing visual aspect and was forced to larn and develop without any parental counsel. Mary Shelley introduced the theory of the development of human cognition and consciousness as defined by John Locke in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding which she studied about daily in December 1816 and January 1817 ( Feldman, 148-154 and Pollin, 107 ) . During this clip she was already working on the novel. Her premises of the development of human understanding & # 8220 ; correspond to those of Locke, refering the absence of unconditioned rules, the derivation of all thoughts from esthesis or contemplation, and the efficaciousness of pleasance and hurting in doing us to seek or avoid the assorted objects of esthesis & # 8221 ; ( Pollin, 107 ) . The undermentioned transition is one of many illustrations of Mary Shelley & # 8217 ; s belief in John Locke & # 8217 ; s theory.

& # 8220 ; It is with considerable trouble that I remember

the original epoch of my being ; all the events of that period look

confused and indistinct. A unusual multiplicity of esthesiss seized me,

and I saw, felt, heard, and smelt, at the same clip ; and it was, so,

a long clip before I learned to separate between the operation of

my assorted senses & # 8221 ; ( Shelley, 87 ) .

Another considerable influence on Mary Shelley and in bend the monster, was the plants of Rousseau. Mary studied Rousseau early in her ain rational development ( Marshall, 182 ) and during the period that she composed Frankenstein & # 8221 ; ( Feldman, 93-97 ) . In Rousseau & # 8217 ; s Second Discourse is a treatment on the province of natural adult male or what Rousseau calls the & # 8220 ; baronial barbarian & # 8221 ; . Frankenstein & # 8217 ; s monster is an incarnation of this province of being developed by Rousseau, in which the monster first discovers himself and subsequently the cognition of linguistic communication and the conventions of society. The monster & # 8217 ; s narrative of his personal development and ulterior acquisition of cognition has been recognized by critics of the novel as a & # 8220 ; baronial barbarian whose early life in the wood ( imbibing at Brookss, eating nuts and berries and non meat, kiping under trees, meeting fire for the first clip, geting linguistic communication, and so on ) conforms in general lineation and specific inside informations to the life of Rousseau & # 8217 ; s savage & # 8221 ; ( Marshall, 183 ) .

In add-on to the development

Al and natural province theories introduced in the novel, there are besides four literary and historical plants that Mary Shelley read and studied between the clip that she eloped with Percy in 1814 and the publication of Frankenstein in 1818, that were of primary importance in the creative activity of this novel. They are as follows ; Paradise Lost by John Milton, The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe, Lives by Plutarch, and The Memoirs of the Author of the Rights of Women by William Godwin. The first three aid in the monster’s instruction and apprehension of human society, which will be discussed shortly. First, nevertheless I will discourse the Memoirs as related to the monster’s find of Victor Frankenstein’s diary, and how the diary and Memoirs relate to Mary Shelley’s and the monster’s hunt for the cognition of who they are.

In add-on to seeking to understand and suit into human society, it was of primary importance for the monster to understand who he was and his beginnings. He developed, by himself, through the experience of esthesiss without counsel from similar existences. He was shunned by society and had no apprehension of why he was different, why he had no household and why there was no 1 else like him.

The most important grade of the monster & # 8217 ; s disaffection from society was his deficiency of a name. The absence of a name denies the monster the cognition of who he is, his familial beginnings, and a connexion to consecutive coevalss ( Duyfhuizen, 480 ) . The monster & # 8217 ; s deficiency of a name and topographic point in society, which caused him such hurt, is shown in the undermentioned transition when he his narrating his experiences to Victor.

& # 8220 ; But where were my friends and dealingss? No male parent

had watched my infant yearss, no female parent blessed me with smilings

and caresses. I had ne’er yet seen a being resembling me, or who claimed any intercourse with me. What was I? ( Shelley, 106 )

The monster eventually learns of the beginning of his creative activity by detecting the diary, that Victor kept while organizing the animal, in the pocket of his apparels. The diary described in in writing item the processs that Victor utilized to make this new being during the four months predating the dark that Victor brought the animal to life. For the monster, this find was a alleviation because he eventually knew more about his & # 8220 ; household & # 8221 ; and from where he came but the find was besides every bit upseting ( Homans, 149 ) . The monster notes that & # 8220 ; everything is related in them which bears mention to my accurst beginning ; the whole item of the series of gross outing fortunes which produced it is set in position ; the minutest descriptions of my abominable and nauseating individual is given & # 8221 ; ( Shelley, 114-115 ) .

