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"Doing nothing ends in being nothing"--Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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Letter III

Volume III, Chapter 7

Time: Literary Historical Research 

Minor Character Analysis

Mary Shelley's Manuscripts, Letters,& Journals

Review of Reviews

Modern Adaptation

Delicious Links Essay

The Alien Boy--Poetry Explication

Keepsake Author Mystery

 Works Cited

All beginnings are emotionally charged. The uncertainty of any endeavor causes sleepless nights and many hours of thoughtful search for answers, some of them yet to be found and put to use. The beginning of the web page project was a definite uncertainty, waiting to be created, made sense of, and explained. To me, of the instructions’ warning-“this means  ... you will become webmasters for the first time” came too late to consider bailing out.  This is an effort… Whether judged successful or not, it represents;

1. A personal journey and discovery of the Romantic Era poets and writers.

2. A conquered anxiety of the new technology (unasserted yet, but not a complete alien either).

3. A newly found appreciation of collaborative work.

The navigational structure is intended to be easy to follow. The text of the letters and chapters of the book will be linked chronologically. The choice of minimal high lighted words in the text is a personal preference, based on the premise that too much of it will distract the reader’s attention and interrupt the evoked images. The links on the left side will easily navigate to the next page, its title relating to its content. Each page may contain some brief reference to its intent. The back ground colors, when applied to the pages, are in the darker pastel spectrum, matching the mood and darkness of the gothic connected imagery atmosphere of the book itself. Hopefully, the thoughts and personal revelations expressed here will be useful and shared with someone reading them and the possible mistakes and imperfections forgiven.

Since the center of this digital project is Mary Shelley’s 1818 first edition of her novel Frankenstein it is worth noting the creative anxiety the author experienced herself in partaking the project and revisiting the influences of the important people in her life. It is relevant to the many parallels drawn between her life and the plots and characters of her novels. Associating the name of Mary Shelley with her monstrous creation, the novel Frankenstein has been difficult for two main reasons. One, the romantic novel as a genre, is as young, as Mary Godwin is as an author, and second, she is an actual teenage girl at the time she writes the novel. Here is how her husband to be Percy Bysshe Shelley describes her best by to his friend; “The originality and liveliness of Mary’s character was apparent to me from her very emotions and tones of voice. The irresistible wildness and sublimity of her feelings showed itself in her gestures and her looks- Her smile, how persuasive it was, and how pathetic!...I do not think that there is an excellence at which human nature can arrive, that she does not indisputably possess, or of which her character does not afford manifest intimations.

(From a letter to Thomas Hogg, 3 October 1814)

             She is raised to be a free thinker, a voracious reader, a daughter of two controversial for their radical beliefs but established writers William Godwin and the feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, whom she would sadly know only through her writing (her mother dies 11 days after Mary’s birth). Mary Godwin lets her imagination run free as a growing child. The two years she spends in Scotland would become the grounds of her first compositions where, she writes, “the airy flights of my imagination were born and fostered.”(From the preface of 1831 edition of Frankenstein) Meeting Percy Bysshe Shelley, an aristocrat, poet and ardent supporter of her father’s radical ideas, even briefly when she is fourteen, will become destiny for both. At sixteen she will elope with him and the scandal and condemnation of some of their closest relatives will follow them wherever they go. Reality indeed, and not the most pleasant one, will stand in place of fiction from then on. Urged by Percy to prove worthy of her parentage, to obtain literary reputation and perhaps the contributing circumstances in the cold, wet summer of 1816 will mark the beginning of her career. In Switzerland in the company of Lord Byron, his doctor and Percy Bysshe Shelley the challenge of writing a ghost story and the long conversations on the new experiments with electricity and galvanism will shape the idea of “the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together.” Frankenstein” will be born.

 The philosophy and thought behind invention, the beginning as continuation of something preceding it, giving form to substance, but not substance itself, creating the new but not taking the responsibility for its potential, all of these very serious questions will be communicated through out the book. Almost two hundred years later Frankenstein continues to be one of the most frightening and fascinating works from the Romantic era. Many of the authors concerns; compassion and society responsibility for the outcasts, the potential of violent response of those uncared for and judged monstrous by their physical appearance, scientific explorations and the uncertainties and dangers that they may bring, parents and children relationships, gender expectations, the alter egos and the subconscious that often could be dark and destructive, are still relevant and important today.

Another worth noting side of the book is the strange confusion that the name ‘Frankenstein’ elicits. Mary Shelley’s decision to leave the monster/creature without an actual name is probably not accidental. The name of the creator of the monster Frankenstein becomes the idea of the monstrous imagery itself- the two sides of the same individual. This also explains the many adaptations of Frankenstein’s idea in all possible media. The psychological read of the character of young Victor Frankenstein allows the reader to view him as an individual with a split personality. He is anti-social and secretive, obsessed with ambition, yet brought up, at least with traditional expectations of a loving, affectionate family. He defies the laws of Nature with the actual creation of the monster only to abandon it, hate it and try to destroy it. The reader’s sense of who is the actual monster is shadowy and left to individual’s choice. The ending of the book suggest the same thought. Both personalities are obsessed with the idea of destroying each other and creating misery for each other. Revenge is never healing, it is destroying. Inflicted misery from one reflects on the other, until there is nothing left to destroy but the Self. It seems only through death, the healing or restoring of the harmonious whole is an only option. There are many possible ways of interpreting Mary Shelley’s book Frankenstein, and each will be adding to the fascinating tale of the times in which it was written, times of technological discoveries, political and social changes, unparallel literary works and philosophy reflecting the new society.