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What views of 'mankind' does the Romantic writer, Mary Shelley, present in Frankenstein?

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Introduction

What views of 'mankind' does the Romantic writer, Mary Shelley, present in Frankenstein? Mary Shelley was writing shortly after the French Revolution and at a time when numerous scientific theories were being put forward. She was the daughter of two radical thinkers Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, married to the romantic poet Percy Shelley and she was very well read. Hence it was inevitable that her view of 'mankind' would incorporate many different aspects. At the start of the book we see the romantic character Walton preparing to set out on a journey of discovery to the North Pole. Walton exhibits many aspects of the romantic - he is self-educated, has a love of nature, he is ambitious wanting to discover a passage to the North Pole: 'I am going to unexplored regions to 'the land of mist and snow'; but I shall kill no albatross.' ...read more.

Middle

Shelley uses a 'framed' multiple narrative form to enable the reader to obtain different perspectives. However because they are 'framed' we may be seeing a less reliable version. We see Frankenstein's narration as written in Walton's journal and therefore it may be coloured by Walton's own views. The creature's narration is reported by Frankenstein before being recorded in Walton's journal and this could add another layer of distortion. However, Shelley uses highly rhetorical language to show the creatures eloquence. His view of mankind brought about by his reading of books such as 'Paradise Lost' and Plutarch's 'Lives' and his observations of the DeLaceys enable him to build up a picture of a society based on a class system and because he does not have material wealth and the because of his appearance he recognises that he will be ranked the lowest of all. ...read more.

Conclusion

Thus we see that he was demonstrating the characteristics that Shelley would have come across from her reading of Rousseau's books - the view that man is born good but society corrupts him. Her father also believed in a 'universal benevolence' which we need in order to have a just and virtuous society one where we care for each other and in particular the less fortunate. Consequently we can see that Shelley whilst expressing some of the views of a romantic writer did not see her contempory society in a good light. She expressed problems including a belief in the injustice of the legal system and a failure by people to generally look after each other. Some readers make take this to mean that Shelley saw unsolvable problems in her view of mankind. However it is my belief that she was showing us that there was a way forward if we took responsibility for our own actions and also ensured the welfare of others around us. ...read more.

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