In the above transition Mary Shelley may besides be associating the find of her ain beginnings. As discussed earlier, William Godwin published the Memoirs of the Author of the Rights of Women shortly after Mary Wollstonecraft & # 8217 ; s decease and this life described in great item Wollstonecraft & # 8217 ; s life, personal businesss, self-destruction efforts, and relationship with Godwin. The work besides provides a in writing history of the birth of Mary Shelley and the subsequent death of Mary Wollstonecraft. Godwin & # 8217 ; s Memoirs were considered to be & # 8220 ; the most hurtful book of 1798 & # 8243 ; ( May, 503 ) in which Godwin provides & # 8220 ; gynaecological explicitness in depicting his married woman & # 8217 ; s decease after bearing Mary & # 8221 ; ( May, 503 ) . Mary Shelley read this work while turning up and likely studied it further while developing the novel. The guess that she read the Memoirs while working on Frankenstein is speculation as it is non noted in her diary. It is, nevertheless, likely that she did because there is such a similarity between the creative activity of the monster and her ain beginnings and she may non hold wanted to observe such a personal work in her diary that would one twenty-four hours perchance be capable to public examination. As the monster discovered the horror of his ain creative activity, likewise Mary was subjected to the & # 8220 ; horrors of her ain beginnings as a matricide by the fact that she, along with every English talking individual of her age, was able to witness the cardinal scene of her creative activity in Godwin & # 8217 ; s memoirs & # 8221 ; ( May, 503 ) .

The three plants, antecedently mentioned, that Mary Shelley studied while developing the novel are of primary importance in the monster & # 8217 ; s apprehension of the facets that make one homo and portion of society. Mary Shelley handily has the monster discover these three plants and analyze them after he had developed linguistic communication accomplishments and the ability to read. Through the survey of Paradise Lost, The Sorrows of Young Werther, and Plutarch & # 8217 ; s Lives the monster acquires an apprehension of the religious, emotional, and civic facets of human society. The monster obtained cognition through the survey of these plants, but he read all three of them as histories of human civilisation, when Plutarch was the lone 1 that was really a biographical history.

Mary Shelley studied Plutarch & # 8217 ; s Lifes in 1815 ( Feldman, 91 ) the twelvemonth prior to get downing Frankenstein. It is a biographical history of baronial Romans and their heroic workss. Through the survey of this work, both Mary Shelley and the monster learned about theoretical accounts of human behavior ( Sunstein, 49 ) . The monster provinces, & # 8220 ; Plutarch taught me high ideas ; he elevated me above the wretched domain of my ain contemplations, to look up to and love the heroes of past ages & # 8221 ; ( Shelley, 113 ) . Unfortunately, for both Mary Shelley and her monstrous creative activity, few baronial workss were encountered, and alternatively, both received banishment and even hatred from society.

The 2nd of import work is The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe. Mary Shelley & # 8217 ; s diary notes that she studied this work in 1815 ( Feldman, 91 ) . This work is the narrative of a adult male who experiences unanswered love and finally commits suicide. Through the survey of this work the monster additions an apprehension of the emotional facet of human nature and learns about the feelings of love and desperation. In associating the experience of analyzing this work to Victor the monster provinces,

& # 8220 ; The diquisitions upon decease and self-destruction were calculated

to make full me with admiration. I did non feign to come in into the virtues

of the instance, yet I inclined towards the sentiments of the hero,

whose extinction I wept & # 8221 ; ( Shelley, 113 ) . The Sorrows of Young Werther were of import to Mary Shelley in the apprehension of her dead female parent as they were of import to the monster in understanding human emotion. Mary Shelley & # 8217 ; s mother tried to kill herself due to her unanswered love for Gilbert Imlay, the male parent of Mary & # 8217 ; s half sister, Fanny. Due to this, William Godwin saw many similarities between his married woman and the character created by Goethe. In Godwin & # 8217 ; s Memoirs he calls Mary Wollstonecraft the & # 8220 ; female Werther & # 8221 ; and states that her letters to Gilbert Imlay bear a dramatic resemblance to the love affair of Werther ( Marshall, 218 ) . Mary Shelley would hold been cognizant of this holding already read the Memoirs. Thus, Mary Shelley utilized the work, that helped her understand the emotional province of her female parent, in the novel, so that the monster to could besides larn about the experience of human emotion.

