Responsible For Her Mother's Death In Frankenstein

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“My imagination, unbidden, possessed and guided me, gifting the successive images that arose in my mind with vividness far beyond the usual bounds of reverie,” Mary Shelley described in the forward to one of the most deeply philosophical works of her time, her novel, Frankenstein. According to Shelley in this introduction, she conceived the idea of her horror novel in a jolt of inspiration one night before bed. While some of the plot may indeed have come to her in such a spectacular fashion, a close examination of her text in comparison to her personal history reveals that many of the qualities embodied by her characters were not spontaneously conjured, but rather were derived from her own personality and sentiment. In crafting the novel that…show more content…
Her feelings of guilt in the wake of these tragedies inspired her to include similar events and outlooks in her character Victor Frankenstein. Biographer Edward Ball recognized this self-faulting nature of Mary Shelley in his essay on her life. He described this disposition in the case of her mother’s passing, writing that, “She was burdened with the suspicion, however irrational, that she was…responsible for her mother’s death” (Ball). Mary Wollstonecraft, Shelley’s mother, died from puerperal fever not two weeks after giving birth to her daughter (Ball). Brought up on tales of her mother, whose life ended as a result of her daughter’s birth, Shelley likely developed at a very young age a fear that she was personally at fault for her mother’s passing. This paranoia was propagated by the losses of many friends and family members throughout her lifetime. Shelley’s remorse and guilt at deaths for which she was not personally responsible played such a large role in her psyche that she instilled similar feelings in the protagonist of her most famous novel, Victor Frankenstein. These views are expressed by Victor in his reaction to Justine’s conviction for the murder of William Frankenstein. Victor lamented, “But I, the true murderer, felt the never-dying…show more content…
During the early 19th century, however, many of her actions and convictions were attacked by as immoral. As a consequence of these actions, she would ultimately be ostracized by both the society she had left behind and the family she had betrayed. Although she was confident in the validity of her decisions, she was deeply affected by this experience of isolation from everything she had ever known. Shelley’s excommunication by her family and social banishment from her homeland may have inspired her to include similar events in the development of a character in Frankenstein, Felix De Lacey. Through her choice to elope with Percy, Mary defied the social expectation that she obey her father in every regard. As punishment for this transgression, she became all but dead to her family. Edward Ball described this situation, writing that, “In the eyes of her father – and English society – she had become a ‘fallen woman’ and a moral outcast” (Ball). By moving forward with her engagement to Percy and eloping despite her father’s wishes, Mary knew full well that she was severing all ties with the family and the life she would be leaving behind. Accordingly, the consequences of this decision were not a surprise to her and her husband. However, banishment from her home and family likely inspired in her some feelings of regret despite her conviction that she was in the right. The emotional pain resulting
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