Baker & Taylor Relates the plot and characters of the Frankenstein story to Mary Shelley's own life and to the broader controversies of the time
Blackwell North Amer From the vast cultural upheavals that came with the French Revolution arose Mary Shelley's famous novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818). Frankenstein is the tale of a doctor who brings to life a hideous "Creature" endowed with both intelligence and sensitivity - but driven to evil by lack of human compassion. The novel promotes the highest ideal of Romanticism: the potential for human goodness to thrive unfettered by law. Yet, like the Victorian thought already creeping into Shelley's England, Frankenstein also asks whether we can truly live by that ideal. As Mary Lowe-Evans observes in this unique and exciting new historicist reading of the novel, nothing so clearly reveals Frankenstein's ambivalent position between Romantic liberte and Victorian limitations as its treatment of conventional marriage. The value of marriage, she tells us, was hotly contested by men and women of the early nineteenth century, including Mary Shelley. Lowe-Evans offers rich biographical background for Shelley's reflections on the institution, particularly the legacy of her father, philosopher William Godwin, who peaked the Romantics' scorn for marriage with his infamous treatise Political Justice. Shelley, Lowe-Evans explains, behaved according to Godwin's stated principles: as an intellectual, creative woman who loved and lived with poet Percy Bysshe Shelley while he was still married - but she also suffered for the choices she made. Who better, Lowe-Evans makes brilliantly clear, to write this novel of conflict between Romantic ideals and the restrictions of the real world? Bringing us from the genesis of the Creature - who represents the democratic principles of the Revolution - through his series of horrific murders - his Reign of Terror - Lowe-Evans illuminates Shelley's acknowledgment of the end of Romanticism. The image of housewife Margaret Saville, the problematic union of Safie and Felix, the longings of the ship's captain, the tragic outcome of Dr. Frankenstein's wedding to Elizabeth - all tie elegantly into Shelley's era, her life, and her ultimate belief in conventional marriage. Lowe-Evans elucidates that fascinating tie for the first time.