Caitlin Smith: 17517137
Question: Discuss how the mother-child or father-child relation is central to either Frankenstein or The Hours.
The story of Frankenstein, written by Mary Shelley, was first published in 1818. The book shows many representations of gothic literature and romanticism. Majority of Frankenstein’s characters are intensely intertwined and have relations with at least one other character. This leads to the tragedies written in the novel, affecting more than one character at a time. There are two main father-child relationships in this novel that will be discussed in the following paragraphs. Indirectly, these relationships are central to the storyline created in this novel of Frankenstein. In reflection of the journal ‘Why did Mary Shelley write Frankenstein?’ by Anthony Badalamenti, certain viewpoints have been pointed out. Mary Shelley certainly had a rough upbringing which reflects a major part of the novel. Mary Shelley gave birth to a baby boy which she soon lost. This disintegrated mother-child bond is an explanation of why Shelley chose to write Frankenstein with such strong father-child bonds, complete opposite of what she briefly experienced (Badalamenti 423). As said in Badalamenti’s journal, Mary Shelley devotes a majority of her novel to compare her own life experiences and live somewhat vicariously through the familial relations shown in Frankenstein (423). This is reflecting the dominating father-child relations that shape this novel. Mary Shelley’s infant was named William, which was also her father’s name. It is also the character, Victor Frankenstein’s, brother. This is an example to show the male importance in the novel. There is a major lack in female importance and relations, which highlights the focus on father-child relations throughout the novel. Victor Frankenstein comes from a loving family, with a kind mother and a generous father. Mary Shelley had a much opposite upbringing with problems between her and her step mother, which is why her choice of a loving family to revolve the storyline around was a prime decision (Badalamenti 424). She sends a message through the novel being, that any parent must take responsibility for their children. The relationship between Frankenstein and his creature sets the atmosphere of the novel as we are taken on a simple journey with the two characters. The relationship being as much as an epiphany of the meaning of life, a creation and an abandonment. This abandonment causes the creature to act out, leading the major deaths in the novel. These deaths become the central scenes of the novel which sets a high standard for the text. This may be of complete negativity. Not only do these scenes contribute to the shaping of the storyline, but to the novel as a whole. It’s the major contribution to the way readers not only see the novel, but more importantly the positive and negative effects of the father-child relations. Victor Frankenstein leaves home in Geneva and on his travels, boards a ship headed for the North Pole. Once arriving at their destination and settling in, Victor Frankenstein begins constructing his own creature out of body parts. The creature is then brought to life one night. He is soon to realise that this creature he created, which was meant to be the meaning of life, is soon a life destroying monstrosity. This is the beginning of the first main father-child relation. This relation becomes central to the novel. Having Victor Frankenstein not take responsibility for the monster he created, is much similar to a parent abandoning a child. The monster is aware of Victor abandoning him and in the novel says, "You had endowed me with perceptions and passions and then cast me abroad an object for the scorn and horror of mankind" (Shelley 141). Had he not been abandoned, a lot of the tragedies caused by the creature in the novel could have been avoided (London 260). This allows for a male atmosphere to be portrayed very early on in the novel and emphasises the importance of father-child relations. It begins to sculpt the storyline’s future which to some may seem predictable and very much male dominated. This soon is certainly proved true. All the central scenes featured in the novel of Frankenstein are similarly dominated by male presence. Shelley creates a presence of masculinity in these scenes, being the murder of Elizabeth and the death of Frankenstein (London 255). Both tragedies are controlled by male characters who majority also seem to have part in the father-child relations throughout the novel (London 255). This furthers these relations and emphasise the impact the father-child relations have on these key scenes. Justine Moritz, adopted into the Frankenstein family, is also the young woman blamed for the death of William Frankenstein. Justine was executed for this death. Shelley is quick to have the blame put on the female character, without there being as much proof, which only further emphasises a hatred for females. This hatred may only seem relevant due to the fact Shelley was constantly let down by females in her life. We hear nothing much about Justine’s life, reasons she was adopted out or a relationship with her mother and father. This female relationship is quickly passed by as the novel is redirected back to William’s death. This only displays the novel’s close ties with the male race and little importance shown towards the female race. A lot of criticism has been noted over the years towards the way Frankenstein was written (London 256). These critical comments conclusively shape the way readers may feel about the novel. The control and manipulation of the way Frankenstein was written can change a readers mind to believe there was a manly approach that was taken by Shelley during writing (London 258). This places a focus on the details of the father-child relations throughout the novel. The dominance of father-child relations and the role they play in critical scenes in the novel is very obvious. It is a scary thought knowing a young girl wrote the story of Frankenstein. It was difficult for Shelley to relate to the story she had written as her upbringing was the complete opposite. She was unable to relate to the father-child relations throughout the novel. Using a fantasy childhood as a somewhat storyline for the novel, allowing her imagination to shape the central scenes, which are dominantly full of male importance (London 258). With strong approaches from feminist critics, the question of whether the novel can be gender categorised can be put forward. It is believed the text is a male orientated novel and is hard for females to relate (London 260). This only emphasises the father-child relations in the novel, which are used to frame the central scenes throughout the novel. The main father child relationship is the one between Frankenstein and his creature. This relationship becomes broken early on due to the abandonment on the creature by Victor Frankenstein. The second main relationship, as mentioned above, is that between Victor Frankenstein and his own father. Not only is Victor Frankenstein to blame for the breakdown of his relationship with the creature, but the creature is somewhat to blame as well. During his travels home after finding out his brother died, he comes across the creature. After admitting he killed Frankenstein’s brother; the breakdown of their relationship is soon to follow. The creature is the one who commits the greater crimes in the novel which all test the strength in their relationship. This creates a sense of negativity throughout the novel because the pair were never able to revive their relationship. This shows the seriousness of the novel and the way it was written. It also shows that once again, due to the mistakes of both Victor Frankenstein and the creature, the father-child relationship is present in the text. We are taken on a wild journey through Frankenstein and can come to the conclusion that the two most centrals scenes in this novel are male dominated. The murder of William and Elizabeth are very sad tragedies but being committed by the creature only emphasises the importance of males in the novel. The father-child relations are important in this novel as they are the keys to these central scenes. These relations ultimately change the mood of the novel and certainly the outcome of the relations. If there had been a major mother or even female influence throughout the central scenes, we may have had completely different outcomes. Although the father-child relations are fairly weak, the importance and dominance of these over mother-child relations, is clear.
Badalamenti, Anthony F. Why did Mary Shelley write Frankenstein?: Journal of Religion and Health Vol 45. 2006. Springer. Web. 6 November. 2012. <http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.uws.edu.au/stable/27512949> London, Bette. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, and the Spectacle of Masculinity: PMLA Vol 108. 1993. Modern Language Association. Web. 6 November. 2012. <http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.uws.edu.au/stable/462596> Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein 1818. Penguin Group. Book.
Sherwin, Paul. Frankenstein: Creation as Catastrophe. PMLA Vol. 96. 1981. Modern Language Association. Web. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/462130>