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Frankenstein: An Allegory Of Liberal Parenting

2543 words - 10 pages

A mother’s unconditional love is the constant foundation in the variable equation of successful families. But what happens when this natural instinct doesn’t manifest itself, and all a mother sees when she looks upon her new baby is an ugly, loud, smelly, and completely parasitic creature? Without the interference of the illogical sentiment of selfless love, a mother would always reject the almost unrecognizably human infant who appeared monstrous. Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, lacked this motherly instinct, a fact that she unhappily discovered at the birth of her first child, a two-month premature infant, who lived six short weeks, and was never graced with a name. Today, Shelley would probably be diagnosed with postpartum depression, and treated accordingly before her condition could escalate to its apex of postpartum psychosis, a disorder associated with in infanticide and suicide. It is uncertain as to whether Shelley ever reached this point, and the world may never know if her baby died as a victim to Shelley's inner monster, from side effects of neglect, or from complications due to prematurity. Regardless of what happened to Shelly and her baby historically, it seems evident that writing Frankenstein served as Shelley’s only venue, cast in fiction, to understand her terrifying and dehumanizing illness. If Frankenstein is read through the premise that it served as Shelley’s coping mechanism in which she played out her experience with postpartum depression, one can interpret each character frame in the story as the structure of Shelley’s self-excavation process, each delving to deeper level of Mary Shelley’s psyche.
In beginning a self-reflection, the best place to start is the beginning; childhood experiences and the consequential perceptions of life that spring from these occurrences shape the course of life that follows. Mary Shelley begins Frankenstein by positioning the protagonist, Victor, to give a comprehensive account of his own origin story to a ship captain. Articulating Victor’s familial background is Shelly’s loose cover in which she traces back the events in her own life in an investigation of the reasons behind her inability to form a bond with her baby. Victor’s family is vaguely reminiscent of Mary Shelley’s; Shelley’s parents, Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, were socially liberal and politically influential philosophers who wrote about their radical views and social opinions. Mary lightly disguises her parents in Victor’s description of his father as “respected by all who knew him for his integrity and indefatigable attention to public business” (Shelley, 17). Because of this “indefatigable” dedication to the public sphere, it was not until “the decline of his life” (18) that Victor’s father realizes his mortality, and he considers having children, only for purpose of “bestowing on the state sons who might carry on his virtues and his name down to posterity.” For Alphonse Frankenstein, family...

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