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Fear of Pregnancy in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

analytical Essay
2061 words
2061 words
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Fear of Pregnancy in Frankenstein

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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...loom, Harold. Mary Shelly's Frankenstein. New York: Chelsea, 1987.

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

Levine, George. The Endurance of Frankenstein. Los Angeles: Moers, 1974.

Marder, Daniel. Exiles at Home: A Story of Literature in Nineteenth Century America. Lanham: University Press of America, Inc., 1984.

Patterson, Arthur Paul. A Frankenstein Study. http://www.watershed.winnipeg.mb.ca/Frankenstein.html

Smith, Christopher. Frankenstein as Prometheus. http://www.umich.edu/~umfandsf/class/sf/books/frank/papers/FrankCS.html

Spark, Muriel. Mary Shelly. New York: Dutton, 1987.

Spark and Stanford. My Best Mary. New York: Roy,1944.

Williams, Bill. On Shelley's Use of Nature Imagery. http://www.umich.edu/~umfandsf/class/sf/books/frank/papers/FrankWJW.html

In this essay, the author

  • Opines that hogg's baby died from convulsions when they went to bed, and shelley is afraid of a fever from the milk.
  • Describes garber, frederick, and huysmans' autonomy of the self.
  • Describes marder, daniel, exiles at home: a story of literature in nineteenth century america.
  • Analyzes how mary shelley, in the development and education of the monster, examines her own fears and thoughts about pregnancy, childbirth, and child development.
  • Analyzes how mary turned to hogg because percy was unsupportive, leaving her alone with her grief. mary's focus on the birth process allowed men to understand female fears about pregnancy.
  • Analyzes how mary shelley uses the theories of hartley and locke for the development and education of the creature.
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