How Shelley’s Personal Feelings and Experiences are Expressed in Frankenstein

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Mary Shelley wrote the work “Frankenstein” at a very young age. Despite her youthfulness, she had experienced many trials and tribulations by the tender age of nineteen. These experiences are evident in the work “Frankenstein.” Shelley’s personal feelings, experiences, and friends appear throughout the novel.

In the novel “Frankenstein,” reflections of Mary Shelley’s life show up throughout the book. The characters in the novel reflect Shelley’s own feelings and experiences. “The displacement of women obviously reflects a fear of birth and Mary Shelley’s own ambivalence about childbearing” (Levine 9).

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Throughout the book, female characters have little to no say in any situation that a man controls. “With his permission my mother prevailed on her rustic guardians to yield their charge to her” (Shelley 17). “The circularity of Frankenstein underscores Mary Shelley’s critique of the insufficiency of a family structure…” (Ellis 125). Since Mary Shelley grew up in a home with family struggles and tragedies, she writes in her novel about the broken family structure. She includes everything from “…the relation between the sexes…” to “…the relationship between parents and children” (Ellis 125). In her book, however, the relationship between parent and child becomes creator and creation. “I felt what the duties of a creator towards his creature were, and that I ought to render him happy before I complained of his wickedness” (Shelley 70). One can now see how the characters from the novel reflect Shelley’s own life.

The style in which Shelley wrote is evident in the novel. Since she grew up under the influence of a feminist mother and a philosophical father, she writes with a distinct style. “The motif of the Doppelganger was certainly in Mary’s mind during the writing…” (Levine 15). Doppelganger: “…as it was a part of the Gothic tradition in which she wrote…” (Levine 15). Throughout the novel, one sees many examples of Gothic scenes and characters. Shelley states in “Frankenstein.”

“A flash of lightning illuminated the object, and discovered its shape plainly to me; its gigantic stature and the deformity of its aspect, more hideous than belongs to humanity, instantly informed me that it was the wretch, the filthy daemon to whom I had given life” (50).

The style in which she wrote was heavily influenced by her parents and her childhood.

Personal fears that Shelley had can be seen throughout “Frankenstein.” “Her fears of the creation of life by mere mechanisms…” (Levine 16). While the thought of the creation of a creature in that manner now seems ridiculous, when Shelley wrote this book, that was part of the unknown. No one knew whether or not it was possible to create life from a machine. The obvious example of this is the creation of the monster by Dr. Frankenstein. “…now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart” (Shelley 35).

In the novel, when Victor creates the monster, it opens its eyes and Victor runs away in horror. Other fears of Shelley also appear in the book. “She bases her fears on her awareness of the conflicts in her own nature and her understanding…” (Tropp 55). At the time this novel was written, people were playing with the idea of the creation of life from lifeless parts. Shelley’s own fear of this can be seen throughout the novel.

Personal experiences can be seen through examples in the novel. “…Shelley, Mary, and Claire traveled up the Rhine by boat (a journey taken in Frankenstein)” (Tropp 88). That quote is self-explanatory as to how the personal experience is reflected in the novel. “…the restraint can itself be seen as evidence of the authenticity of the experience” (Levine 18). Shelley’s experience on the Rhine was quite disturbing for her. This can be seen in the novel when the travelers begin their journey. They show much hesitation when starting the trip because of the uncertainty and fear of the unknown.

The imagination of Shelley is shown throughout the book. “Mary Shelley has imagined the responsibilities of God shifted to mankind” (Levine 10). Shelley took the idea of the creation of life by God and simply gave that to man. In the novel, Dr. Frankenstein assumes the role of God in creating the monster. “Frankenstein is in essence something different, an imaginative realization not of an individual…but of the intellectual and emotional associations of a person” (Small 120). In the book, one can see the transformations and changes from people in Shelley’s life to characters in the book. Dr. Frankenstein grows up with his cousin Elizabeth, the namesake of both Shelley’s mother and sister. His father, who is very mild and benevolent, is a reverse image of the father who lived in Shelley’s imagination.

Society at the time the novel was written is reflected in the story. “Mary Shelley carefully sifts the degree to which a number of the various families in the novel accede to the separation of male and female spheres of activity characteristic of the bourgeois family” (Ellis 124). At the time of this novel’s creation, males dominated society. Females during this period raised the children and cleaned the house. They did not have a say in any of the important occurrences of the time. “…Mary Shelley is commenting on in the novel as a whole: one that separates “outer” and “inner,” the masculine sphere of discovery and the feminine sphere of domesticity” (Ellis 124). The main male character of the novel also takes center stage. He shows the ability to discover and create while the female character remains detached from that. She simply demonstrates her ability to manage domestic affairs. “Little alteration, except the growth of our dear children, has taken place since you left us” (Shelley 40).

The language of Frankenstein endows the novel with a unique characteristic that makes it inherently interesting. “Frankenstein continues to solicit and disturb not only through its creation of a decisive image of Gothic horror, but also by the paths of monsterism in a doomed dialectic with nature and culture” (Brooks 205). The intense language used by Shelley vividly depicts the setting and surroundings of the scene. “…at length, I perceived a small hut, on rising ground, which had doubtless been built for the convenience of some shepherd” (Shelley 73). “Language is also the principal theme of the Monster’s story of his life…” (Brooks 208).

The thoughts and feelings of Mary Shelley at the time of the novel’s publication were indeed compelling. She effectively transformed those emotions into characters and setting for this classic novel.

The displacement of women in the narrative ostensibly reflects a fear of birth and Mary Shelley’s own ambivalence about childbearing.

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How Shelley's Personal Feelings and Experiences Are Expressed in Frankenstein. (2023, Feb 13). Retrieved from