I find myself in easy agreement with Alan Richardson's perceptive account of The Last Man as a novel written in the service of British colonial interests and of Mary Shelley as an individual swept up in the collective arrogance of nineteenth-century imperial England.
In one striking example of the novel's
colonialist complicity, Lionel Verney presumptuously declares that England's
prime resource is its people (its "children" ) whereas the greatest assets
of the equatorial regions are their commodities--their spices, plants, and
fruits. Verney further sentimentally recalls Britain's history of unshrinking
exploration (read colonization and economic exploitation) of foreign nations
under the crown's sponsorship, as he grieves for lost "times when man walked the
earth fearless, before Plague had become Queen of the World" (346). It appears
crystal-clear that The Last Man contains fewer sites of resistance than are
present in Frankenstein and more moments of racism, jingoism, and religious
contempt; therefore, in order to facilitate conversation, I will address here
primarily the possible meanings of the novel's few heteroglossic moments,
including the "ironic twist or two towards the end" that Alan Richardson
mentions, in addition to posing some suggestive, or polemical, questions.
The horror of The Last Man may for Shelley lie in its revelation that the
operations of nature obliterate both civilized and barbaric, Christian and
Mahometan, with the same moral neutrality. In the end, Adrian, the sophisticated
"blue-eyed boy" (27), a stand-in for Percy Shelley, s...
... middle of paper ...
...e United States, 1898-1935.
http://www.accinet.ent/~fjzwick/ail98-35.html (December 2003).
Greenblatt, Stephen Jay. Learning to Curse: Essays in Early Modern Culture.New
York: Routledge, 1990.
Holmes, Richard. Shelley: The PursuitLondon: Penguin,1974.
Kipling, Rudyard. "The White Man's Burden." McClure's Magazine 12 (Feb.1899).
http://www.accinet.net/~fjzwick/kipling.html In Jim Zwick,ed., Anti-Imperialism
in the United States, 1898-1935. http://www.accinet.ent/~fjzwick/ail98-35.html
Richardson, Alan. Romantic Circles: "The Last Man and the Plague of Empire."
http://prometheus.emory.edu/RC/mwsprogram.html (September 2003).
Shelley, Mary W. The Last Man. Betty T. Bennett and Steven E. Jones, eds.
http://www.rc.umd.edu/editions/editions.html#mws September 2003
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