Frankenstein can be read as a tale of what happens when a man tries to create a child without a woman. It can, however, also be read as an account of a woman’s anxieties and insecurities about her own creative and reproductive capabilities. The story of Frankenstein is the first articulation of a woman’s experience of pregnancy and related fears. Mary Shelley, in the development and education of the monster, discusses child development and education and how the nurturing of a loving parent is extremely important in the moral development of an individual. Thus, in Frankenstein, Mary Shelley examines her own fears and thoughts about pregnancy, childbirth, and child development.
Pregnancy and childbirth, as well as death, was an integral part of Mary Shelley’s young adult life. She had four children and a miscarriage that almost killed her. This was all before the age of twenty-five. Only one of her children, Percy Florence, survived to adulthood and outlived her. In June of 1816, when she had the waking nightmare which became the catalyst of the tale, she was only nineteen and had already had her first two children. Her first child, Clara, was born prematurely February 22, 1815 and died March 6. Mary, as any woman would be, was devastated by this and took a long time to recover. The following is a letter that Mary wrote to her friend Hogg the day that the baby died.
6 March 1815
My dearest Hogg my baby is dead – will you come to see me as soon as you can – I wish to see you – It was perfectly well when I went to bed – I awoke in the night to give it suck it appeared to be sleeping so quietly that I would not awake it – it was dead then but we did not find that out till mornin…
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The Imperfect Creator in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
The Imperfect Creator in Frankenstein
Often the actions of children are reflective of the attitudes of those who raised them. In the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelly, Dr. Victor Frankenstein is the sole being that can take responsibility for the creature that he has created, as he is the only one that had any part in bringing it into being. While the actions of the creation are the ones that are the illegal and deadly their roots are traced back to the flaws of Frankenstein as a creator.
Many of Frankenstein’s faults are evident in the appearance of his creation. It is described as having yellow skin, dark black hair, eyes sunk into their sockets, and black lips (Shelly 56). Frankenstein, having chosen the parts for his creature, is the only one possible to blame for its appearance. Martin Tropp states that the monster is “designed to be beautiful and loving, it is loathsome and unloved” (64). Clearly it is Frankenstein’s lack of foresight in the creation process to allow for a creature that Frankenstein “had selected his features as beautiful,” (56) to become something which the very sight of causes its creator to say “breathless horror and disgust filled my heart”(56). He overlooks the seemingly obvious fact that ugliness is the natural result when something is made from parts of different corpses and put together. Were he thinking more clearly he would have noticed monster’s hideousness.
Another physical aspect of the monster which shows a fault in Frankenstein is its immense size. The reason that Frankenstein gives for creating so large a creature is his own haste. He states that ,”As the minuteness of the parts formed a great hinderance to my speed, I resolved, contrary to my first intention, to make a being gigantic in stature …” (52). Had Frankenstein not had been so rushed to complete his project he would not have had to deal with such a physically intimidating creature. Tropp however states that ambition may have had a role in the size of the creation. He says that the creation is “born of Frankenstein’s megalomania” (81). This may indeed be true as the inventor states “A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me” (52).