Mary Shelley Essay Research Paper Mary Shelley 2

Mary Shelley Essay, Research Paper

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus is a true classic, one

which has passed the test of time. The story of

Frankenstein has been told and retold, generation after generation. Not only

is the story line itself intriguing but the story has

many underlying themes that invoke thought and controversy. Depending upon

your individual perspective one might see the

underlying theme as a warning to the scientific community to question the

morality of their scientific advancements in light of the

betterment of mankind and society as a whole. Another reader, might view the

underlying theme as referring to interpersonal

relationships between men and women. From my own perspective as a parent and

mother of two children, I perceive the most

prevalent underlying theme to be that of parenting. This novel illustrates

and confronts many issues involving the dynamics of

parent-child relationships. Such as child abandonment, child neglect, the

dangers of spoiling your child, and their resulting

influences on the child’s emotional and psychological development.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein clearly demonstrates the importance of attachment

and bonding between the mother and the

child for normal childhood development.. Shelley does this by identifying the

negative effects of depriving a child of a nurturing

mother. Without mothering a child’s capacity to trust others and commit to

loving relationships diminishes resulting in social

isolation later in life. More important, the lack of a loving education

deprives a child of developing a clear and comprehensive

understanding of human morality. A child that does not possess an adequate

moral understanding often dissociates themselves

from their feeling of anger and guilt resulting in unrepentive violence. This

is validated in the story by the demon’s inability to

form any type of loving relationship and the demon’s subsequent moral

failings resulting in violent outburst which legitimizes

societies condemnation of the demon as a social outcast. Thus, Mary Shelley

suggest that a rejected and unmothered child can

become violent and even a killer, a monster so to speak.

The Monster is not the only character in Frankenstein to find themselves

motherless. There is a conspicuous absence of

mothers throughout the book. Victor’s best friend, Henry Clerval, is

motherless and spends most of his formidable years

reared by the Frankenstein household as Henry’s father had little time for

him. Victor’s mother, Caroline who is herself

orphaned, dies a few months before he goes away to study at the university in

Ingolstadt. Elizabeth, Victor’s fianc?, is adopted

by the Frankenstein family after she is orphaned due the death of her mother.

William Frankenstein’s nursemaid, Justine, is not

only wrongfully executed, but is not even introduced into the Frankenstein

household until after her mother abuses and neglects

her and abandons her to Elizabeth’s good graces. Even the DeLacey family that

the Monster spends two years observing

through the peek hole of his hovel is motherless. Many of the characters are

lacking a mothers love and guidance as part of

their own childhood environment. Consequently, they maybe lacking the

experiences in life that implant good parenting skills.

Such is the case with Caroline who passed on a mother’s love the only way she

knew how. Ignorant of any harm she maybe

bestowing on her children.

Child abuse is not always as blatant as the nose on your face or as scornful

or intentional as out right physical abuse or child

abandonment. As Shelley corroborates in the case of Victor. As a child,

Victor was overly indulged and spoiled, which in

itself is a form of child neglect. Victor’s parent showered him with love and

affection but did not set limits as to acceptable

behavior. As a result Victor grew into an manipulative self-centered adult

who was incapable of accepting responsibility for

his own actions and showed little or no concern for others. The disastrous

effects of spoiling Victor became obvious when he

could not control his impulse to meddle with the creation of life. Victor was

so overwhelmed with fulfilling his own personnel

ambitions and his childhood experiences were so lacking that he never

considered that there is a difference between wanting

and needing. As a result, Victor was so consumed with whether or not he could

create life he never stopped to consider the

consequences of his experiments.

In Victors rush to create life he did not give any deliberation as to the

quality of life he would be bestowing upon his

creation. Frankenstein’s reckless disregard for the power he was wielding is

manifested in the outward appearance of his

creation. From the onset the monsters hideous body sickened Victor. As a

scientist or a father, Victor never prepared himself

to face the repugnant embodiment of his creation. Victor did not consider how

his creation would fit into society or how this

frightening creature would be able to overcome the prejudice of his being. It

was obvious that Victor never intended to parent

his creation or assume responsibility for his actions. From the moment of the

creature’s birth, Victor thought of it as demonical

and abused it. Victor’s eagerness to abandon his creation demonstrates that

Victor never considered the creation to be of his

birth. He did not see the creature as his child but instead no more than an

ill fated adventure. Symbolic of Victors intentions to

abandon his responsibilities and alienate the monster from his lineage

becomes poignant when Victor fails to provide his

creation with a namesake. The absence of a name denies the monster the

knowledge of who he is or any family origins. The

monster’s lack of a name and place in society, caused him great distress, as

depicted in the following passage. "But where were

my friends and relations? No father had watched my infant days, no mother

blessed me with smiles and caresses. I had never

yet seen a being resembling me, or who claimed any intercourse with me. What

was I? (Shelley, 117)

Abandoned by his farther and shunned by society the monster tries to conceive

his humanity and find his place in the world.

Yet for all his toil it leads to but one conclusion…

…but…I possessed no money, no friends, no kind of property.

I was, besides, endowed with a figure hideously deformed

and loathsome;…When I looked around, I saw and heard of

none like me… "I cannot describe to you the agony that these

reflections inflicted upon me; I tried to dispel them, but sorrow

only increased with knowledge. Oh, that I had ever remained

in my native wood, nor known or felt beyond the sensations of

hunger, thirst, and heat!" (Shelley 116)

The monster having received a moral and intellectual education was still

lacking the warmth of a nurturing and loving parent as

well as companionship and acceptance from society which led him to reject

morality in favor of blind justice. The monster is a

classic story of an abused child turned abuser.


Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus (the 1818

text). Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1982.


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