Please provide a breif explanation of how "Mutability," by Percey Shelley, applies to Frankenstein.

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literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Percy Shelley's influence on his wife, Mary Shelley, was made very apparent in the 1831 introduction to the novel Frankenstein. In the introduction, Mary Shelley grants the novel's existence to her husband.

From this declaration I must except the preface. As far as I can recollect, it was entirely written by him.

That said, it seems understandable that the novel contain references to her husband's work. "Mutability" appears in chapter ten of Frankenstein.

The importance of the inclusion of the poem comes from the a couple different ideas raised in final two stanzas of the poem (which appear in the novel).

We rest.--A dream has power to poison sleep;
We rise.--One wandering thought pollutes the day;
We feel, conceive or reason, laugh or weep;
Embrace fond woe, or cast our cares away:

It is the same!--For, be it joy or sorrow,
The path of its departure still is free:
Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow;
Nought may endure but Mutability.

One familiar with the novel will immediately recognize the reference to dreaming. At two times in the novel, Victor is awakened from horrific dreams. In the first dream, which happens after the creature comes alive, Victor is dreaming of Elizabeth. In the dream, Victor is about to embrace her when she turns into his deceased mother. The second dream happens when Victor is on his way home with his father. Victor dreams of the creature strangling him to death. Both of these dreams speak to the poisoning of sleep (as denoted in the poem).

The second line refers to the waking hours of a person's day. This could refer to both Victor and the creature. The creature's walking about could be seen as polluting the earth (given the difference between himself and mankind--essentially, he is an abomination against God). Second, Victor's creation of the creature mirrors Eve's taking of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. This action created sin. Like Eve, Victor sinned against God in creating the creature. His walking upon the land, as a sinner, "pollutes the day."

In the last stanza, the poem refers to the fact that nothing determined. Man has been given free will by God. Man is allowed to choose any path they desire, given the "path of its departure still is free." That said, life is not stagnant and will change from day to day ("Man's yesterday may ne’er be like his morrow"). The only thing which mankind can depend upon is that their lives will constantly change ("Nought may endure but mutability").

kenneyjk | Student

Q:  How does Percey Shelley's poem, "Mutability," relate to Mary Shelley's book, Frnkenstein.

A:  The poem uses similes to communicate its theme that nothing in life is constant except change.  This concept parallels Victor Frankenstein's emotional shifts throughout the novel.  In the first stanza, the author uses a simile that compares people to clouds: "restlessly they speed, and gleam and quiver," yet soon, "they are lost forever."  In other words, people are born, live and eventually die as almost all of Victor's family and friends do, along with his dreams of greatness.  The second stanza compares people to old fashioned harps whose "dissonant strings give various response," meaning we may look alike, but each of us responds to life differently and eventually will beome outdated and forgotten.  This can be equated to Victor and Henry, who are both similar and different in their passions and personalities, yet alike in certain ways.  The third stanza emphasizes that all people have emotional highs and lows throughout life just as Victor experiences in the novel.  And finally, the fourth stanza stresses that life is filled with joys and sorrows and the only thing we can count on is change/mutability.


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