Free «Frankenstein as Mary Shelley’s Painful Life Story» Essay

Frankenstein as Mary Shelley’s Painful Life Story

I read Sherry Ginn’s critical article on Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. The source is reliable because it is written by a professor. “Sherry Ginn earned both her MA (1984) and PhD (1988) in General-Experimental Psychology from the University of South Carolina. She completed post-doctoral training at the East Carolina University School of Medicine and taught at East Carolina University” (“Sherry Ginn”). Taking into consideration the fact that Ginn “has published numerous articles in the fields of neuroscience and psychology” (“Sherry Ginn”), there is no wonder that she analyzes Frankenstein from a psychological standpoint. More precisely, Ginn applies Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development to examine Shelley’s life and the themes of death and procreation in the novel. In her critical essay, Ginn does not convincingly prove that Shelley’s Frankenstein is not a mere autobiography because the novel accurately depicts Shelley’s deep concerns caused by the events taken from her personal life.

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It can be reasonably claimed that the critic provides sufficient support from outside references rather than from the text. Trying to consider Frankenstein as an autobiography, Ginn mentions the following aspects taken from Mary’s life: “the motherless child; the father rejecting the child; a grieving mother mourning for a dead child; a university student conducting wild experiments; dreams of rekindling the life of a dead child.” However, the critic feels that there are no sufficient reasons for labeling the novel as a mere autobiography for a number of reasons. First of all, Ginn points out that although Victor Frankenstein is Percy Shelley’s prototype, the latter did not resent such an image. Secondly, regardless of the obvious fact that Mary, in her novel, posed the problem of “parental abdication of responsibility,” it cannot be said for sure that Mary intentionally indicted her father for his attitude towards her as a child (Ginn).

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Referring to Erikson’s works, the critic chooses his fifth and sixth developmental stages, arguing that Shelley’s life “can be best understood by recognizing her failure to resolve the two crises of adolescence and young adulthood, that is, the crises of identity and intimacy” (Ginn). I find such a reference valid since Erikson is a reputable figure in the field of psychology. Nonetheless, it seems to me that the author should have made more references to the novel itself. Otherwise, it appears that the critic ponders not on the Shelley’s novel but her life, which does not look like a literary analysis.

As far as Ginn’s thesis is concerned, I do not agree with it completely. Particularly, I feel that Frankenstein can be labeled as an autobiography since there are many aspects in the novel (which were already mentioned) that coincide with Mary’s life, and it is typical for writers to reflect their own experience in literary works. Besides, Ginn’s argument that the novel cannot be considered as an autobiography since Percy Shelley did not resent being Frankenstein in the story seems vague and unconvincing to me. I would rather agree with Susan Coulter, who names Frankenstein “a cautionary story of bad parenting.” The issue of bad parenting is really central in the story since the Monster became evil primarily because of Victor’s, his “father’s” repudiation who rejected and hated him for his monstrous appearance. Like an abandoned child, the Monster suffers from loneliness, a lack of parental attention, love, and understanding. This is how the Monster justifies his actions: “I am malicious because I am miserable. Am I not shunned and hated by all mankind? You, my creator, would tear me to pieces, and triumph; remember that and tell me why I should pity man more than he pities me?” (Shelley 140). Moreover, “Frankenstein is probably the first story in Western literature the expresses the anxieties of pregnancy,” which also makes us think that Shelley’s novel is predominantly autobiographical since only one of her children “survived to adulthood and outlived her” and she had a miscarriage that was almost fatal for her (“The ‘birth’ of a monster”).

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All things considered, I disagree with Sherry Ginn’s statement that the novel cannot be considered as a mere autobiography. The point is that the novel in question is imbued with those fears and concerns, which were typical of Mary Shelley herself, such as a fear of child bearing and effective childrearing, upbringing in a motherless family, lack of parental attention, love, and understanding, and desire to animate a dead child. All these aspects make me believe that Frankenstein’s plot is taken directly from Shelley’s personal life.

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