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The Role Of Poor Parenting In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

2170 words - 9 pages

Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, was raised by a single parent, her father William Godwin. She acknowledges the mentally stimulating role a father plays in the development of a daughter, presumably speaking from personal experience. She declares, "There is a peculiarity in the education of a daughter, brought up by a father only, which tends to develop early a thousand of those portions of mind, which are folded up” (Veeder). Shelley offers in Frankenstein a portrait of how children’s minds are shape, and ultimately their fates sealed, due to influences from their fathers. Alphonse, Victor’s father, made mistakes in his parenting that negatively shaped the development of Victor’s mind and how he treated other living things. These developmental flaws caused Victor to abandon his creation, consequently leading the monster to destroy Victor’s family and friends. In this paper, it will be argued that Alphonse laid the seeds of destruction in Victor, creating a snowball effect that would ultimately lead to the downfall of the monster and Victor himself.
Alphonse Frankenstein plays a significant part in the development of Victor, his oldest son. Alphonse is a leader in the town of Geneva and is very old fashioned in his thinking. During the 19th century, fathers took on a patriarchal roll and made most, if not all, of the household decisions. Alphonse made decisions that greatly impacted Victor’s development. When Victor was a young child, his father took in Elizabeth, his sister’s daughter, and presented her to Victor almost as if she were a present. Victor mentions, “I loved to tend on her, as I should on a favorite animal” (Shelley 20). Victor admits, "I looked upon Elizabeth as mine" (Shelley 35). He sees Elizabeth as a possession, which was not an abnormal thing at the time, and proposes that she must be “owned” because she is weak or vulnerable. This is suggested again, when Victor confides, "till death she was to be mine only” (Shelley 36). This exemplifies how Alphonse showed Victor, at an early age, how women were to be treated in society. Victor was displaced twice during his adolescence when his father allowed two nonmembers of the family into the house—first Elizabeth, then Justine. Although Victor was not outwardly agitated, these two displacements instilled within him a feeling of loneliness. In short, Alphonse’s dominating role as father led Victor to feel isolated. Alphonse did not think deeply about the impact that adding more members to the family would have on his son. This dominating role can be seen again when Victor is sent off to Ingolstadt, right after his mother, Caroline, died. Victor idolized his mother and was very attached to her. Instead of letting Victor grieve with the family, Alphonse sends him away, leaving Victor to feel more secluded than ever. Victor is isolated from his family and best friend Clerval, which fuels his obsession with creating the monster.
On one level Alphonse is a loving father....

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