The Last Man and the Plague of Empire Essay example

The Last Man and the Plague of Empire Essay example

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The Last Man and the Plague of Empire

     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" [323]) 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). In Jim Zwick,ed., Anti-Imperialism

in the United States, 1898-1935. http://www.accinet.ent/~fjzwick/ail98-35.html

(January 2004).


Richardson, Alan. Romantic Circles: "The Last Man and the Plague of Empire." (September 2003).


Shelley, Mary W. The Last Man. Betty T. Bennett and Steven E. Jones, eds.  September 2003

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