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What are the common themes shared in Mary Shelley's work? (please provide Examples)

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zainab313 | Student, Grade 12 | Honors

Posted September 8, 2013 at 12:44 PM via web

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What are the common themes shared in Mary Shelley's work? (please provide Examples)

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coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted September 8, 2013 at 2:22 PM (Answer #1)

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One of the themes presented so creepily in the novel 'Frankenstein' by Mary Shelley is power. However, absolute power turns out to be a very dangerous and uncontrollable thing, so there is a warning there for eveyone, that we should be careful what we wish for! One example of power being a theme in her novel is

'Beware for I am fearless, and therefore powerful'

and here we also see that fear is a theme, or the lack of it. Fear is a reasonable response to danger in most cases - it the body's way of protecting us and ensuring human survival. A certain amount of risk is necessary for human beings to make progress, for example by experimentation. However, if too many people went beyond that level of acceptable risk, then the human species would be overexposed to danger and might die out. Therefore, to have a complete lack of fear would be unreasonable and perhaps to be incapable of rational thought or emotion. Such is the monster we have before us. In the real world however, a completley fearless person might indeed be powerful - but not for very long! He would eventually endanger himself so much that he would die and have no power at all.


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jipsarawat | Honors

Posted October 26, 2014 at 4:23 PM (Answer #2)

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Though it was written as a ghost story, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein has deeply ingrained itself within the collective consciousness of western civilisation. Its brilliant scientist, Victir Frankenstein, drunk with power, imbues life into a body sewn together from corpses, and is forced to pay the price for his usurpation of powers not meant for man to wield. One of the main theme that she explores  through Frankenstein is some of the deepest mysteries of human condition: what is humankind's existence, and what are its limits?

            Victor Frankenstein's scientific endeavors make him a symbol of the seemingly inexorable force of progress, the energy inherent in humanity that drives scientific and technological advancement. 

             "It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn;" says Frankenstein. 

His quest takes him on a tour of medieval Europe science. He also come in contact with the search for the " elixir of life"- a quasi-magical substance believed to grant immortality. Frankenstein says that this search,

              "obtained my undivided attention"

His motivation for creating the monster is a mixture of the admirable and the selfish:

               Life and deatgvappearedcto me ideal bounds, which I should first break through and pour a torrent of light into our dark world. A new species would bless me as it's creator and source..."

Frankenstein's ultimately self destructive desire to "unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation" touches on a theme that has run through millennia of human thought and literature: the simultaneous danger and god-like power inherent in knowledge.

            One another theme is conflict between civilisation and its values. Her critique was of people who judge by looks. The first such instance was of Victor disliking a professor of his just due to his appearance. Victor describes his professor M.Krempfe as, " a little squat man, with a gruff voice and repulsive countenance..."

           Immediately after Victor gave the monster final touch to spark life in it, he simply judged the monster on its looks only. Shelly kept the theme of mankind condemning on individual due to it's looks by having Victor scared of the monster strictly due to its ugliness. The creature illustrates the oppression that is being aimed at him by mankind: 

           " God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance".

The novel presents a scathing critique of science of her day which was anti-family and anti-female.


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