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Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Mary Shelley's Biography
Shelley's Works
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A Strong Woman Says Strong Words...
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The following are prominent themes found in her writing.



Gothic Fiction reacted against the Enlightenment. This type of fiction was called Gothic because much of its inspiration was drawn from medieval buildings and ruins, many of which where gothic in architectural style.

In Gothic fiction the reader passes from the reasoned order of the everyday world into a dark region governed by supernatural beings, a region that inspires dread and horror, where decay abounds and death is always at hand. Also called Gothic romance and Gothic novel, Gothic fiction emerged late in the 18th century as part of the Romantic movement in the arts.

In Gothic fiction forces of evil predominate, usually in the person of a great villain. Opposed to these is a virtuous maiden who is at once repelled and attracted by the evil around her. In some of the novels virtue triumphs; in others the evil is so monumental that everything good in its path is destroyed, and then it destroys itself.

How Mary Shelley exemplifies this: FRANKENSTEIN is a novel that exemplifies this theme. For example, while Frankenstein creates the monster, the atmosphere is gloomy, dark and inspires dread and horror. The monster is made up of decayed matter as well. The monster was initially good natured, however, evilness predominated when he saw how society responded to his presence. 


Resulting in part from the libertarian and egalitarian ideals of the French Revolution, the romantic movements had in common only a revolt against the prescribed rules of classicism. The basic aims of romanticism were various: a return to nature and to the belief in the goodness of humanity; the rediscovery of the artist as a supremely individual creator; the development of nationalistic pride; and the exaltation of the senses and emotions over reason and intellect. In addition, romanticism was a philosophical revolt against rationalism. (from Columbia Encyclopedia Sixth Edition)

How Mary Shelley exemplifies this: This theme is exempified in FRANKENSTEIN as well. For example, in this novel, Mary Shelley becomes the creator of the story, the monster, and all the characters. Nature plays a very important role as well and emotions (love, hate, passion) are exalted above anything else.



There are comparatively few female characters in Frankenstein: Elizabeth, Caroline, Justine, Safie and Agatha. Throughout the book Shelley portrays the female characters as quite, strong and assertive women, a move that would, perhaps, have been quite controversial at the time of her writing. Nevertheless, by modern standards the female characters might still appear quite weak. A prime example of this is the charater of Elizabeth. Elizabeth holds up the role of the matriarch of the family and this can be seen as a conformist way to live, however others might argue that conformity is not necessarily a weakness. It takes a great deal of strength for Elizabeth to hold together the family especially under the extreme circumstances that they find themselves in. In many ways she handles the crises better than Victor does.

Other themes: Life, death, biology, anatomy, and the supernatural were other main influences and themes used by Mary Shelley.

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