Life And Works Of Mary Shelley English Literature Essay
It was not until 1920 that women received the right to vote. After many years of speaking out for equality, women finally achieved it. In the beginning of the 1800s, women realized that they too were people and wanted to have the same opportunities as men (Our 1). Most people do not realize how recent this actually happened. Throughout history, women had to fight to be heard and obtain the same rights as men. Mary Shelley did not have an easy time during her life and when her husband died, she was left to get things done on her own. She had strong beliefs about women and how they should be treated. She lived during the time when women began to speak out to receive same rights as men. She made it known in her novels that women were not the main part of society and were considered inferior to men. Mary Shelley's views on feminism were based on her life alone and portrayed throughout her works.
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Mary Shelley's mother died shortly after giving birth to Shelley and her dad did not pay much attention to her (Merriman 3). Her mother's feminist writings greatly influenced her in her writings. She would read her mother's writings and became deeply concentrated on them (Gilbert 116). By reading her mother wrote, she felt a connection with her. It was the closest thing she had to a mother. (Gilbert 116).Then, she would also read the reviews of her mother's works and sometimes her mom was called a "monster" and "reading about her mother's works must have been painful" (Gilbert 115). Her mom was a feminist writer which at the time was not looked upon highly. People did not realize at the time what her mom was doing in her writings and the connections to feminism she had. When they did realize, they did not like it especially the men. The men wanted to be the best and did not want women to be better than them. They did not believe women should have the same rights as men.
Mary Shelley figured this out when Percy Shelley died. It was July 8, 1822 and Percy Shelley died leaving Mary Shelley and her children (Letters 109). Percy Shelley had become ill and could not do much while they were traveling in Europe (Letters 64). He never regained his health, and his illness escalated (Letters 84). Finally, on the July day he died, and it was devastating for Mary Shelley. She was left alone with no friends and her one companion was gone (Letters 110).
Mary Shelley was left with her young child Percy, but he was going to be taken away from her because she was a woman and did not have rights to her son (WIC 12). Sir Timothy Shelley was going to give her son to someone that would take care of him. She did not want to be separated from him at all. She was his mother and would "not live ten days separated from him" (Letters 122). She fought for the right to keep her son and in the end was able to keep him and get the allowance she needed. Since she was a woman, she was not just given what she wanted. Because Timothy Shelley was a man, he had the right to do what he wanted and make the decisions. Mary Shelley had to fight for what was right and was not going to let someone take her son from her. Because she spoke up, she was able to receive what she wanted. Before Mary Shelley was able to take care of Percy Shelley and even after he died, she was able to be independent and get things done on her own. Having this sense of freedom helped her realize that women did not need men and could function on their own in society without anyone else.
In Frankenstein, Mary Shelley expressed her views of loneliness and feminism through Frankenstein and the monster. Frankenstein, the doctor, was lonely and wanted a friend, someone who would love and listen to him. He built the monster but ran away because the monster was ugly and terrifying (Shelley 43). Because the monster was created from man, he was like Eve. Eve, in the Bible, was created from man by God. The monster was created by Frankenstein by body parts of man. God did not create women to be discriminated against like Frankenstein did not make the monster to be rejected from society. They were created to be companions but just because they looked different, they were not accepted easily in society.
The monster was left alone and was not taught how to function in society (Gilbert 120). Nobody wanted to get near him because of his appearance and he had nowhere to go ( Shelley Every time he tried to talk to someone, the person would become afraid and the monster would kill them (Shelley ch 16). He did not do this on purpose, but he did not know any different. He tried so hard to make friends, but everyone would run away from him. He had to figure out everything by himself and became a female figure in society.
Women were left alone in those days while their husbands were at work (WIC 6). They had to figure everything out on their own like the monster. They were left home to take care of the children and do the chores to keep the home running and in good order (WIC 6). Mary Shelley was left alone when she was younger. Her mom died when she was a young age and her dad rejected her (Merriman 3). She was left alone having to figure things out on her own. She became independent and able to function by herself as a strong woman.
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Because of the feminism portrayed in Frankenstein, it was considered a "woman's book" and revealed a great deal about women during the time and how they were treated. (Gilbert 116). The monster tried to fit in but was looked down upon. This was like women. They tried and tried to become known in society, but were looked at as inferior to men. Women were not heard or treated how they should have been. The monster was not treated like he should have been because he did not look like everyone else. He was discriminated against just because he was different looking. Shelley emphasized that the monster was no different than anyone else, but the way he looked caused him to become a killer because he was not treated right. On the outside, he was ugly and frightening, but on the inside, he just wanted to be loved and make a friend ( Shelley ) He would go up to people but they would run away before even getting to talk to him ( SHelley This would cause him to become more lonely and unloved. The people did not try to get to know or understand the monster. They took one look at him and ran. No one gave him a chance to show what kind of person he really was. He was not able to fit in properly but when not looking at his appearance, he was treated like a normal person.
