Regarding the seeds of creativity that produced her Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
paraphrases Sancho Panza, explaining that “everything must have a beginning.” She and
Percy Shelley had been reading Don Quixote, as well as German horror novels, during
the “wet, ungenial summer” and “incessant rain” of their stay with Lord Byron at Villa
Diodati in Geneva in 1816. In his introduction, Maurice Hindle notes the connection
between the two fictional madmen:
Both Don Quixote and Frankenstein start out with the noble intention of
helping their fellow creatures, but their aspirations are doomed by their
pursuit of a „single vision,. one that takes them further and further away
from satisfying the moderate needs of the community, and nearer and
nearer to a personally tragic denouement. (Frankenstein xxxviii)
Society, too, must have had its beginning, but theorists from Hume to Marx to Darwin
and writers such as Shelley and Dostoevsky may never solve the question of whom or
what came first: the individual or the community? One thing seems clear: whether via
sensational impressions, inductive reasoning, or common sense, the individual cannot
long survive without meaningful inclusion within the larger group of humanity. From
childhood, we recognize the profound hurt that comes from exclusion from the majority,
and this alienation, in Marxian parlance, can lead to an antagonistic position toward
society, as dramatized in both Frankenstein.s “monster” and Dostoevsky.s Underground
Man. The monster proclaims in his agony that he is “malicious because I am miserable,”
and he is miserable, no doubt, because he is not merely alone but shunned from society
(147). Shelly.s creation is in part deri...
... middle of paper ...
...arles. “The Origin of Species.” From Modernism to Postmodernism: An
Anthology. Expanded 2nd Edition. Ed. Lawrence Cahoone. Blackwell Publishing.
Dostoevsky, Fyodor. “Notes From Underground.” The Norton Anthology of World
Masterpieces: The Western Tradition 7th edition Vol. 2. Ed. Sarah Lawall. New
York, NY. 1999.
Hume, David. “A Treatise on Human Nature.” From Modernism to Postmodernism: An
Anthology. Expanded 2nd Edition. Ed. Lawrence Cahoone. Blackwell Publishing.
Marx, Karl. Manifesto of the Communist Party: “Bourgeois and Proletarians.” From
Modernism to Postmodernism: An Anthology. Expanded 2nd Edition. Ed.
Lawrence Cahoone. Blackwell Publishing. 2003.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Maurice Hindle.
Penguin Books. U.K., 2003.
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