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The Quest for Nothing in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

A Quest for Nothing in Shelly’s Frankenstein

The last chapter of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein concludes Victor Frankenstein’s search for the monster. His obsession with finding the wretch leads him into the most desolate territories in the world, led on with clues left by the monster itself. The motive for his quest goes beyond the desire for revenge, but is shaped over the primal need for Victor to become the ideal self. The monster, in which Victor placed his most intense hours of isolated contemplation, represents, if not the unconscious then at least an outlet and a means for the fulfillment of Victor’s dark repressed wishes. Victor therefore is bent on achieving “the wholeness that was ravaged instantly and for always in the formative stages of his mental growth, specifically the mirror stage.”(Reed 64)

In the mirror stage, the spark of knowledge, which will ultimately mark the splitting of the self, infuses the child at the moment when the child, still in state of dependency, identifies its reflection in the mirror. The child is then left to the mercy of the gigantic and fiendish realization that it may never again become unified with the ideal-I, or as Jacques Lacan names it, the Gestalt. The Gestalt represents the “rigid structure of the subject’s entire mental development,” an ideal goal that cannot be obtained, and the subject “will only rejoin the coming-into-being of the subject asymptotically. This is to say that at the moment when the child views its reflection in the mirror, it is doomed by eternal distance from the exemplary self, the fully functioning and accessible mind, and can only hope to arrive infinitely closer to becoming it. Lacan emphasizes that the subject must realize the impossibility of b…

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…ts in nothing.

Works Cited and Consulted

Bloom, Harold. Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. New York: Chelsea, 1987.

Botting, Fred. Making monstrous. Frankenstein, criticism, theory. Manchester University Press, 1991.

Boyd, Stephen. York Notes on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Longman York Press, 1992.

Garber, Frederick. The Autonomy of the Self from Richardson to Huysmans. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982.

Mellor, Anne K. Mary Shelley. Her Life, her Fiction, her Monsters. Methuen. New York, London, 1988.

Marcel, Anthony J. “Conscious and Unconscious Perception.” Cognitive Psychology 15 (1983): 197-237

Reed, Kenneth T. “A Freudian Note on Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein'”. Literature and Psychology 19 (1969): 61-72.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus. Edited with an Introduction and notes by Maurice Hindle. Penguin books, 1992

Comparing Romanticism in Plymouth Plantation, Birthmark, and Rappaccini’s Daughter

Puritanism and Romanticism differ in style, religious references, and plot content. Puritanism began to flourish with strict God-fearing Calvinists who had fled to America to escape religious persecution in Europe. With writers such as William Bradford and Edward Taylor, Puritan literature focuses on God’s role in the lives of the people and adopts a simple religious style of writing. Romanticism was introduced to Americans in the nineteenth century, delivering a fresh literary and artistic style. This new literature pays more attention to the elements of tone, mood, and atmosphere, while also applying religion in the form of transcendentalism. These two types of literature are similar in the respect that they both encourage living simply.

Puritan writers were concerned more with the message the literature portrayed than with form and dramatic elements. “Poetry was used to educated its reader, and was written using simple rhythm and common images” (Heimert 34). Puritan literature was plain in style. Much attention focused on God’s will in the new world, man’s relation to God, the nature of faith, and the history of New England. We can see these elements in the writings of William Bradford, the Governor of the Plymouth colony. “Of Plymouth Plantation” is considered to be New England’s first literary achievement. It “is an historical account of the journey to the new world, and the hardships encountered upon arrival” (Fritscher 81). This poem was written to “preserve both the record and the fact of Plymouth’s separate identity” (Heimert 51). Bradford’s objective was to preach God’s purpose in the founding of the Plymouth colony.

“Of Plymouth Plantation” has two major themes: how Plymouth had failed the original goal of e…

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…uestioning of reason and nature separated him from the Puritans. Yet both Romanticism and Puritanism are similar with their respect for simplicity, while they differ in many other ways.

Works Cited

Boewe, Charles. “Rappaccini’s Garden.” American Literature. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1959.

Fritscher, John. “The Sensibility and Conscious Style of Willaim Bradford.” Bucknell Review. 1969.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Young Goodman Brown and Other Short Stories. New York: Dover Publications, INC. 1992.

Heimer, Alan. The Puritans in America: A Narrative Anthology. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985.

Leone, Bruno, ed. Readings on Nathaniel Hawthorne. San Diego: Greenhave Press, 1996.

McPherson, Hugo. Hawthorne as a Myth-Maker: A Study in the Imagination. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1989.

Morison, Samuel. Of Plymouth Plantation. New York, Knopf, 1952.

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