The literary world embraced English romanticism when it began to emerge and wasso taken by its elements that it is still a beloved experience for the reader oftoday. Romanticism “has crossed all social boundaries,” and it was duringthe seventeenth and eighteenth century, it found its way into almost every nichein the literary world (Lowy 76). From the beginning of its actuality,”romanticism has forged its way through many eras including the civil war”(Hall 44). Literature such as “the famous Gone With The Wind was a goodexample of romanticism in that era because it had many of the requiredqualities” but there were others that were even more clear as EnglishRomanticism pieces (Hall 44).
There are very few works that have a more accurateportrayal and proof of the importance of English romanticism than MaryShelleys Frankenstein. While later versions of the stories depicted a centraltheme of a helpless monster caught in the fears of society the actual depictionof the original work was based more closely on the English romantic that was sopopular at the time.
The importance of emotions and feelings were paramountduring the era of English romanticism. In addition autobiographical material wasextremely popular. All of these qualities were present in Mary ShelleysFrankenstein including a third and vital underpinning of romanticism, theinnocence and exaltation of the common man. An important element of romanticismis the use of flowing feelings. During this time period, men as well as womenwere full of raw emotions in literary works. They would freely vent their mostanguished thoughts and worries. This was evident in several of the chapters inShelleys portrayal of the life of the monster and the people he encountered.
One of the finest examples of romanticism is when the monster who we mustremember is only learning emotions for the first time runs from the cottageafter startling the occupants. Cursed, cursed creator! Why did I live? Why, inthat instant, did I not extinguish the spark of existence which you had sowantonly bestowed? I know not; despair had not yet taken possession of me; myfeelings were those of rage and revenge. (Shelley 746) This passage demonstratesfeelings that were a common theme during the Romanticist era, the monster was inpain and cursing the day he was created. Another important element ofromanticism is the connection of the author to the story. The autobiographicalnature of Mary Shelleys Frankenstein is at first not openly obvious as it isin many other literary works. One could ask, how a book about a monster couldhave anything to do with the real life of the author, but if we peel the toplayer away and look closely at the undercurrent that is throughout themonsters story it becomes clear that “Victor Frankensteins creation issymbolic of Mary Shelleys life” (Caprio). Shelleys mother left her at anearly age by dying. She had been Shelleys creator in much the same mannerthat Dr. Frankenstein had been the monsters creator. When the creator of themonster turned his back on him and deserted him he was forced out into theworld, much as a small child in that he had limited exposure to anything outsidethe former security of his home. Shelley too, “was thrust into the world, whenher mother died; the difference is that she was an actual child while themonster was a mental and emotional child” (Hamberg). This uses two of theneeded ingredients for romanticism, autobiographical ideas and imagery. The bookmay also be a representation of a fear of childbirth felt by the author. Thiswould not be surprising given that her own mother died giving birth to Shelley.
It would explain the monsters creation and in fact the very reason he is amonster at all. Shelley may have viewed herself as a monster who was so hideousthat she killed her own mother being born. This would fit right in with theautobiographical themes that were so prevalent during the English Romanticismera of that period (Caprio). In addition one of the side themes of the book mayhave been about creation and the painful things creation can cause. Just asFrankenstein did not ask to be created yet lived with the pain that his creationcause, Shelley never asked to be born, yet had to live with the pain that herbirth caused, not only herself but her family that was robbed of a loved one.
The book examines the many issues that come with being rejected by parents andbeing abused by the societal expectations. It was also representative of the waysociety held women in the time. Women were weak in literary works and prone tofainting. The women who encountered the monster in the cottage “indeed playedtrue to form ad fainted while Felix attacked physically,” which was also trueto form when it came to the gender roles of the era (Zschrirnt 48). Theexaltation and admiration was a common and central theme during that era. Thestory of the monster is a shining example of the admiration we held for simplemen during that time period. The monster begins as a simple and somewhatmindless creature who, by being tossed into the world with little knowledge ofthe workings, is lost. As he finds his way by hiding and observing the cottagepeople he begins to understand the ways of humans. He learns to speak byobservance and hard work and in addition teaches himself to read. The entiresystem that the monster must use to survive touched the hearts of many readersand still does, in that he was a common creature, not unlike the common man. Hisability to pull himself up by the bootstraps, and to “overcome the problemssuch as lack of language skills underscored the common mans life” and stilldoes to some extent (Brigham 195). In addition the theme that he worked hard atbecoming acceptable then was dashed once again when the world at large refusedto see past his physical attributes (or metaphorically his commonness)”further underscored the dilemma of the neoclassical society that the EnglishRomanticist author tried to combat”(Brigham 195). Frankenstein may not havefit the mold for a regular literacy work of English Romanticism however when weexamine the symbolism, the metaphors, and the central theme imparted by Shelleywe will see that it is actually one of the finest examples in the literary worldtoday of English Romanticism (Pipkin). The myths of the era of GreekMythological stories enjoyed resurgence during the time that Frankenstein waspenned. Frankensteins creation could of course never be real; he was a”myth that mirrored societys fears and the authors self-examination”(Cantor 411). This was “common to many of Platos writings and was popularagain during the English Romanticism era” (Cantor 411). Many feelings inthe story of Frankenstein were painted with verbal pictures. Picture that told astory of society refusing to accept anyone who was different regardless of howthey attempted to get along and fit in with their norms. Authors of EnglishRomanticism often used their own life stories to play out supposedly fictionsadventures. It was most likely a therapeutic attempt to unload the innerfeelings of abandonment or other feelings and emotions that plagued people. Itwas especially interesting that the genre had the men in the stories also beingopen about the torturous feelings they were subjected to. This perhaps was”pinpointing the need to express feelings that were not characteristicallyallowed by men at that time and in fact are still depressed by society” (Heffernan133). Frankenstein is a strong example of English Romanticism. It had theautobiographical qualities in by telling the story of author Mary Shelleyslife. It also used the symbolism that was so often used in the novels of theperiod. This was illustrated by having a monster as the protagonist of thestory. The monster was representative of the rejection and the abuse Shelleyherself suffered. Frankenstein is a classic example of English Romanticism thathas become a classic literary work.
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