Educating an Author
The beauty of reading a work of great influence goes beyond the beauty of the text; it can also give us insight into the writer. Through reading Frankenstein we get a look at the education of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. The text is full of references to great writers of the time. Her parents, Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, were very influential writers of the time. While her mother died shortly after her birth, Mary’s education including her mother’s writings. She was well-educated from the beginning and exposed to many different authors.
These writers had a great impact on her education. An education she shared with the monster. Both she and the monster read Paradise Lost by John Milton. It is clear Mary found many interesting themes in the novel as the work is referenced many times in Frankenstein by Mary and the monster. Themes of creation and evil are paralleled between the novels. Mary drew from these ideas to create the confusion and discovery the monster experiences through his own education. The monster has only the family he watches and a few books to shape his ideals. His view of the world is learned through the lens that Paradise Lost is true, but the ideas he picks up from it are still relevant to the world and his experience in it.
Mary also refers back to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Coleridge. Another writer her father knew and who’s work would have been readily available to her. The disgrace that the mariner experienced is directly linked to Frankenstein creating the monster. Everywhere he goes the weight of it follows him. He is very much aware of it, not to mention the monster’s promise to cause him more pain if he does not create a mate for the monster. The monster is not only his albatross, but so are the monster’s attacks on Frankenstein’s family.
The other major influences come from Mary’s parents. The works of both parents were clearly influential in Mary’s work. Most notably is the ethics taken from Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. In volume two she refers to Frankenstein’s realization that there are “duties of a creator toward his creature” (Shelley 74). Frankenstein has very little concept of the responsibility of creating life and nurturing it. These views come from Wollstonecraft’s works. While her father’s work isn’t directly sited there are several points that hint at his teaching. He is also referenced near the beginning to of volume three when Frankenstein mentions the “men of genius and talent who flourished” at the time (Shelley 122).
All of these great works reflect well on Shelley as a scholar. Her literary filled upbringing is viewed in great contrast to the education of the monster. This can be interpreted as Shelley highlighting the importance of education as a means of interacting and understanding the world.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein. New York: Pearson, 2007. Print.
Wikipedia contributors. “Frankenstein.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 13 Nov. 2013. Web. 15 Nov. 2013.
Stump, Samuel John. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. 1820. Digital Library Upenn. Web. November 15, 2013.