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Mary Shelley And Flannery O’connor: Gothic Isolationists

2129 words - 9 pages

Gothic fiction is a genre of literature that combines fiction, horror and Romanticism with a particular focus on the mysterious and supernatural aspects. Gothic fiction originated in England during the latter half of the 18th century. This distinctive genre of literature soon developed into a 19th century phenomenon. The success of this dominant genre in England is frequently attributed to Mary Shelley. Despite its success during this time period, gothic fiction ceased to be a dominant genre by the Victorian Era. However, in many ways it had now begun to enter into its most ingenious phase. This paper will analyze the influence of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein on Flannery O’Connor’s work, specifically her novel Wise Blood.
Flannery O’Connor emerged as a crucial and contemporary innovator of southern gothic literature. Southern gothic literature is defined as a subgenre of gothic fiction, which originated in the United States during the 20th century. The southern gothic genre employs similar literary elements, which its “parent” genre had established. These elements include the employment of macabre, psychological and isolationist dimensions; except now in southern gothic, these elements were used to examine the values of the American South. Mary Shelley and Flannery O’Connor both emerged as two prestigious figures of Gothicism through their combination of psychological and isolationist aspects, in order to create memorable works in the Gothic tradition. The influence of Shelley on O’Connor’s work is clearly evident when examining the reoccurring gothic theme of isolationism, found in both Frankenstein and Wise Blood.
Mary Shelley was born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin in Somers Town, London, on August 30, 1797. Shelley was an English author and travel writer. Mary Poovey, author of My Hideous Progeny: Mary Shelley and the Feminization of Romanticism, states that Shelley was commonly known for portraying “undeniably unorthodox subjects” in her novels (332). Mary Shelley’s first novel, Frankenstein, was published on January 1, 1818. This novel evidently employs “undeniably unorthodox subjects” (Poovey 332). In this work, Shelley narrates the tales of Victor Frankenstein, an idiosyncratic scientist, his grotesque and “wretched” creation and the disastrous events that befall (Shelley 37). Shelley thoroughly represents the gothic theme of isolation by replicating the guilty and fearful emotions of Victor Frankenstein. The novel’s claim to tragedy and murder, which is exemplified throughout every page of the novel, would appear to be the catalyst for Victor Frankenstein’s isolation. Yet in fact, these disastrous events occur are only the result of Victor’s self-inflicted isolation. Victor severs all connections to the outside world, including his family, friends and society; causing him to live a life of torment and isolation. An analysis of Shelley’s “monstrous” character, Victor Frankenstein, affirms how the development of fearful and defensive...

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