Comparing Obsession In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein And Aldous Huxley’s After Many A Summer Dies The

1634 words - 7 pages

Comparing Obsession in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Aldous Huxley’s After Many A Summer Dies the Swan

Authors leave fingerprints on the works they write. Underneath the story, hidden
amidst the words, lies a worldview, a concept of humanity, a message. Mary Shelley’s
Frankenstein is an entertaining story meant to give the reader goose bumps late at night,
but the telling of the story also reveals Shelley’s concept about the basic fabric of human
nature. In the same way Aldous Huxley in After Many A Summer Dies the Swan weaves
a tale that is part story and part commentary on how humans interact and think and self-
destruct. In Frankenstein, Mary Shelley portrays obsession as an anomalous aspect of
human behavior resulting when people move away from their basically good nature,
while Aldous Huxley portrays obsession as the most intrinsic of all human qualities. This
paper will contrast the basic views presented in each book about the origin of obsession
and its relation to human nature, giving examples of how the authors’ views are
embodied in their characters.

In the novel Frankenstein, Mary Shelley presents a view of human nature that is
largely positive so long as it does not wander into the dangerous realm of obsession. She
speaks of human endeavors and discoveries as being valuable and good. The young
Victor is enchanted by scientists who have “performed miracles” by “penetrating the
recesses of nature” (45). The discovery and contemplation of the natural world is a means
by which characters find serenity and calm, and thus come in tune with the beauty of
their humanity. In the midst of the sublime wilderness, even Victor contemplates “divine
ideals of liberty and self-sacrifice” (159).

Human nature, as portrayed in Frankenstein, thrives when coupled with a
reverence for nature and an appreciation of human relationships. Within the normal fabric
of society, surrounded by a caring network of family and friends, Shelley’s characters
demonstrate love, affection, and creativity. Henry Clerval, Frankenstein’s
boyhood friend, is portrayed as an eager student and faithful friend to Frankenstein, even
when Victor fails to return his affections. Clerval comes to Ingolstadt to study oriental
languages, but also to care for Victor, who has seemingly abandoned his family in pursuit
of his studies. Later in the novel, Clerval again faithfully accompanies Victor during a
time of need. On their journey through England, Victor describes Clerval as “alive to
every new scene; joyful when he saw the beauties of the setting sun, and more happy
when he beheld it rise” (153). He is a student of life, soaking in the beauties around him
with his “wild and enthusiastic imagination” while caring for Victor with “ardent
affections” (155). Sadly, his fierce loyalty to Victor is ultimately the cause of his murder.
Indeed, destruction and despair enter into the novel through the actions of Victor

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