Frankenstein A model of English Romanticism



Frankenstein: A Model of English Romanticism
The literary world embraced English romanticism when it began to emerge and was so taken by its elements that it is still a beloved experience for the reader of today. Romanticism “has crossed all social boundaries,” and it was during the seventeenth and eighteenth century, it found its way into almost every niche in the literary world (Lowy 76). From the beginning of its actuality, “romanticism has forged its way through many eras including the civil war” (Hall 44). Literature such as “the famous Gone With The Wind was a good example of romanticism in that era because it had many of the required qualities” but there were others that were even more clear as English Romanticism pieces (Hall 44). There are very few works that have a more accurate portrayal and proof of the importance of English romanticism than Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. While later versions of the stories depicted a central theme of a helpless monster caught in the fears of society the actual depiction of the original work was based more closely on the English romantic that was so popular at the time.
The importance of emotions and feelings were paramount during the era of English romanticism. In addition autobiographical material was extremely popular. All of these qualities were present in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein including a third and vital underpinning of romanticism, the innocence and exaltation of the common man.
An important element of romanticism is the use of flowing feelings. During this time period, men as well as women were full of raw emotions in literary works. They would freely vent their most anguished thoughts and worries. This was evident in several of the chapters in Shelley’s portrayal of the life of the monster and the people he encountered. One of the finest examples of romanticism is when the monster who we must remember is only learning emotions for the first time runs from the cottage after startling the occupants.
Cursed, cursed creator! Why did I live? Why, in that instant, did I not extinguish the spark of existence which you had so wantonly bestowed? I know not; despair had not yet taken possession of me; my feelings were those of rage and revenge. (Shelley 746)
This passage demonstrates feelings that were a common theme during the Romanticist era, the monster was in pain and cursing the day he was created.
Another important element of romanticism is the connection of the author to the story. The autobiographical nature of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is at first not openly obvious as it is in many other literary works. One could ask, how a book about a monster could have anything to do with the real life of the author, but if we peel the top layer away and look closely at the undercurrent that is throughout the monster’s story it becomes clear that
“Victor Frankensteins creation is symbolic of Mary Shelley’s life” (Caprio). Shelley’s mother left her at an early age by dying. She had been Shelley’s creator in much the same manner that Dr. Frankenstein had been the monster’s creator. When the creator of the monster turned his back on him and deserted him he was forced out into the world, much as a small child in that he had limited exposure to anything outside the former security of his home. Shelley too, “was thrust into the world, when her mother died; the difference is that she was an actual child while the monster was a mental and emotional child” (Hamberg). This uses two of the needed ingredients for romanticism, autobiographical ideas and imagery.
The book may also be a representation of a fear of childbirth felt by the author. This would not be surprising given that her own mother died giving birth to Shelley. It would explain the monster’s creation and in fact the very reason he is a monster at all. Shelley may have viewed herself as a monster who was so hideous that she killed her own mother being born. This would fit right in with the autobiographical themes that were so prevalent during the English Romanticism era of that period (Caprio). In addition one of the side themes of the book may have been