The Mortal Immortal by Mary Shelley

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How are the themes of industrialism and self-discovery/knowledge during the Romantic Era portrayed in "The Mortal Immortal" by Mary Shelley?

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"The Mortal Immortal" is a short story by Mary Shelley, whose protagonist, Winzy, drank, in his youth, half of a flagon of elixir, believing it to be a cure for love. On his deathbed, Winzy's master, the philosopher, informed him that the elixir had in fact been the elixir of immortality. Outliving his wife and never changing in appearance from a man of twenty, Winzy becomes tormented by his eternal youth and preoccupied with the hope that, having drunk only half of the elixir, he has surely acquired only longevity, rather than immortality. The idea of being truly immortal is anathema to him: he dwells on the fact that he has found a single grey hair on his head, and at the end of the story has set himself to undergo a quest which even a young man could not survive, so that he, the "mortal immortal," can finally be freed.

The Romantic theme of self-discovery and self-knowledge is the core of this story. The protagonist, Winzy, is not the creator of the elixir which has led him into his current sorry state, and yet, importantly, it was not his master who administered the draught. Winzy, feeling lovesick, drank the liquid himself in the hope that it would be an easy solution to a difficult problem, without full knowledge of what he was drinking or the effect it would have. We can see in this situation, then, a ready analogy: Winzy, an ordinary man, hopes that science will provide quick solution for him to an age-old problem. With only minimal knowledge of his own, he trusts that others will have provided him with the answers he needs, but he does not have sufficient self-knowledge to pause and consider the consequences of his actions. In an age of ever-increasing scientific discovery, then, the story implies that it is those ordinary people who come to believe in the god-like power of scientists to fix their problems who will suffer most.

Winzy is not a prideful man—he has not struggled personally to create an elixir which will stave off death. And yet the effects of the philosopher's unnatural endeavors have been widespread. While he...

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