Man’s desire to create is ageless. Zeus, the Father of the Gods, commands Prometheus to form man from water and earth. The results disrupt life, as Prometheus becomes fond of mortal man and steals fire from the immortals
so that man can exist. Matters of principle are destroyed.
Such is the issue faced by Mary Wollenstonecraft Godwin Shelley. In 1814, a teenaged Mary met the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and the two ran away to tour Fra
Man’s desire to create is ageless. Zeus , as the Father of the Gods, commands nce, Switzerland and Germany. Shelley was married. however, and his wife Harriet Westbrook was pregnant. Remorseful, Shelley returned to England and divided the income, left to him by his grandfather, with Harriet. Mary prematurely gave birth to a daughter who died. Scandal ensued. In the fall of 1816, Harriet drowned herself and her unborn child in the Serpentine River. Shelley and Mary broke social decorum by marrying two weeks later. He then petitioned the court for custody of his two children. The Lord Chancellor Eldon refused his request on evidence found in the poem, Queen Mab, which contained the denunciation of religion.
The summer of 1816, Shelley and Mary join Lord Byron and his friend Polidori at Lake Geneva. Byron suggests a ghost writing competition. Mary’s contribution is the story of Frankenstein, or the New Prometheus. Now, the question arises. Did the story of Frankenstein arise from her politically scientific background spent with her father? Or, was it an omen that human life had to be destroyed in order to make way for new: her life and marriage to Shelley?
As a character, Victor Frankenstein, is a student of natural philosophy whose chemistry professor, M. Waldman, has inflamed him with the passion for knowledge and the pursuit of the secret of life. He creates an eight foot tall monster with “an uneasy, half vital motion” who resembles Victor in an odd, ugly fashion. Upon completion of the creature, a maternal, Madonna and child relationship develops as Victor is found, “Kneeling beside the thing he had put together.” The monster, however, has human feelings and fervently desires to be loved. Victor acquiesces and creates a bride which he then destroys.
On his return to Geneva, Victor marries his sweetheart, Elizabeth. Fearful that Elizabeth will be harmed by the wrath of the monster, he sends her away to wait for him. Meanwhile, the monster kills Frankenstein’s bride, just as Victor had murdered the monster’s bride. Then, Victor’s father dies. Victor spends the rest of his life in a world wide pursuit of the monster which ends in the Arctic. Victor dies trapped in the ice. The monster finds him and joins him to share a frozen eternal death together: the creator and the created.
In 1818, when Frankenstein was first published, the political question of whether man has the right to create life scientifically arises. The dilemma created by Darwin’s Origin of the Species was not published until 1859. The other socio-political idea that Mary Shelley may have been pondering is the value of life itself.