The concluding work, that influences the novel and the monster, is Paradise Lost by John Milton. Mary Shelley spent a considerable sum of clip analyzing this work and read it a figure of times anterior to composing Frankenstein ( Feldman, 89 and 96 ) . Mary Shelley utilized this work to give her fresh mythic range and the undermentioned transition was used as the epigraph ; Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay To model me Man, did I solicit thee From darkness to advance me? ( Johnson, xii ) . The monster besides read this literary work as the true history of the beginning of the creative activity of human existences. He saw facets of himself in both the characters of Adam and Satan. He was similar Adam in that he was the first of his type of creative activity and was unlike any living animal. The monster, nevertheless, felt a stronger connexion to the character of Satan in that he was spurned by his Godhead, Victor, merely as Satan was cast out of Eden by God. The animal related his feelings about his designation with the characters from Paradise Lost in the undermentioned transition ;

& # 8220 ; Like Adam, I was seemingly united by no nexus to any other being in being ; but his province was far different

from mine in every other regard. He had come away from the

custodies of God a perfect animal, happy and comfortable but I was

wretched, helpless, and entirely. Many times I considered Satan

as the fitter emblem of my status, for frequently, like him, when I viewed the cloud nine of my defenders, the acrimonious saddle sore of enviousness rose within me & # 8221 ; ( Shelley, 114 ) .

It is my personal belief that Mary may hold besides felt, at times, as the monster does in the above transition. She was human, like all others, but had parents who were political groups, had a remarkable educational experience, had the beginning of her ain creative activity published for the full universe to read, and ran off with a married adult male. The combination of the above experiences set Mary apart from society and caused her to experience the isolation and disaffection of an castaway ; an castaway like her monster and Milton & # 8217 ; s Satan. She differs from the monster in that she is ill-famed for her name, non her visual aspect, while the monster has no name and is alternatively an castaway due to the differences in the manner he appears to others. In many ways Mary Shelley saw herself as the monster that she created and identified further with the monster by holding him read the same works that she did.

Through the survey of Mary Shelley & # 8217 ; s diaries and her life, one becomes cognizant of how of import survey and research were to her. Her life tells how the influence of her literary parents and hubby provided her with a alone educational experience and how she was encouraged to carry on research. Her diaries provide a elaborate list of all the plants that she studied and help in associating what she studied to the creative activity of her timeless authoritative and all of the cognition, particularly of human beginnings, that is contained in the novel. Most significantly, the combination of the diary and her life aid reply how such a immature adult female with such a troubled life created such an digesting piece of literature. She had a great love of research and cognition and used her surveies in her originative end product.


Bennett, Betty T. & # 8221 ; Finding Mary Shelley in Her Letters. & # 8221 ; Romantic Revisions. explosive detection systems. Robert Brinkley and Keith Hanley. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992. 292-306.

Bennett, Betty T. & # 8220 ; Frankenstein and the Uses of Biography. & # 8221 ; Approaches to Teaching Shelley & # 8217 ; s Frankenstein. erectile dysfunction. Stephen C. Behrendt. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 1990. 85-92.

Duyfhuizen, Bernard. & # 8220 ; Periphrastic Naming in Mary Shelley & # 8217 ; s Frankenstein. & # 8221 ; Surveies in the Novel 27 ( 1995 ) : 477-492.

Feldman, Paula R. and Scott & # 8211 ; Kilvert, Diana, eds. The Journals of Mary Shelley. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987.

Homans, Margaret. & # 8220 ; Bearing Demons: Frankenstein & # 8217 ; s Circumvention of the Maternal. & # 8221 ; New Casebooks & # 8211 ; Frankenstein/Mary Shelley. erectile dysfunction. Fred Botting. New York: St. Martin & # 8217 ; s, 1995. 140-165.

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May, Marilyn. & # 8220 ; Publish and Perish: William Godwin, Mary Shelley, and the Public Appetite for Scandal. & # 8221 ; Documents on Language and Literature 26 ( 1990 ) : 489-512.

Marshall, David. The Surprising Effectss of Sympathy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988.

Pollin, Burton R. & # 8220 ; Philosophical and Literary Sources of Frankenstein. & # 8221 ; Comparative Literature 17 ( Spring 1965 ) : 97-108.

& # 8220 ; Review of Frankenstein. & # 8221 ; British Critic 9 Apr. 1818: 432-438.

& # 8220 ; Review of Frankenstein. & # 8221 ; Monthly Review 85 Apr. 1818: 439.

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