For instance, the monster saw a house and tried so hard to go in and talk to the people (Shelley 79). He liked the family very much and even helped them by bringing firewood to their house. The older man was blind so the monster knew that if he could just talk to him, maybe the man would be kind to him. It took a while, but finally when the other family members were away, the monster went inside. He started talking to the blind man and the man was treating him like a normal person. They talked and talked and everything was fine until the other people came home. They were terrified and made the monster leave. The old man could not tell what the monster was and thought he was just a normal being. The monster acted normal and did not try to hurt anyone. When the other people came home though, they took one look at the monster and figured he was bad and going to kill people. They did not get to know the monster or talk to him (Shelley 97-99).
The monster talked to the old man like any other person would. The man was blind and could not tell that he was talking to a monster. He was not able to judge him by his appearance but had to judge him by his personality and character. The old man did not run away like everyone else but actually talked to and got to know the monster as much as possible ( Shelley) He had no idea the monster was scary and ugly looking. He thought that the monster was a normal person because he acted normal. He was even able to give the monster advice. By not actually seeing what the monster looked like, he was able to get to know the monster and understand what was going on. The monster was able to tell the man his problems and what was going on. Sometimes a person just needs someone to vent to whether or not the other person can help.
Like the monster, women were also judged by their appearance. Men thought that women could not do as well in society as them. They thought that women were not as intelligent, talented, and could not have a job (WIC 6). Women were just house wives who sat home and cooked. Just because they looked different on the outside, they were treated remarkably different. Women had to fight to be heard like the monster had to fight to fit in (WIC 49). When Mary Shelley wanted the right to keep her son, she did not just sit back and let him be taken away. She was able to speak up and get her son back. Women wanted to be able to work the same jobs as men and have the same respect as them. This did not work out well for the monster though and whenever he tried to talk to someone, he would end up killing them. No one had respect for him because no one understood what happened and where he came from. Shelley makes the point through the monster, that women needed more respect and responsibility then they had. This would cause women to eventually fight for equal treatment (WIC 1).
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Mary Shelley thought she was a failure at doing her job as a woman in society. Mary Shelley felt like she had caused "her mother's death as well as for failing as a parent" (Last 762). Her mother died after childbirth so Mary was left with her father (Last 731). Then, her first child died after being born prematurely (Last 731). She considered herself a failure. She herself, though did not do anything wrong, but the events in her life made her miserable. This is compared to Frankenstein who also did not do well as a parent (Last 761). Right after making the monster, he ran away. He was so scared of what he had made that he left (Shelley 43). He did not teach the monster anything about the world but just left him with no guidance.
Not only is Frankenstein about Mary Shelley's loneliness and feminist views, but also is Transformation. Guido spent his father's wealth and was left alone. He had no friends or anyone who loved him (Transformation 11). He went to marry his girl, Juliet, but ran into problems. He came upon a wretch who wanted to talk to him. The wretch was not pleasant looking and Guido was worried. The wretch made Guido a deal that if he would switch bodies for three days, the wretch would give him his chest. Guido did not know that the wretch would not be back to switch bodies. The wretch went off to Juliet with Guido's body, not to return (Transformation 17).
With the wretch's body, Guido was not invited back into society. He was considered "the monstrous dwarf", and he was scared that he would be stoned or hurt by the people (Transformation 24). He was judged by his awful outer appearance, but was the same person on the inside. The people did not care, and he was considered an ugly monster. They did not try to get to know or understand him. This was like the monster in Frankenstein who was judged by his appearance rather than his personality on the inside. Guido had been a normal person before and still was a normal person but his appearance was different. People did not care who was on the inside but were scared about who was on the outside.
Transformation reflected Shelley's feminist beliefs. Again, the fact that women were not the always loved by society was seen. Like Guido's inability to be let into society, women also had a hard time being taken into society. They were not treated the same and did not have the same rights as men. Women had to fight to fit in and have a say in things just like Guido had to fight to be heard and believed. He looks different which had an impact on his entering back into society and being treated like a normal person. Just because women looked different than men did not mean they should be treated differently.
It also portrayed her loneliness because the reason the man was turned into an ugly monster is he was lonely. He did not have any friends or companions and was an outcast in society. After spending his father's money he had nothing left. Mary was also lonely during her life. She had Percy for a short time, but before and after that, she did not have anyone to talk to and be her friend. She would write letters to her friends but letters were not humans and took time to send and receive.
The Mortal Immortal, part of Transformation was about a man who was in love with his friend Bertha (Transformation 32). The only problem was he was poor and Bertha was rich. He was not wealthy enough to get married and Bertha was becoming impatient (Transformation 33). He wanted her to love him so much that he drank his friend Cornelius' potion without him knowing. This potion would "cure [him] of love-of torture!" (Transformation 36). After drinking the potion, he was a changed man and married Bertha (Transformation 39). Unknowingly, by drinking the potion, he had become immortal. This became a problem as he and Bertha became older because he did not age. As Bertha would age, he would not. After a while, the people of the town started noticing the age difference. They had to leave the town and eventually Bertha died. He was left all alone.
