Review of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, by a man.
So, I am really into Frankenstein, and Mary Shelley lately? Chalk it up to Sady’s Inexplicable Fascinations, Part 20,143. And, of course, plenty has been written about Frankenstein as a feminist text, and about Frankenstein as autobiography. But read the above quote. Then read this:
Shall I respect man when he condemns me? Let him live with me in the interchange of kindness, and instead of injury I would bestow every benefit upon him with tears of gratitude at his acceptance. But that cannot be; the human senses are insurmountable barriers to our union. Yet mine shall not be the submission of abject slavery. I will revenge my injuries; if I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear.
This is, of course, the Monster. But if you can’t read this statement as sort of a pre-emptive response to the one before it, I don’t know. Mary Shelley’s mom (Woolstonecraft!) died as the result of her birth: The Monster is a parent-killer, and a child-killer. Mary Shelley lost more than one of her children: The Monster is a dead birth (he refers to himself, at one point, as “an abortion”). Percy Bysshe Shelley, her baby-daddy and later husband, was a highly irresponsible father: The Monster is the creature rejected by its parent, and that creature’s rage. But, first and foremost, I think, the Monster is a girl. There are all sorts of idealized, sweet, angel-in-the-house types floating around this novel: The saintly (dead) Mrs. Frankenstein, the saintly (soon-to-be-dead) sister/wife Elizabeth, the saintly (also gonna die) servant Justine. But then there’s this creature. This thing that stands outside of “man,” longs to be accepted by “man,” knows there is something wrong with its shape or its nature and only, really, wants one person in the world to love it. All the house-angels die off or run away; the Monster kills most of them, directly or indirectly. And at the end of it, there’s this creature, refusing “the submission of slavery,” which had gentleness at one point but forgot it, standing out in the cold, permanently alone.