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Frankenstein by Mary Shelley - Essay Example

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Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

For such a short novel it has had quite a significant and long-lasting influence, leading to modern film and stage versions, along with further waves of criticism discussing how the story fits our modern age just as much as it fitted the early nineteenth century context. The genre of the work is quite clearly Gothic horror, with its dramatic twists of plot and ghoulish descriptions, but besides this superficial narrative style there are depths of meaning which can be explored using many different analytical approaches. From perspectives of feminism, race, psychoanalysis, religion, science and any number of other ideologies there is much to be found in the enigmatic story of the creature made out of random human body parts and hideously brought to life by the eccentric Doctor Frankenstein. This paper looks at one particularly modern critical approach, that of ecological or “Green” consciousness, and critiques a particular article by Bill Phillips (2006) entitled ‘Frankenstein and Mary Shelly’s “Wet, ungenial summer”.’ It highlights the perennial temptation to update the classics of literature with modern interpretations and illustrates some of the pitfalls that modern scholars can fall into when they give in to this temptation. The article by Phillips starts out with an unashamed defence of the universal applicability of “ecocriticism”: “Ecocriticism reminds us of the importance of nature in our understanding of literary and cultural texts, and this is never more appropriate than in an analysis of Frankenstein.” (Phillips, 2006, p. 59) The main premise of the article, is that Mary Shelley and her companions were confined indoors by the disappointingly dull and wet weather of the summer of 1815, and that the significance of the wet weather for the deep meaning of the story is much greater than has hitherto been realized. Historians now know that at this very time there had been a cataclysmic volcano eruption in Indonesia, causing 80,000 deaths in the immediate area, and further widespread climatic changes across the world. Weather in Europe was wet and windy, causing harvests to fail, and economic hardship to spread over wide areas. Basing his theory on the work of British ecocritic (sic) John Bates (2000) , Phillips links the wet summer in Switzerland with the creation of the figure of Frankenstein, and incidentally also works by Byron and Keats on “Darkness” and “Autumn” respectively. As evidence for this assertion, Phillips cites Mary Shelley herself, in autobiographical writings from around this period in her life. There is indeed a mention in the Preface of the 1818 edition of the novel, that the summer season in Geneva was “cold and rainy” and that this inclement weather was the pretext for the literary friends to gather round the fire and compose stories with supernatural themes. Phillips links this scene-setting motif with descriptions from Mary Shelley’s diary of a day in May 1816, when her party encountered “a violent storm of wind and rain” (Shelley, quoted in Phillips, 2006, p. 62) on the journey from France to Switzerland and that as they journeyed from the low lands of France into the mountainous region of Switzerland, the weather grew colder, and there were thick flakes of snow. Mary Shelley’s mention in letters and diary notes of ferries sinking in the lake at Geneva, torrents of rain and plans for outings cancelled because of bad weather are listed also, to show that indeed the summer of 1816 was wet, and that it was noted by the British party on their travels to Switzerland. While there is no denying that these references to the weather exist, it is questionable whether they should be regarded as having much significance. A glance at any of the hundreds of travel ...Show more

Summary

The story of Frankenstein, which was written by Mary Shelley when she was only 19 years of age, has gripped the imagination of readers ever since, and has sparked a whole industry of literary criticism. …
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Frankenstein by Mary Shelley essay example
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