All the man wanted was to be loved and accepted. Since he was poor, he was not able to get married and was looked down upon. The people did not care who he was but knew that he was poor. The people higher up in society did not want to move down in rank but up. He was not considered important.
Bertha was portrayed as higher up in society. Women needed to be independent and not have everyone decided things for them. Bertha had control and her being higher in ranking showed that Mary Shelley believed that women could be important. Bertha did not want to marry someone with no money that could not support a family. She wanted a brought up, well respected man that would take care of her. Even though she loved the man, it was not enough to get married. She needed to know things would be secure. She was in control of what she wanted. Mary Shelley expressed that women could be ranked higher than men and should be treated like them.
The Last man, written by Mary Shelley also incorporates her feminist beliefs. In the Last Man, Lionel and his sister were orphaned after their father died. They had nowhere to go and no one to take care of them. The King eventually died, and the country became a republic. The countess though tries to raise her son as the next king but he does not want to be king. Adrian leaves and runs into Lionel who at first did not like Adrian. Things changed and they realized they had things in common and could be friends. They went back to the town and realized that everything was a mess. Later on, there was a plague that was killing the people. England was thought of as being in the only safe place but the people were wrong. There were people dying everywhere Adrian steps up as a leader and is able to keep things under control in England. The few survivors leave England but die in a storm. Lionel is the last one left, the last man ( Last).
The Last Man, was a man and so was a king. Men were the ones who ruled the country. Like her other novels, women were not the main characters. The king illustrated that men could only have higher power. Women could not have a say in things that happened in a country and could certainly not be rulers. That would be preposterous. Having the main characters be men and having a king not a queen demonstrates that through the time, women were not thought of as good enough for jobs that only the men should have. The women were not as intelligent and were not as respected as a man would be in power.
Like in Mary Shelley's life and the monster in Frankenstein, the kids had to grow up and learn by themselves. In the Last Man, this caused them to become uncivilized. They did not know what was normal and not and did not have anyone telling them how to live their life. Because their parents died, they had to figure things out by themselves. This was life Mary Shelley, who when her mom died, was left with only her father who did not really care about her. She became independent at a young age. The monster in Frankenstein and Guido in Transformation also were left alone. The loneliness actually caused them to in the end though, become stronger and more independent people. It went back to her failing as a parent. The parents in her novels also failed, and it revealed that she was not content with what had happened. She was able to let it out in her novels and show the people what she went through and how hard it was.
Being left alone at a young age had a vast impact on Mary Shelley. She wrote about it in all her novels and expressed her feelings through her writings. Because one or both of the parents were gone in her books revealed that she was hurt and wanted more security. Not having a mother figure is hard on a young child. The child does not really have anybody close to talk to that relates to them. Dads can try but it is not the same. She needed her mom to support her and be an inspiration. She did not have a mom as a role model to follow in her footsteps.
Also, in Mary Shelley's novels, the women were not the main and significant characters. The women were part of the background and not important in the story. In Frankenstein, the two women Elizabeth Lavenza and Justine Moritz were both once orphans that were adopted by the Frankenstein's family. Elizabeth just waited for Victor to notice her and Justine was accused of murdering William who was actually murdered by the monster (Shelley 62). Also, in Transformation and the Last Man the main characters were the men. In Transformation, Guido changed to get his girl and in the Last Man Lionel did not want to be king. Mary Shelley makes a point that the women did not do much in society at the time. They were just meant to do the jobs that men did not want to do and keep the families together. They did not have big roles in helping the society and were not that important. The main characters were not women because women were not the scientists or rulers of the countries.
Furthermore, she made connected the point her novels that people were judged by their outward appearance. In each novel, the characters are judged by their appearance or wealth. The monster was ugly and scary to he was labeled as dangerous automatically. When Guido turned into the ugly wretch, he is not let back into society. He is still the same person though. The man in the Mortal Immortal was not accepted because of his money. These characters are all judged because they were not exactly how society wanted them. Either is Mary Shelley. Being a women writer, she is not the most loved. Most people like men writers and just because she was a woman, she is treated differently. All of the characters are normal and friendly but just appeared differently and did not have what the people wanted them to have. Mary Shelley wanted to fit it, but since she was a woman, she had to work much harder to be heard and become a part of society. After Percy Shelley died, she is left alone and did not have a man to help her become known. She needs to do things on her own.
Mary Shelley's views on feminism and her loneliness influence her writing. She is able to incorporate these views and become a well-known author. She believed that women could be just as great as men and should not be held back just because they are women. There is no difference and women should be treated the same as men. She is a strong woman whose beliefs did not set her back and she did not let all of her hard times get to her.
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