Author's Letters

An examination on correlations found between Mary Shelley's personal writings and her novel, Frankenstein

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IN a letter dated December 5th, 1816 to Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley writes that she has just finished Chapter 4 of her book Frankenstein.  The monster which Victor Frankenstein creates has just been unleashed upon the world, and in her letter written just after the completion the monster, Shelley writes her husband of their son William, in language not unfamiliar to the student of her novel.  Elizabeth Lavenza's voice in Frankenstein is strikingly similar to Shelley's own voice in her letters.  Victor Frankenstein's younger brother, William, is described by Elizabeth in much the same way Shelley describes her son of the same name, "[her] pretty babe" (Letters 14).  

"I must say also a few words to you, my dear cousin, of little darling William.  I wish you could see him; he is very tall of his age with sweet laughing blue eyes, dark eye-lashes, and curling hair.  When he smiles, two little dimples appear on each cheek, which are rosy with health" (Frankenstein 45).

 The above lines are addressed to Victor by Elizabeth Lavenza.  This section is nearly a mirror for the letter Shelley writes to her husband:

"The blue eyes of your sweet boy are staring at me while I write this he is a dear child and you love him tenderly, although I fancy your affection will increase..he will be a wise little man for he improves in mind rapidly" (Letters 15). 

The question must be asked, whether Shelley wrote herself and son into the story of Frankenstein.  Indeed, could not the 'hero' of the novel, Victor, be a type of Percy?  Percy Shelley spent long periods of time away from Mary, in fact, the letter in which she tells Percy of their child's growth both begins and ends with questions about his activities and the date of his return.  Victor Frankenstein is like Percy, superficially, just in the sheer amount of time he spends away from his intended, Elizabeth.  A connection might be found, and while the Web Project will most likely reference this letter as a footnote in Chapter I of Volume III, it raises questions that further study might provide with further material for the project.

 zrw

Works Cited

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft.  Frankenstein.  Ed. Susan J. Wolfson.  New York: Longman, 2007.

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft.  The Letters of Mary Shelley Vol. 1.  Ed. Frederick L. Jones.  Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1944.